The Devil Wore Hose

Photo courtesy of

courtesy of ‘erin m’

It’s oppressively hot this week. A scorcher. Another record-breaker in a year unfavorably full of cruel weather. Some of you will be able to go about your work day in “summer business casual,” but for others, you’ll soldier on in full battle gear. And for many women in our unfairly unfashionably maligned city, that means pantyhose.

Ugh. Really?

Though sales of pantyhose have been on the decline since the mid-nineties, there are still offices that require them for women’s dress year-round. The excuse normally given for such a dress code is that they give the wearer a “polished, professional look.”  As they are more precisely termed actual underwear, I find it a bit vulgar to be told by anyone other than my mother that I should be wearing pantyhose. Wear hose when the garment requires it – something form-fitting and unlined, for example – but with a knee-length lined skirt? If one is well-groomed there should be no need.

And in disgusting 100-degree weather, there is no need to wear pantyhose other than to cover what is bare – which implies that it’s wrong to bare your legs in an office. Why? I’m by no means a radical feminist, but I can’t stand rules with no discernible logic, and especially not rules that are based on perceptions rather than facts. After all, it’s not so long ago that business women in this city were told never to wear pantsuits, only suits with skirts. What was the logic there?

Let’s step back for some history, a fun fashion tangent on clothing codes, before we shred more hose. For example, high heels. Did you know high heels started out as a male fashion necessity? 

Photo courtesy of

courtesy of ‘erin m’

Back when everyone rode horses as the main means of transportation, heeled shoes were essential for men. Women just followed their trend. Eventually men gave up wearing high heeled shoes everyday when the Enlightenment kicked in with radical ideas about equality – male equality, that is. Women kept on wearing them, and we began to fetishize them. Fascinating.

Hose? Everyone used to wear some form of high stockings or tights. Eventually, men discarded them when long trousers became the norm. Women kept wearing them, and when skirts began to rise, they were deemed necessary to hide bare legs – because heaven forbid a man sees your bare ankles, let alone knees! As the decades passed and skirts got higher and higher, it was harder to hide the garters that kept stockings up. So, the invention of the pantyhose – stockings and underwear together at last!

Problems? Well, there are several health hazards with wearing pantyhose, exacerbated in the summer. Not to completely disgust you, but because of nylon’s tight non-absorbency the medical issues noted can range from just inconvenient (like red chafing thighs) to downright unpleasant (like urinary tract and fungal infections… how delightfully polished and professional!). Easily ripped, snagged, ruined just by putting them on – they also are certainly not economical, and definitely not green.

But, they do hide imperfections and give the torso and leg a clean line under garments. I will agree to that. In the winter they can be a help with warming you up – but then winter tights can be made in more forgiving, breathable fabrics like cotton or wool. There are also actual medical pantyhose for dealing with varicose veins and circulation problems.

Ugh. Can’t wait for that day.

Photo courtesy of

courtesy of ‘erin m’

I did a bit of informal polling of the WLDC authors and came up with some reactions to summer office dress requirements of hose in DC. Several women refuse to work in offices with such dress codes, especially a year-round hose requirement. Erin even noted once being required to wear knee-highs with pants (Knee-highs?! There can be no logical reason for that. None. God forbid some senator sees your bare ankle. Shocking!).

But Tiffany won the hose horror story round-up:

“Several jobs ago, I worked at an office where the Executive Director was so crazy and concerned about appearances that if you were pregnant, you had to produce an actual note from your doctor to excuse you from the pantyhose requirement.”

On the flip side, Rachel’s mother raised her to wear hose whenever the occasion called for “classing things up.” Rebecca J noted, and quite rightly too, that “Americans have become sloppy dressers and will go out of the house in pretty much anything (jorts, airbrushed wolf t-shirts, booty shorts, scrunchies, etc.) A little ‘guidance”‘on appropriate and logical attire could be a good thing for us all.” I’m completely on board with that, as long as it has a logical basis. I just can’t see the logic behind pantyhose in summer.

