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By: Debbie Hilary Quaye

Dress codes are specified to help companies maintain a professional appearance or a distraction-free work environment. It could be formal or informal depending on the nature of the company and the work they do. It is important to have a company dress code policy, to avoid having every kind of attire from t-shirts to jumpsuits to jeans walking around the office.

Our dressing and our definition of an acceptable or appropriate attire has changed and keeps changing as our culture also evolves. Gone were the days when dress code for the office was simple. Women wore dresses or skirts to work and had simple hairstyles, while men wore shirts and trousers well tucked in with a low haircut and trimmed beard. But this trend has changed over the years.

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These days, you walk into an office and see employees in casual wear with tattoos, dreadlocks and piercings among others, but someone will ask if these contribute to a company dress code. Yes, they do.

While some companies will not consider hiring a candidate who has tattoos, dreadlocks and piercings, others do not mind hiring such people. Such managers or companies embrace such people so far as they have the skills and experience they are looking for.

What they do is to put in place a policy where employees are required to cover their tattoos and remove their earrings (in the case of men) while at work.

Most companies are specific about their dress code policy by stating what exactly they want you to wear while others prefer to be open by choosing for yourself what you want to wear so far as it is appropriate for work.

For some corporate organisations, some specific element of dressing is compulsory as part of their workplace dress code policy, such as `high heels, makeup and tie’. In the banks especially, women wearing high heels is part of the company dress code as well as makeup. This tends to pose problems to those who do not like makeup or high heels. In the case of the men, putting on a tie can be compulsory in some offices.

The definition of a dress code varies from company to company. It greatly depends on the type of organisation and the nature of the work. In service providing organisations such as banks, hotels, consultancy firms and Insurance companies it is right to look smart, appropriate and establish company brand, so you see most of these workers in customised company uniforms and tags to present a corporate image and also for easy identification by customers.

For other industries such as manufacturing, mining, hospitals where Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is required for safety, workers are seen in protective clothing, and for tech companies, it is usually casual; just t-shirts and jeans.

While a dress code policy is essential and helps maintain a certain standard in the workplace, it should not be too strict and must not be discriminatory concerning age, disability, religion or sex.