In response to the post, “Dress Code Yet Again – Part 2,” a reader writes:
“I’m with you! But I do believe that colleges need to insist to our future teachers that following sexy or messy clothing fads is inappropriate while at work. The school teacher needs to be dressed with closed toe dress shoes, not only because these shoes will protect your toes if you get stepped on (and you will), but it looks more professional. And your tops need to cover all of you. Think “modesty”. Your skirts or shorts need to be at least knee length, you are working, not trying to get a date. As you dress, actually use your judgment. Remember you are supposed to be a college graduate, dress like one.”
Now I feel old. When it comes to professional dress, I don’t blame the colleges, I don’t blame the employee and in most cases I don’t even blame leadership. I see professional dress as functions of local culture and the willingness to modeling expectations. If the culture of the community is to wear jeans and t-shirts, and the staff gets the job done, and there is not a more strict appearance expectation for students, I don’t have a problem with staff in jeans. Granted, that is a lot of “if’s.” Now if one of those “if’s” is askew, I do have an opinion and as many of you know, I am not shy in sharing it.
Dress and appearance can be a powerful tool if purposefully managed. But that is a much longer conversation. In general, here are my starting rules of thumb for staff dress:
1. Campus leaders should dress so that in any room they are in, they are either just a little overdressed, dressed just right, or just a little underdressed. For a man (ladies, you tell me), khakis, a collared shirt and an available blazer meets this standard.
2. Teachers should dress so they look both sharp and ready for action. You never know when you might have to move some room furniture or chase down a student. Your dress should reflect that reality.
3. If there are specific standards for students, staff must meet or exceed those standards.
I will close with this. I have observed high performing / value adding campuses that have no staff dress code. I have observed high performing / value adding campuses that allow casual dress. I have observed high performing / value adding campuses that have strict dress codes. However, I have never observed a high performing / value adding campus that had a sloppy looking staff.
Think. Work. Achieve.