Such guidelines are also no indication that the wearer will still manage to interpret them with a “polished, professional look” – I see plenty of women wearing hose in line with a dress code only to look completely outdated (white hose is still a scourge on Capitol Hill). I also see plenty of sophisticated women in DC wearing suits and dresses with no hose – baring their legs and yet still managing to look professional. It also obviously varies by field as well – those of us in the design fields can get away with or are even required to be a little more daring in our dress, while some in IT need to dress for comfort and crawling around with cables.

The WLDC men wondered if the pantyhose requirement was equivalent to the full suit requirement for men. I’m very curious to get your reactions on that. Ever since men’s dress was codified to the classic coat and trousers – over a hundred years ago! – there’s been very little change in the basic male office uniform. But just as a hosiery rule is no guarantee a women will be made sophisticated by wearing them, a suit rule is no guarantee a man will look professional. There are a lot of ill-fitting suits in this town.

So, any summer office dress code horror stories inspired by the pantyhose brigade? Think you can beat Tiff’s? Sound off.

As one of the founding editors of We Love DC, Jenn’s passions are theater and cocktails. After two decades in the city, she’s loved every quirky, mundane, elegant, rude minute of her DC life. A proud advocate for DC’s talented drinks scene, she’s judged the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s ARTINI contest, the DC Rickey Month contest, the Jefferson Hotel’s Quill Cocktail competition, and is a founding member of LUPEC DC. A graduate of Catholic University’s drama program, she toured the country as a member of National Players, and has been both an actor and a costume designer before jumping the aisle to theater criticism. Writing for We Love DC restored her happiness after a life-threatening illness, and she’s grateful to you, dear readers. Send your suggestions to jenn (at) welovedc (dot) com and follow her on Twitter.

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86 thoughts on “The Devil Wore Hose

  1. @Erin, I’m certainly able to see shades of gray and understand that business casual is better than total slovenliness. But since a suit and hose are better still, any move or advocacy away from a suit and/or hose is a negative trend. There is also an overall context of increasing sloppiness outside of work too, which is why I use that endpoint as a reference and negative example.

    @Jenn Larsen, you object to hose as a requirement, but what about other things, such as ties? I continue to think that bare legs and/or feet are inappropriate at work. If you truly hate hose, then a pantsuit and trouser socks are just as appropriate, if a bit severe and masculinizing. And there IS a middle ground between Wolford and flip-flops: mid-range hose. Hanes Silk Reflections “Soft as Cashmere” are nice, as are DKNY and some others.

    @Karon, how many women who complain that they are unable to afford the equivalent of several dollars a day on quality hose, buy Starbucks in the morning, and/or buy rather than bring lunch? In any case, as noted above, they can step down a bit from the very high end without getting the cheap junk that feels like an emery board.

    Fishnets, backseams, etc. can be fun, but are too daring, and inappropriate, for the office.

    @Tiffany Bridge, I disagree on suits. At Wall Street banks, high end law firms, the White House, senior officials in agencies – traditional centers of power and prestige – suits are more mandatory than in less powerful and prestigious places. I also see suits as being about courtesy and respect. In a two person meeting between unequals, where one was in a suit and the other was not, perceived disrespect would be felt by the suit-wearer as having come from the non-suit wearer, EITHER WAY, regardless of who was the senior. In other words, even if some bigwig decided to flaunt his power to get away with not wearing a suit, it would be a negative, not a positive thing. Looking one’s best and showing respect to superiors, subordinates, peers, and clients (and oneself) is not sucking up.

    @LG, you complain about being judged about wearing “nylon tubes”, but you can reduce any clothing item to such rhetoric. Like complaining about being required to wear shoes becoming “shoving my feet into hot uncomfortable expensive leather/rubber/wood/and or cloth containers that have nothing to do with my job performance.”

  2. Aurora – I believe you must work in a very traditional office and field. Yes, your attachment to pantyhose makes sense in that environment. While those positions do still exist, a good chunk of the economy is moving away from that.

    For those of us in technical and artistic fields, that suit and pantyhose look would be a detriment to advancement because it is not the expected “uniform” for our work places. Fishnets and the other patterned hose options available are acceptable and viewed as being fashion forward while pantyhose brand the wearer as hopelessly dowdy.

