Why is dress code important in the workplace?

5 mins
Sellick  Partnership

By Sellick Partnership

Many businesses take different approaches to their workplace dress code. It is important to think carefully about the right approach to take when deciding on a dress code policy for your organisation, in order to ensure that this reflects what is important to your workers, your clients or stakeholders, and your brand.

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, in the business world, first impressions do matter and what we wear is one of the key factors that contribute to the impression we make. This is why so many companies seek to implement a dress code in the workplace as an element of their overall company culture.

There is significant evidence to suggest that the way employees dress can significantly impact not only how they are perceived, but also their productivity and the overall brand image of the company. However, it is also true that there are a variety of interpretations when it comes to deciding what constitutes appropriate work attire, meaning that every employer should give careful thought to what will work for their organisation.

In this blog, we will explore the advantages and potential downsides of workplace dress codes, and discuss the various factors that you should consider when laying down guidance for what your employees should wear.

Why introduce a dress code?

Almost every business has a dress code of some kind. Even casual workplaces that do not require staff to wear formal attire are likely to give new employees some idea of what everyone else wears in the office, subtly defining what is classed as appropriate clothing for the workplace. This is because employers understand that the way their workers dress plays a role in defining the company's image.

A well-thought-out dress code strikes the balance between professionalism and individuality, fostering a positive work environment.

Here are numerous benefits to implementing a formalised dress code:


A dress code policy can help maintain a sense of professionalism in the workplace. When employees dress formally, it can enhance the professional image of the company, sending a strong message of competence and dedication, and fostering respect among colleagues.

Having everyone wear professional attire on a daily basis is also advantageous if members of staff need to attend a spontaneous or unexpected meeting, allowing them to feel confident that they are smartly presented at all times.

Creating a productive mindset

The way we dress can also influence our mindset and behaviour. Dressing professionally can make employees feel more confident and competent, which can in turn increase productivity and performance.

It can also help employees mentally separate their work life from their personal life, which can be particularly beneficial for those working from home.

Stronger branding

A company dress code can affect people's impressions and contribute to the company's brand image. When employees dress in a way that aligns with the company's brand, it can create a cohesive and recognisable image that resonates with customers and clients - this can be vitally important for businesses that are customer-facing, and want to ensure that the whole team projects the same image.

Keeping everyone on the same page

Having a dress code ensures that everyone works from the same expectation of what is considered appropriate attire for the workplace. This can help prevent misunderstandings and ensure that all employees feel comfortable and respected; it also means that staff have fewer decisions to make about what they will be wearing each day, and ensures that nobody is overly distracted by feelings of competitiveness between co-workers over fashion choices.

Potential downsides

While there are many advantages to having a dress code, there can also be some potential disadvantages. For some employees, a strict dress code can feel restrictive and outdated, and they may feel it stifles their individuality and creativity; it can also lead to discomfort if the required attire is not suited to the work environment or the employee's role.

Furthermore, implementing and enforcing a dress code can sometimes require time and oversight from management, which may not be considered a good use of resources. As such, employers should think carefully about what their workplace needs, and lay down guidance that reflects this.

The different approaches to dress codes

Standards and definitions of professional attire vary depending on the specifics of the work environment and company culture. Depending on your sector and business requirements, you may choose to implement any of the following types of dress code:

  • A formal dress code, often referred to as 'business professional', typically involves traditional office wear such as suits, ties, dress shirts and formal shoes for men, and suits, dresses, suit skirts, dress trousers and closed-toe shoes for women. This type of dress code is common in corporate settings, where a high level of professionalism is expected.
  • A business casual dress code represents a step down from formal attire, but still maintains a professional appearance. It might include trousers, chino-style trousers or skirts, paired with a collared shirt or sweater. Ties are typically optional, and footwear can include loafers, brogues, dress shoes or dressy flats.
  • A casual dress code allows employees to dress comfortably while still looking presentable. It might include jeans, t-shirts, trainers and other comfortable clothing. However, even when casual attire is permitted, certain items - such as flip-flops or clothing with inappropriate graphics - will typically not be allowed.

What to consider when implementing a dress code

When deciding how to define a dress code for your company, you should take all of the following factors into account:

The nature of your business

The type of business you operate, and the norms of your industry can influence the type of dress code that is appropriate. For example, a law firm might require a formal dress code, while a tech start-up might opt for a casual dress code.

Client interaction

If employees frequently interact with clients or customers, a more formal dress code might be appropriate to maintain a professional image. However, if most work is done behind the scenes and employees rarely meet clients, a more casual dress code might be sufficient.

Employee roles

The roles and responsibilities of employees can also influence the dress code. For example, employees who perform manual work might need to wear protective clothing, or at very least to avoid clothing that would pose a potential safety risk, such as heels. Those in a corporate office, on the other hand, might be expected to dress formally.

Company culture

The company's culture and values should also be reflected in the dress code. If the company values creativity and individuality, a more relaxed dress code might be appropriate. Conversely, if the company values tradition and formality, a more formal dress code might be suitable.

The needs of your workers

When developing a dress code, never forget to take the preferences of your current staff into consideration. Employers might benefit from surveying employees to get a sense of what type of dress code they would prefer, as taking employee comfort and preferences into account in this way can contribute to job satisfaction and productivity, and deliver a greater sense of team unity.

Learn more

Dress codes may not seem like the top priority for a growing business, but sometimes the way we dress sends an important message. As such, prudent managers will put thought into dress codes, if this is appropriate, and ensure they set out clear rules on work clothes.

For more insights into developing a working culture that meets all of your commercial and recruitment goals, read more from Sellick Partnership. Browse our Insights for more views and advice on today's key workforce challenges, or get in touch with us today to learn more about our recruitment services.