Monday, August 22, 2005

Casual Business
From the time I went to kindergarten through all my years in radio, my dress code never changed. Jeans were acceptable for nearly all occasions. When I started student teaching, that changed. Ties were mandatory. (The only piece of advice I got on dress from my supervising teacher was to make sure I didn't wear the same tie on the same day each week, because the kids would notice.) After that, I went into corporate life, although the first place I worked wasn't very strict about dress. Their most interesting innovation was declaring Monday to be "casual day" instead of Friday. The psychological benefit of being able to ease into the week by wearing jeans to work on Monday turned out to be vast, and I can't imagine why more companies don't do it.

After a couple of years, I went to a bigger corporation, which had just recently adopted business casual. Management had apparently been dragged to it against their will, originally--we heard stories that under the previous regime, female employees who got runs in their pantyhose were sent home to change. Jeans were permitted only two days per month, but many people found ways to get around the code--cargo pants not obviously denim-colored, or Hawaiian shirts buttoned to the top. What this company needed more than a dress code was a personal-appearance code. If the company was really concerned with maintaining a professional atmosphere at the office, it needed legislation to cover the guy with the mohawk, the girl with the spectacularly ugly colored tattoos on both arms, or the woman whose preference for cleavage-baring tank tops made her quite the distraction.

When I quit the place a couple of years ago to go freelancing, I joked that my new office dress code was going to be slippers and underwear. Two weeks after I quit, I had to go back to pick up materials for an assignment. It was Halloween, and when I got there, I discovered that the people in my old department had worn pajamas as costumes, in my honor. Despite what people think, I do get dressed to work every day--although I'm in T-shirts or untucked button-up shirts and shorts all summer, and sweatshirts and jeans all winter. Being able to wear whatever the hell you want is one of the unsung joys of working at home.

The Associated Press is out with a story about corporate dress codes this morning. It seems that a few companies are permitting their employees to wear shorts on very hot days--although the story also notes that the dress-code pendulum, which has been swinging in a more casual direction since the late 80s, may be starting to swing back. I recall reading a study done a few years ago that suggested business casual actually reduced productivity, so it's a wonder that, in our every-penny-counts corporate culture, business casual has thrived so long in the first place.

Recommended Reading: Kos and Armando on the latest hijinx from the Democratic Leadership Council, which recently accused Iraq war critics of being anti-American. Sixty percent of Americans are now persuaded that the war is a mistake--yet these powerful Democrats refuse to criticize Bush's war effort. Over the weekend, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel came out hard against the current policy, using the type of rhetoric Democrats should be using every damn day--the kind that so far, only Russ Feingold has had the courage to use. But the DLC is advising prospective '06 candidates not to talk about the war at all.

(This post has been slightly edited since it first appeared.)

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?