    People need to do what is appropriate for their career path. And businesses need to realize that more and more individuals will be basing their career choices on intangibles such as dress code requirements and not just salary.

  3. You’re right about my workplace, Karon, and that contributes to my view, but that’s not all of it. As I touched on, I wish everyone dressed up more everywhere, not just at work. It’s just that I find creeping casual-ization at work and other formal places more regrettable than, say, at the amusement park.

    You make sense about an artistic workplace having different standards. But “hopelessly dowdy”? Well, they can be – but there’s a world of difference between a thick orange Grandma hose with brown toes in Birkenstocks — and sleek, subtly gleaming hose that flatters your natural color, with classic heels.

    We’ve seen just above that a key factor in some women’s resentment of a pantyhose requirement is precisely that they’d look more attractive, not less, as a result.

  4. I think you’re missing the nuance from the conversation, Aurora. The issue isn’t that one would be more objectively attractive (which one wouldn’t, because the attractiveness of pantyhose remains hotly debated), but more subjectively attractive to people who have no business contemplating a colleague’s attractiveness in the workplace. Thus setting a requirement based on what’s attractive to a specific subset of people brings sexuality into workplace relationships where it does not belong. It’s beyond skeevy for executives (particularly male executives, but either way really) to set dress code requirements for female subordinates’ underwear.

    We all have dress preferences. I for one fervently wish the fedora would once again become the headwear of choice for men. I think they’re incredibly attractive and dapper. But it would be highly inappropriate for me as a female manager to require my male staff to wear them simply because I think they’re attractive. And it would be paternalistic of me to spend lots of time attempting to persuade people who do not like to wear them and do not find them flattering that they should suck it up and wear them anyway so that we can all return to my personal Mad Men fantasyland, especially by calling them whiny slobs when they disagree with me…

  5. Tiffany, you make some good points. It’s why, as I said earlier, I don’t support mandating dresses or skirts – pantsuits for suit days or dress slacks on other days should be considered perfectly appropriate.

    But if you’re going to show your legs, I think hose should be considered mandatory. Yes I think hose are more attractive, but that’s not really it. What I’m trying to communicate is that I think bare legs are inappropriate, almost like not shaving them.

    Would you get all “how dare you – it has nothing to do with her job performance – you’re trying to turn her into a decoration” if some hairy co-worker was told to shave or wear slacks?

    And again, on the underwear issue, if she was flopping around or had her “headlights” on, clearly bra-less, would you find it “skeevy” for her to be told to dress properly?

  6. This debate is so crazy. I wear a suit and tie because it is a professional look and it impresses the fact that if people in my workplace are going to respect me I have to look the part and earn the part. Now, if I was in my office without a tie, shirt open and hairy chest poking out, all the women would be mortified. Now me personally, there are too many women that should not be going hoseless. Vericose veins, scars etc. Unless you’re 20 years old and have perfect skin you should be wearing hose, because I am mortified. I would never say this in my office, but I can be more honest here on this message board.

    I understand that pantyhose can be uncomfortable, but if you look at this rationally aren’t heels pretty uncomfortable? I haven’t seen anyone go back to wearing flats. Sometimes a little uncomfort goes with looking good.

  7. Having worked in an HR position where I had to mediate these kinds of discussions, if someone complained to me about a coworker who didn’t shave her legs, I’d tell them that they should start looking her in the eye before she chose to sue, because it’s not anyone’s concern. Do I think shaved legs are more attractive? Yes. Is that relevant? No, since it’s not a sanitary issue and coworkers do not have the right to demand that their coworkers meet their personal aesthetic standards. You can’t require someone to shave their legs any more than you can require them to have that unsightly mole removed.

    In the case of the woman not wearing a bra, that creates the possibility of discomfort for her male colleagues (not because men are animals incapable of controlling themselves when breasts are about, but because the human eye is quite naturally drawn to sexually arousing things and this is why humans cover themselves when sexual arousal is not the intention), so I would have no objection addressing that. Though it’s worth noting that in those kinds of situations, HR people are specifically advised not to recommend a particular solution (which could be construed as discriminatory), and are expected to simply state the problem and tell the employee to fix it. So one would have to find some way of saying, “Janet, your wardrobe choices are inadequately modest in the breast area. Please resolve this problem.” You actually risk a discrimination suit if you require her to wear a bra specifically; you can only require her to address the jiggling/headlights problem.

