Some firms have decided recently to relax their dress codes. I can just imagine the contents of an internal e-mail in a few months time from the managing partner of one of these practices:
Just a quick word about the new relaxed dress code now we’ve had time to see it working – or rather not.
Exposure of flesh. Bare arms, legs or feet may assist your creativity, but miss our goal of looking professional. Further, whilst I was initially very excited about the increase in the number of women being recommended for partnership, analysis revealed that they all preferred a low cut style of dress and were exceptionally well endowed. We run an equal opportunities policy here. Please cover up.
Morning crisis. We hadn’t appreciated how difficult it was for men to face so many decisions in the morning about what they should wear. Productivity has slumped, and the number of you seeking personal counselling has quadrupled.
For a profession that spends so much of its time applying rules, our freewheeling policy has not served you well.
Gender confusion. Contacts have complained that they like to know if they are dealing with a male or a female. The style known, I understand, as the Eddie Izzard experience, is disturbing. I feel like I’ve been trapped in the film Tootsie, although I agree that Darren looks much better with make-up. Much, much better.
The clients’ view. Astonishingly, clients prefer suits so they can see us coming. In one example, audit staff had been on site for a week without being identified, resulting in clients exposing secrets of accounts and causing deep embarrassment to partners.
Whilst I won’t pander to clients’ wishes, I have decided that the dress code will be amended further: dark trousers or skirts (but only for women), white, blue or striped shirts or pale, high cut blouses, dark tailored jackets. This will overcome the difficulties, yet still leave us that spirit of entrepreneurism and creativity that our clients value.’
Ann Baldwin FCA is a management trainer and conference speaker.