Company News

The big question: what should your staff wear?


Read Liz Maher, director of Centurion VAT Specialists views on; 'What should your staff wear?' in the South Wales Argus Business News section.

Are shirt and tie the order of the day for the men in your office? Do the women have to wear skirts? Business Argus has been finding out from local business people whether they have a dress code and what is acceptable for the staff to turn up to work wearing...

John Newell, director, Kingston Newell Estate Agents, Newport

I always wear a shirt and tie both when in the office and at client's homes. I think what you wear when interacting with your clients does reflect the professional approach of your business and its services and, I insist that my team also present themselves in this manner and we have had good feedback over the years regarding this. I appreciate that more men choose not to wear ties to work these days and I respect their decision not to do so. A definite no-no for attire at Kingston Newell would be jeans or casual wear when attending viewings and valuations.

Luke Welsh, head of employment law, Howells Solicitors, Newport

A civil servant from Stockport successfully claimed he was the victim of sexual discrimination because he had to wear a collar and tie to work when the women working in the same Jobcentre he worked in were allowed to wear T-shirts. Dress standards are important and should be non-discriminatory for males and females in the office. Common sense should be applied by the management of a company or organisation.

Dan Smith, director, M4 Property Consultants, Newport

As we are public facing, undertaking viewings almost everyday, looking professional at all times is important. However, that can vary depending who we are meeting. There are occasions where we feel wearing a tie is appropriate and would be appreciated. However, most of the people we meet with are a lot more relaxed and wouldn’t expect this. There are also some who may feel uncomfortable meeting with someone dressing so formally. Suits without ties are the usual attire. We are not blessed with particularly hot summers, but even if we were, arriving to work in shorts and undertaking a viewed dressed the same would definitely be a no-no.

Peter Lewis, managing director, IAC Ltd, Newport

Katie Darlow, Roberts & Co, Newport

We operate a strict dress code. We feel it is imperative that the personal appearance of our employees reflects the company’s image. Our dress code: Female employees are required to wear business suits comprising jacket with co-ordinating or matching trousers or skirt, shirt or blouse and smart business style shoes; male employees are required to wear business suits, shirt and tie and smart business shoes. This dress code also applies at weekends. The only time of year that we have deviated from the above is at Christmas when we have a charity day and wear ‘Christmas jumpers’ to raise money for a chosen charity. This year we will be supporting Ty Hafan. Although some agents do take a more relaxed approach we feel that the professional attitude should be reflected in our dress code as well as our approach to selling homes.

Laura Emily Dunn, LED Media, Newport

Dress codes need to reflect what your business is about. I have a go-to set of clothes I wear for meetings, and these have become a sort of uniform that I associate with work. As a creative business, I highlight these qualities through my accessories or shoes, and these are often a conversation starter with potential clients or at networking events. On my blog Political Style, I write about how some of the world's most powerful people dress and I've learned lots about how important style is in making an impression. First impressions cannot be recreated, so for me, the importance of image and presentation is everything.

Dave Matthews, operations director, Centric Recruitment, Newport

I think things have certainly become more relaxed over the last five to ten years in terms of people's expectations of what is acceptable to wear at work. Our team of recruitment specialists at our offices across South Wales are meeting with clients at some of the regions biggest SMEs and corporate groups so it is important that their look matches that of their professional expertise. That doesn't mean we're overly conservative as we prefer to take a more modern approach being a forward thinking company. Looking smart is important, but that doesn't necessarily mean having to wear, for example, a tie on every occasion.

Noel Davies, managing director, Pop Box Media

Attitudes to business attire have shifted a lot of the last decade. I think this is in part down to more young people gaining senior managerial positions. No other sector has embraced this change as much as ours - the media. PR and marketing professionals will often plump for the smart-casual look. It makes a lot of sense because typically this matches our creative sides. Ultimately though they'll always be a place for a tie and whenever I'm working in places such as the House of Commons I'll make sure I'm wearing a well-knotted Windsor.

Liz Maher, Centurian VAT, Langstone

Views on business attire have certainly changed over my career – I remember joining a Big 4 accountancy firm in 1989 and being told by a female manager that women wearing trousers for work was frowned upon! She’d ‘caught’ me wearing some one day. I also remember a male tax partner having a ‘word’ with a female staff member about her lack of makeup. Things have certainly moved on over the years but while we have no dress rules, all the team are conscious that when you’re being asked for VAT advice, on projects where large sums of money are at stake, your client needs to feel they are dealing with an expert and part of that building of trust comes from the ‘white coat’ or rather professional dress style of the adviser. On days with no client meetings our team may choose to dress casually for comfort but quite often in a professional services business it’s a part of getting into 'work mode' to stick with the business attire style or smart casual. For me my working day normally starts with thinking of what shoes I’ll wear – whether I am lecturing all day, out at a client meeting or in the office are all factors – once I’ve got that sorted I’m set – just wish I had more shoes!

Guy Jones, NatWest’s director of commercial banking for Cardiff and East Wales

As a child I thought I’d aspire to shop at Dunn & Co but then their tweed look disappeared in the mid 1990s. Now we tend to follow a ‘business casual’ approach when in the office, but with suits or more formal wear worn when we are with our customers. Ties are now firmly optional, often worn to mirror a customer or out of expectation. Even that can backfire – I borrowed a tie last week ahead of a meeting with a local solicitor only to realise he was more attuned to jeans and a much more informal approach. Generally I feel society is becoming more relaxed around dress code. Ripped jeans and tee shirts would not be tolerated but the smart ‘business casual’ approach works well for us.

Katrina Raposo, commercial manager, Acorn

We expect our staff to dress appropriately to their role so someone in a client-facing role would be expected to dress in business attire as they are representing the company. Our corporate culture is fairly relaxed but we expect everyone to be well-presented, clean and tidy. However, not all companies are the same, therefore, when we are advising jobseekers attending an interview we advise them to dress appropriately to the role and the industry they are looking to work in. Extra individuality or flair is fine but we wouldn’t expect our staff to go over the top or wear anything which may seem inappropriate to their colleagues. Ultimately positive body language is the best thing for our staff to wear, as it leaves a long lasting impression and speaks volumes to our clients and candidates.

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