  8. At the risk of wading into another minefield and blowing Aurora’s mind wide open, I do want to emphasize, just like Tiffany did, that what a woman does with her leg hair is entirely her choice. There’s nothing unsanitary about not shaving one’s legs, and while you may choose to shave yours and may personally find it an obvious choice (just as you choose pantyhose), your choice is by no means a universal one and should not be imposed upon others–in a workplace, in the social world, anywhere.

  9. Tiffany, I appreciate your going into detail from your professional experience in HR. As immersed in that apparently excruciatingly non-judgmental and lawsuit-phobic culture as you were, you may not realize just how hilariously absurd it can appear to others. I’m a bit confused as to what your personal views are vs. what the law requires or forbids. But, if that’s what the law says, and at the risk of imperiling a civilized discussion, then “the law is an ass” and urgently needs common sense revision.

  10. Erin, my head’s pretty much already exploded…

    One thing’s clear, your fears of a bossy HR “knowing best” are far overblown – things are instead at the other extreme.

  11. Which is a GOOD thing, Aurora. If people want to wear hose and wear business suits, or wear jeans, sneakers and button downs, let them, provided that:

    1) It’s not a safety issue
    2) It’s not a hygiene issue
    3) It’s not a client issue

    Who cares what people wear, provided they get their jobs done?

  12. My *personal* views are that one should work hard to distinguish one’s personal preferences from what is legitimately necessary for the conduct of a safe, productive, and respectful workplace (respectful not only of one’s coworkers, but of each employee’s right to their own preferences), and to treat one’s own preferences as just that.

    And while I’d agree with you that the law can indeed be an ass and complicate things that could otherwise be simple, I’ll also note that my HR experience was at a recruiter in a temp agency specializing in placements in the technical and creative fields. As a result, I worked with people from a pretty broad variety of educational, socio-economic, religious, and ethnic backgrounds, as well as workplaces ranging from law firms to ad agencies to dotcoms. It gave me an appreciation for just how wildly perspectives and opinions on exactly these kinds of issues can vary between professionals, and how the contortions the law requires really forced me to examine the assumptions I had about what is or should be obvious to others and yet might not be, and confine my conversations with my staff to things that are actually relevant to job performance.

    Certainly it also made things difficult sometimes, but it also meant that my colleagues and I didn’t make the conversation with the employee with a body odor problem any worse than it had to be by inadvertently implying that he smelled because of his diet or because deodorant is less commonly used in his culture. It meant that we knew exactly what we needed to do when a client wanted to fire one of our employees for wearing a hijab to the office. It also meant that when one of my employees started dating one of my friends and wanted to talk to me about it, I knew how to avoid accidentally giving her the impression that her relationship with him would in any way affect my ability to find placements for her.

    Yes, HR does require a high degree of non-judgmental-ness (what an awkward coinage) to be done successfully, but I also find that to be a small price to pay for the benefits of a workplace full of the diverse viewpoints that come from making very different people as welcome as possible working together. On the flip side, more conservative workplaces and industries may find that the benefits of more emphasis on conformity to Western standards of formal business dress outweigh the detriments of the loss of the additional perspective employees who do not feel welcome in that environment.

    But I, as the CEO of my own career (if you’ll pardon the expression), am free to decide that I prefer the workplace that emphasizes diversity, and I don’t particularly think it’s immature of me to do so.

  13. Tom, George F. Will said it rather well:

    “Denim is the clerical vestment for the priesthood of all believers in democracy’s catechism of leveling — thou shalt not dress better than society’s most slovenly. To do so would be to commit the sin of lookism — of believing that appearance matters. That heresy leads to denying the universal appropriateness of everything, and then to the elitist assertion that there is good and bad taste.

