How to avoid getting a ‘dressing down’ on ‘dress down’ days at the office

By RedLaw | 19 Jun, 2018

RedLaw Principal Consultant, Keith Miles comments on the latest ‘Dress Down’ policy. Now national practice Irwin Mitchell have launched a ‘Dress For Your Day’ Policy, is this the way all law firms and other professional organisations will go? And what dress is deemed acceptable?


For a good few years now almost every office place and certainly most law firms, have had some variation of a dress down policy. Clearly the most widespread is the embraced and feared ‘Dress Down Friday’.

But now national practice Irwin Mitchell have launched a ‘Dress For Your Day’ Policy, only dressing in corporate attire for any meetings and with no real restrictions otherwise. Is this the way all law firms and other professional organisations will go?

I say ‘feared’ ‘Dress Down Friday’ because what actually constitutes ‘dress down’ or more accurately what constitutes the acceptable level of dress down has been the subject of debate from its very inception.

I recently spoke to a lawyer who was told that the choice of chinos and polo shirt (widely regarded I would say as the male dress down benchmark) was not appropriate and that a tie was necessary.

Rather pointless bothering to have a dress down policy if the sartorial bar is set that high you may feel certainly that a level of shorts and t shirt is definitely unacceptable! (I would also beg the question here…is it ever acceptable for a male in the office to expose hairy legs to the work force??)

A while back after a review by its Partnership Board, City firm Travers Smith adopted a year-long ‘dress down policy’ so that staff can wear ‘business casual’ unless in meetings or on client floors. One assumes that we are talking ‘chinos and polo shirt level’??

Recently the ubiquitous Dress Down Friday has been taken to the next level by a number of law firms. Many companies (RedLaw included) have instigated a summer months’ policy which is smart but comfortable in the warm weather (which thankfully only lasts for two weeks in the UK!). So no tie necessary but thankfully the level stopping at hairy legs! Obviously it is back to normal corporate wear for any meetings.

Is it all too confusing especially if these dress down policies are not clear in their expectations from the outset? Can they actually be an interference in the workplace? Or do they promote freedom of choice for employees?

In my view for most professional work environments the comedy t shirt or the political t shirt (I’m with the Donald) are almost definitely out as indeed are men’s legs, an unnecessary intrusion in my view. If there is a motto for life after 25 years in recruitment, it is ‘Dress to Impress, Not to Amuse’.

It goes without saying (and I throw this one open to the floor) that for any lawyer interviewing the most formal, corporate attire akin to court outfit is always appropriate. As with court, the same in an interview situation where the image you are portraying is:

  • Respectful
  • Professional
  • Serious about your work
  • Take care in your appearance.

In the workplace, gone are the days when every morning without fail you would reach for the suit, the tie, the business attire each morning. Perhaps we will have to think more about our wardrobe in future.

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