Beth Nilssen
July 5, 2018 / Great Advice

Does your office dress code alienate prospective employees?

Office dress codes have become a recruiting issue. Millennials famously don’t want to be told what to wear to work.

Pop quiz:

What is the rule regarding white shoes?

Which colors should not be worn together?

What is appropriate business attire for women? For men?

Answer: Unless you are a lawyer on Wall Street or the new Duchess of Sussex, there are no correct answers—anymore—to those fashion questions, at least not when it comes to work attire. If you haven’t heard, the power suit is dead.

The first sign of its demise was the disappearance, in the 1970s, of hats for men and gloves for women. “Casual Fridays” and “business casual,” introduced in the 1980s, further undermined the authority of office dress codes. Apple CEO Steve Jobs delivered the final sartorial blows with his uniform of black turtlenecks and blue jeans, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s gray t-shirts and hoodies did the same. Atlantic Magazine called the sartorial revolution of the past three or four decades “the most radical shift in dress standards in human history.” Wow. In human history. That’s a long time.


Which brings me to the Great Clips corporate office, when late last year, we adjusted our dress code to keep up with new norms and workplace realities. Our new guideline: “Dress for Your Day,” which recognizes not everyone needs to dress to the same standard, even when we work in the same office. Our new dress code evolved from the idea that there are people in the office who, 99% of the time, interact mostly among themselves. And, there are people in the office who likewise interact with various stakeholders outside the office (franchisees, vendors, community leaders, etc.).

We asked the question: Do these two kinds of job holders—and everyone in between—have to follow the same dress code? The new policy says, “No.” In fact, it celebrates the fact that there’s no reason any individual has to dress the same way every day.

Since we implemented the new policy several months ago, I feel much more liberated in how I dress for the office. With the change, I don’t feel like I have to wear jeans on Fridays because that’s the only day jeans are allowed. If it’s Wednesday and I don’t have any critical meetings, I’ll wear jeans and a nice blouse. (If we’ve ever met, you’ll know I like clothes—which means, whatever the official dress code, I’ll still put together an outfit that feels professional and reflective of my style. Some habits are hard to break!)


What led to the change? One of Great Clips’ values is making work fun. Being able to dress in a way that represents who you are is one way we can live out that value.

It’s also part of our recruiting efforts as we recognize the reality of hiring a new generation of workers. Liberated dress codes may have started in Silicon Valley but the trend has spread throughout other industries. Millennials famously don’t want to be told what to wear to work. For people in some industries, a dress code can be a deal breaker on whether or not the person accepts a job. (I know at least one person who made a decision on which job to accept based on whether or not there was a requirement to wear dress pants and a button-down shirt to work.)

At the Great Clips corporate office, we’re dipping our toes in the water to feel out what we can do to be appealing to the next generation of employees, while still maintaining our integrity and values. We’ll still be the same organization, but we’ll be a lot more accessible to another generation, one that doesn’t feel comfortable wearing traditional professional attire on a daily basis.


By calling it Dress for Your Day, it still means that if your role on that day is to make an impression while representing the Great Clips brand, then that’s how you need to dress. You’re in charge of what that impression is, so you have to be responsible for dressing appropriately.

We have reassured our franchisees that this new corporate office policy does not affect how their employees dress in their salons. As independent business owners, all Great Clips franchisees get to decide on a dress code that works for their organization. (There’s interesting anecdotal evidence that when salon stylists dress up, customers respond positively with higher tips and more return visits. I’ll post a link to that story in a future blog post.)

If there is a downside to the policy, it’s that it allows people to decide what is appropriate based on their own judgment. Office managers will always have the prerogative to talk to a member of their team about presenting a professional appearance and demeanor, but from what I hear and see around the office, that hasn’t been an issue. Dress for Your Day has been a step in the right direction.

I posted a picture of what I wore to the office today. Can you tell whether I had an in-office day or a day meeting prospective franchisees? Send me a note!

Beth Nilssen By Beth Nilssen on July 5, 2018
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