    Denim is the carefully calculated costume of people eager to communicate indifference to appearances. But the appearances that people choose to present in public are cues from which we make inferences about their maturity and respect for those to whom they are presenting themselves.

    Do not blame Levi Strauss for the misuse of Levi’s. When the Gold Rush began, Strauss moved to San Francisco planning to sell strong fabric for the 49ers’ tents and wagon covers. Eventually, however, he made tough pants, reinforced by copper rivets, for the tough men who knelt on the muddy, stony banks of Northern California creeks, panning for gold. Today it is silly for Americans whose closest approximation of physical labor consists of loading their bags of clubs into golf carts to go around in public dressed for driving steers up the Chisholm Trail to the railhead in Abilene.”

  14. I think Will underestimates the number of professional jobs that actually still involve physical labor. For example, Tom’s business is in IT. While IT is generally considered white collar work, it actually involves a lot of crawling around on floors, lifting heavy objects with sharp metal corners, reaching one’s arms into narrow spaces, mucking about in dusty server and phone closets, and the like. It actually resembles being an electrician more than it resembles being a syndicated columnist. Clothing which can stand up to abuse is necessary.

    That said, while Will is certainly an erudite and genteel sort, I think it’s kind of sad that he thinks that fashion, alone among all other social mores, should not evolve with the culture.

  15. Tiffany, thanks again. We just have a radically different outlook.

    I don’t think telling some fresh off the boat guy reeking of garlic or curry that he should cut back is the equivalent of the Klan firebombing a church, or even a “Gentleman’s Agreement” telling Gregory Peck there are no rooms.

    If the law says so, it should change.

    And by the way, the standards you do mention seem arbitrary. If we’re all “get the job done only, good taste, common sense, and basic standards be damned”, why can a revoltingly smelly guy be (ever so agonizingly carefully) told to clean up, but some revoltingly hairy woman must never be slipped the faintest hint that her laziness and aggressively bad grooming are offending the normal people around her?

    That was a rhetorical question – I don’t really want to delve anymore into details of howling insanity, calmly explained like it’s normal.

    What happened to the courtesy and consideration that individual employees owe to the people around them? (Another rhetorical question.) Each one seems to have become a swaggering, out-of-control teenager, throwing expensive fits at the slightest limits – with the law seemingly egging them on.

    It’s very sad. I guess I can’t convince a mentality that jams and shoehorns every issue, no matter how irrelevant, into the mold of a redux of a civil rights movement morality play. In the end, taking things to such a silly extreme trivializes anti-discrimination issues and risks a backlash.

  16. I’m not sure I follow Will’s argument either. We wear plenty of styles/garments/fabrics that have outlived their original intention, or purpose for being invented. Denim is no different.

    By this argument, I should no longer wear high heels because I don’t ride a horse daily, or only wear boots in the mud and the rain. Using Will’s manifesto you could argue against many of the things you profess to love, Aurora.

    And on denim specifically, there are plenty of beautifully constructed denim jeans that don’t look make you look like a slob, especially if professionally fitted and hemmed. I wouldn’t wear them to the opera, of course, but then again, as so many people are pointing out – fit the clothes to the occasion.

  17. I guess I’m just unsure how the hair on the legs of the woman in the next cubicle over from me is equivalently disrespectful to the personal odor that makes my eyes water every time the person walks by. One is not to my aesthetic taste but it’s so unlikely that I would even notice most of the time, the other turns my stomach every time the offender is within 10 feet.

  18. George Will may be a first rate political mind and one of the few men who can successfully rock a bow tie, but he’s completely out of his league with regard to jeans. He called denim, in that same article you quoted, a misuse of freedom, which is a blatant overstep.

    Besides, if The Sartorialist can okay blue jeans, then so can you, Aurora. That style of dress, sans necktie per previous conversations about that evil abomination, is frequently what I use to present to prospective clients.

    As to the courtesy that employees owe to one another, that stops when they can tell me what to wear. Should it be clean? Yes. Should it be covering? Yes. Should the employee be properly bathed? Certainly. But telling me that I have to wear a tie? For what? To cover my sexy sexy shirt buttons?

