Harvey Specter and Don Draper; two powerful men with good looks and important clients have a knack for closing business deals by their sheer presence. What else do they have in common? A love for suits! The two best dressed men of our times have a fetish for impeccable designer suits and not just because the dress code is so. Even Barney Stintson, America’s favorite lady killer chose his suit over a hot girl. Suits, the epitome of power dressing symbolizes confidence, success and ambition, all at one go. In India, power dressing is reserved for once-in-a-month events like big-client meetings, conferences and ofcourse job interviews.
While many companies are turning to a more relaxed, casual work environment, a majority of companies in India have a strict dress code policy although there is very little employee acceptability for such enforced rules. Clothes have a way of reflecting a person’s personality traits and at the same time there is a definite psychological influence on the wearer as well as the audience.
Appropriate dress codes are important in a workplace as they reflect the company’s intention to stay focused on serious about their business. A compulsory dress code helps in enhancing and maintaining the company’s public perception and image. This holds true especially when there is a lot of consumer interface like in banks, educational institutes, retail or consultancies. There is no direct link between dress code and productivity, but surveys point to the fact that casual clothes have a negative influence on the employee’s attitude and energy level. Many firms in India are flexible in their formal dress code attire and do not insist on female employees wearing suits, trousers and shirt or formal skirts. Indian formals (i.e sari and kurti) are also equally acceptable as long as they are not accessorized.. Quite a few firms in India even give out extremely detailed dress codes defining the appropriate heel size for shoes, necktie style or the acceptable jewelry designs. These restrictive policies do not work well in India as employees refuse to accept these given parameters most of the time.
To avoid the hornet’s nest many companies just ask their employees to ‘dress professionally’. Then there are firms that encourage their employees’ uniqueness by simply asking them to ‘wear something’ like Google India does. Infact until a few years ago, employees of IT firms, dotcoms and even advertising firms could walk in to the office in tank tops, shorts and flip-flops. While such casual clothing attitude does encourage informality and a heightened level of casualness, employers should be proactive in creating and circulating a list of non-acceptable cloth items also. Specific dress code standards should be set up so that employees can differentiate between relaxed, casual and informal dressing styles. Also, the employer needs to lay equal stress on neatness and orderliness as things like unpolished shoes, dirty nails, uncombed hair are also a big no-no in the work-place but in India these things are pointedly ignored as they are too personal in nature.
It is imperative to have a definite dress code in the office so that employees know what is expected from them and what is not acceptable. It should not follow a specific fashion trend but instead focus on the business environment as it should be appropriate. The employer needs to remember that the employees need to be comfortable in what they wear or productivity will suffer.