Can you give goodwill to dirty clothes

How can I make a compelling case for an open dress code?

There is enough evidence on both sides that I do not believe that "irrefutable evidence can be found that a very casual dress code is consistently a win for Job X". But there are still ways to get what you want ... here are some ideas.

Know your limitations

There are several main reasons why companies set a dress code: - bad experiences in the past - a desire to create an image in front of the customer - a management mentality about what is "appropriate" - a belief that "sloppy" clothes will become lead to sloppy behavior.

It sounds like you already have the big pro - employee satisfaction - helping with both retention and recruitment. Perhaps you can make a sale where comfort also translates into less stress and better health - but I don't know you can do generally agreed studies to assist you there. The big ones are usually what you mention - employees like it.

So, first know who and what you are up against. Has your company had bad experiences with casual wear in the past? If so, why and what can you do to mitigate this? Is it really HR that is the "no" or is there a senior executive who likes to dress up? What are your restrictions on customers? Don't be tightly focused - just because you don't meet with customers in person doesn't mean they won't go through and judge you.

Learn why you need to dress formally before entering the meeting so you are prepared for why your idea is working and the big issues are covered.

Start small

Trying to escalate something small and not so scary as a casual wear testing ground with the option can help reduce anxiety when you find yourself on a cycle where "we've never done it before and change is bad". Let's say an occasional Friday every week, or a month-long trial and evaluation. Or the choice to have a specific group do that - maybe those who have to do a lot of uncomfortable work so that it is at least a special treat at first.

Staging it as a test with a plan for demonstrable results can suggest an alternative to all or nothing. If it proves popular and not detrimental to business, you have a real-world example of why it works and you can expand it.


Changing almost any policy requires a lot of informal work in almost any organization. Setting the rule the first time is easy, changing expectations is difficult. Prepare for many briefings before and after meetings. Realize that people in public groups may not express opinions, even if those opinions are very strong. Allow them to speak to you and raise concerns both publicly and privately. Realize that in the end you will change people's minds one at a time ...

Give people something to go to instead of avoiding it. For example, with casual clothing one could say any statement:

  • We're not a stuffy old-school company with formal, uncomfortable attire. We don't adhere to these outdated norms.
  • We are a young, hip company that reacts to the changing times and wants to present an everyday image of man that customers and employees alike perceive as non-threatening and accessible.

Which one sounds nicer to be a part of? Even if you like formal attire, the second point sounds worth considering.


I would advise against only granting a specific group the privilege as part of the test. From personal experience, this can lead to resentment towards this group due to their special treatment (in my case, "Casual Friday" has been taken away from the IT department and the rest of the company sharing the same rooms is allowed to keep it while pushing the envelope the right dress for anything but a nightclub). Customer-centric individuals should dress appropriately for their role / professional function regardless of general guidelines.


I agree with the case you mentioned, but I kicked it out because not all companies are created equal ... For example, one place I worked that rarely required overtime had the unspoken rule that people who work overtime Outside of business hours could dress nicely casually while the office was usually business informal. Similarly, projects that made suggestions received a lot of special treatment (not necessarily clothing) but also worked MUCH more hours than people with the same salaries and roles on other assignments. It largely depends on the situation.


As a side note for the "Casual Friday" thing, we implemented that by turning it into a charity event. Every Friday we get dressed casually when we put £ 1 (one GBP) in a glass and the money goes to a charity. We are all allowed to propose charities as well. It doesn't cost the company anything, we're allowed to dress casually, charities get extra funding, and management gets a great PR line for all clients. The company recently decided to raise the proceeds so that the charities can get even bigger donations.


A great win-win situation where people take note that this is not something that can be taken for granted - it has to be something (pay a GBP) - which adds a little more value to it.