  19. Ugh – I was wondering when we were going to hear the “I shouldn’t have to shave my legs” argument. Really? Do I really have to brush my teeth before I go to work tomorrow? Or how about wearing a leopard print thong with my low rise slacks? Anyone could dress however they want, but the bottom line is that our society (whether it is our boss, our friends, our family, etc…) has defined what is acceptable and what’s not. It’s acceptable for men to wear long sleeve button down shirts in the summer with a suit, pants, socks and shoes. A tie completes the outfit. Pantyhose likewise complete the outfit for women.

    If you are going to dress professional, then you should do it right, not half-ass.

    I can’t understand how people refuse to put on pantyhose yet are willing to put on fishnets? Fishnets are way more uncomfortable to me.

  20. I think that’s another reason why I wear a tie with a suit and socks. It completes the outfit.

  21. My favorite lines in all these posts: “If I had to wear pantyhose at my workplace, I’d quit and get another job!”

    Raelly? In this job market? Really?

    A little history: In the mid to late 90′s companies were making money hand over fist. Things were great, and we had surpluses as far as the eye could see. We thought nothing could derail the party train. We started with “Casual Fridays”, which turned into “Casual Everydays” by the millinium.

    Now, thanks to greedy corporate hacks and mornic governing, our economy is in the crapper. The dumps. There are more people looking for very few private sector jobs. And people here are going to chance losing or not even gaining employment because they are dead set against wearing a garment that makes you look better, more professional?

    Sorry, “Just doing your job” doesn’t cut it anymore in this day and age. You have to make an effort that you actually care about you employment, your clients/customers, and yourself, “Comfort-Be-Damned”.

    This is just my oinion, of course. But I’d bet there are more “corporate dress haters” collecting unemployment checks than those who bit the bullet and dressed appropriately for their business career to become gainfully employed. Just something to consider, Ms. Larsen, before you dispense with more “Vive La Pantyhose Revolution” advice.

  22. Gary, thank you for your comment, but you may wish to consider that all the pantyhose in the world will not cover a document riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. Does the client remember the hose, or the mistake?

    Barbs aside, this piece is not meant to provide any advice or indeed serve as “burn your hose!” propaganda. My intention is to explore these issues, and I think we’ve had an interesting dialogue so far.

    Several women have written in saying they have not taken jobs that require year-round pantyhose, and these women are still gainfully employed. Some of them have chosen less rigid professional dress codes, others simply no hose. I still fail to see how one equates no hose with shoddy work habits.

    Ironically, one “dispenses” advice but “dispenses with” hose.

  23. I work at a hospital, in an administrative/manager position in NJ. If I don’t wear pantyhose…just ONE day – someone, out of these 2,000 employees, goes to my VP of HR and complains that im not wearing pantyhose. In 100 degree weather – are you serious? I think they are uncomfortable and UGLY. Im petite, tan and have a nice figure – I dont see why these are a requirement and I am so annoyed.

  24. As it happens, Gary, not every sector of the economy was as hard hit, and there are plenty of jobs available if one is in the profession that happens to have them. I happen to be, but I also happen to be in a profession that pretty much invented casual every day and foosball in the office, so I can get away with my pantyhose refusal.

  25. Sandee, see post 20 above. If your hose are uncomfortable, get them in a better fitting size and in a soft, silky variety. If they are hot, you can wear very sheer summer hose, and in a white collar job you’re going to be in an air conditioned office nearly always anyway. And if they’re ugly, spend the time to get a nice, sleek, subtle, flattering pair.

    If your makeup, or shoes, were cheap, stifling, and unflattering, would you reject those things as a category? Would you complain about being expected to look your best?

  26. Sandee,

    You should also read Aurora’s link to Shaplings(??) which is at #20, I believe above. Also, I don’t know what brand of pantyhose you wear, but try Hanes Silk Relections. They are quite affordable, silky, durable, comfortable, and come in a lighter, summer sheer. Calvin Klein, DKNY, Falke,and Wolford make excellent pantyhose as well that look and feel great. Wolford is more expensive (about $30 a pair), but they last forever.

