Dress code craziness

For part of my school days, I attended a private college with an interesting dress code. For the primary kids, part of the uniform was a suitcoat, tie and shorts. High school students were required to wear a suitcoat, tie and long woolen pants. The dress code was enforced aggressively – and I mean aggressively. It was back in the days of corporal punishment.

Aside from the uniform being horribly expensive, it was also impractical. The town where I lived experienced below freezing temperatures during winter (tough on the primary kids in their shorts) and temperatures over 38 degrees celcius (over 100 degrees fahrenheit) during summer – made things very unpleasant for the high school students. I remember  kids literally passing out during hour long outdoor assemblies over summer.

While some organizations have eased up on dress codes in recent years, there’s still many that hold on to old approaches.

I’m not against school or work uniforms if they are affordable or supplied, but a little common sense should be exercised by these organizations when drafting dress codes. For example, being required to wear a tie during summer in many parts of the world is absolutely ridiculous.

There’s a “green” side to this issue too. If staff or students have to dress inappropriately for the climatic conditions, it just adds to energy usage in terms of heating and cooling the building in which they are housed.

It simply doesn’t make sense – consuming extra resources in order to satisfy an need for outdated approaches to conformity and control. These inappropriate dress codes also impact on profits as more energy usage equals increased costs.

Increased costs + uncomfortable staff = lack of productivity and bad business.

An organization can save between 4 and 6% on their heating costs simply by allowing their staff or students to dress appropriately for the conditions and lowering the thermostat in the building by 1 degree fahrenheit.

If your school or company is continuing with old style policies relating to uniforms and dress codes, it can be a difficult issue to tackle as tradition, pride and control play a big role. You’ll need to be subtle in your approach.

Perhaps a submission relating to environmental impact, cost savings and productivity improvements may switch their thinking. Environment is certainly a hot (excuse the pun) issue at the moment and no organization these days wants to be seen as actively contributing to global warming if it’s easily avoidable. The possible savings on electricity could also be a big incentive.

Try it from that angle – you never know, you might even get a raise or special recognition for spearheading the initiative :).