Archive for February 2010

It’s not about the clothes you wear, but how you wear your clothes…

February 26, 2010

I like wearing an emu costume.  I wear it around the house, usually in combination with a feather boa and a top hat and cane.  Sometimes I even go crazy and wear pants.

Ok, so that’s not entirely true (I’ll leave you to decide which bits though), but I do wear clothes at home.  These are clothes which I am comfortable in, and to be honest I usually don’t care too much if there is the odd tear in my jeans or a mildly sexist image on the front of a t-shirt.  What I wear in the privacy of my own home is frankly my own business.

That being said, I understand the clear line between my personal wardrobe and that which is suitable for the workplace.  Knowing that I represent the Council whilst at work, and often being pulled unexpectedly into meetings with partners or the public, I know that I need to be smart and tidy at all times.

Which is why I simply cannot understand the furore around a ‘new’ Council policy regarding dress code.  This policy, which has actually been around for a while before being highlighted recently, basically says that we need to dress “smart casual”, in line with our role in the workplace and that at all times managers will be given discretion to decide what is and what is not suitable.

To me, that doesn’t mean that I need to wear a suit every day, nor does it mean that I can never wear a clean pair of trainers.  If I am expecting to work with a group of young people then I will dress appropriate to that session – likewise, if I am expected to present to a room full of corporate directors and senior managers then I might just break out a three piece and brush my hair.

There has been a huge stink kicked up with people here apparently outraged at the fact that they can no longer wander in wearing their slobbiest old tracksuit and a t-shirt that my scummy younger brother wouldn’t sport at the local skate park.  It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see them break out the slippers and pyjamas one day if they thought they could get away with it.

I accept that not everyone has a desk job and that some people need to wear clothing suitable to their job.  If a bin man turned up in a suit and tie I’d think he was a wally and he wouldn’t be able to do his job properly (picking things up with shoulder pads hampering you can be a bit of a chore).  Likewise a senior manager turning up to a significant meeting in shorts and t-shirt is not on – it’s simply not appropriate.

Okay, some of the people I’ve heard be vocally against things work in the sports team, but they spend all day every day at their desk making (extremely loud) phone calls and looking at spreadsheets.  If they think that is a sport then fair play, but last time I tried to jump in the shower with a colleague after a hard day of number crunching and pen pushing I received a short sharp visit from the smack fairy (and I’m not talking drugs).

The policy highlights the fact that everything is at your manager’s discretion.  If your manager says it is okay, then it is okay.  Just like in life, generally if you have to justify it then it’s probably not okay.

They tried to organise a protest here and encouraged people to dress up in costumes or garish clothing that would flaunt the new policy.  I for one kept my emu costume firmly in the closet this time.