  27. Thank you for the advice – I will look into that. I still dont agree with the dress code of mandtory pantyhose in this day and age. I personally just dont like them. Thats just my opinion though.

  28. Why are all the girls drooling every time they see lady gaga. I’m a guy that has better legs than her . I wear shimmery pantyhose every day and wouldn’t ever wear nonsexy fishnets. I tear a hole in the cotton crotch for coolness and convience so I can do EVERYTHING in them without having to pull them down from my gorgous little hips.
    I at least have thanks to Ms Gaga for bringing back pantyhose. I think everyone should wear them daily. Want to see my pantyhose pics?

  29. Yes, I would definitely have a problem with an office that told a female employee she MUST wear makeup, Aurora. I suspect you and I will need to agree to disagree on this, but I’m thankful the law seems to be more on my side on that issue.

  30. Ah Jenn,

    Unfortunately, I see you indeed have missed my point. Do the gainfully employed women you mention represent the norm, or are they the exception? Surely not all professions require formal or business attire. I accept that part of your argument. This is an important point to consider as you dispense advice.

    For those jobs that do require a more professional style of dress, are you going to recommend leaving or not taking a job based solely on a garment of clothing? Because like it or not, that is how your article reads.

    Also, in no way in my grammatically inferior and poorly spelled note did I imply that clothing somehow makes a person’s job performance better. Not at all. It is simply untrue.

    What I did state is that, in this day and age, there are plenty of people who “do a good job”. As a matter of fact, there are 5 unemployed people who “do a good job” for every 1 job available currently. So, how can you set yourself apart from the rest, especially when you only have one shot to make a good first impression? How do you keep yourself from the down-sizing chopping block when you are lumped in with everyone else who is equally “doing a good job”?

    Answer: How you dress.

    For a man, it means wearing the suit and dreaded necktie. For the woman, it’s the business suit and (gasp!) pantyhose. The days of casual dress are coming to a close. If you want to make a solid impression in the workplace, what was it they used to say?

    Ah, yes – “Dress for Success!”

    I look forward to your reply (and my English grade too). :)

  31. Gary, that has to be the most charming rebuttal I’ve ever received. Thank you for proving that people can disagree while still being civil. I needed that reminder today. :)

  32. I dispute Gary’s assertion that the days of casual dress are coming to a close. Let me paint with broad strokes based on documented generational trends. I would argue that formal business attire is largely (though certainly not universally) a Baby Boomer obsession. Boomers grew up in a time when temporary trailers had to be parked on school grounds because there were just so darn many of them, and they were constantly told that if they wanted to compete, they had to conform, smile, shut up, and meet every expectation. That’s the cultural attitude they bring to the workplace.

    GenX-ers, by contrast, were a considerably smaller generation- their schools were closed down because there weren’t enough children. They watched their parents get downsized out of jobs. They came to the workplace fairly tolerant of weirdness so long as the work got done, because they never had to shut up and conform, and often see emphasis on surface factors as a distraction from what’s actually important. (Remember who it was that invented the dotcom dress code.) GenXers are now firmly ensconced in hiring manager roles at a minimum, and senior and C-level management in many cases. So I do not find the end of casual dress in the workplace to be at all predictable.

  33. I’m not sure I agree with Tiffany on Gen X’ers not being conformist. I am a Gen X’er and in my career the people who go against the grain are the ones that are singled out. The “team players” who look the part are good workers are the ones who get promoted. I think that is because baby boomers are still running things. As for the casual workplace staying, I’m not so sure about that. My wife’s office went back to business attire because some women were coming in in flip flops and tank tops. For my wife that means skirts and pantyhose.

  34. Jenn

    You’re very sweet. Thank you.

    And I’m happy. My second attempt at writing must have been better than my first? :)

  35. Indeed, Mark, as I said, I’m painting with broad strokes here. Certainly there are more conservative workplaces that emphasize conformity, just as there are those who don’t, and certainly a lot depends on the executive makeup at a particular company. Though I’d argue it’s a failure of management to penalize the entire company because a subset of employees couldn’t figure out how to wear a sweater and that no one wants to hear your flip flops flopping down the hall.