No butts, no bellies, no backs, no breasts | HR memories

When I worked in human resources, I hated dress codes. Our dress code was business casual with jeans on Fridays. It was very comfy and easy to dress. No ties, pantyhose, suits or dresses – most employees wore khakis or casual pants with nice tops. Managers would try to make me responsible to enforce the code. They would send their unruly employees to my office to get set straight on what they should wear to work.

I resisted that role. I was not a fashion cop. I didn’t see what all of our employees wore each day and I didn’t want to.

Some employees will push the envelope as far as they can for anything. How do you tell an employee her boobs are hanging out? She knows it, she likes it that way. We had trouble with downright sloppy clothes too.

You know the sneakers you wear to seal your driveway? Why throw them out when you can eke out a few wearings to work? What about that teensy tear in a tee-shirt? Tee-shirts weren’t allowed but no one would notice. Wrong!

Over the years, I collected some responses from employees who were slightly (ever so slightly) out of the dress code.

  • “I am just too tall to be subject to the code.” This was from a tall manager who wore some of the sexiest clothes I have ever seen outside of a TV sitcom. Somehow the tallness should allow her breasts and thighs to be exposed.
  • “This outfit cost $110.” It’s not the cost that matters, it’s how professional it is. This particular outfit was an expensive exercise outfit. It was just lovely especially if you were going to the gym to pick up men — sweaty, smelly men.
  • “I can’t afford business clothes.” Last time I looked, Wal-Mart had a business section where the pants were about the same price as the junk she had on.
  • For a long time we didn’t allow sneakers at work. Our CEO hated those big, dirty, chunky sneakers that younger employees liked to wear. We did allow pregnant women, who had ankles the size of tree trunks to wear sneakers with a note from their doctor (as if we were blind!). Some physical jobs also allowed sneakers and there were a few other reasons. There were many days when I would get emails and phone messages reporting that so-and-so had sneakers on. Really? Should I make them stand in the corner? Maybe a time out?
  • Flip-flops? This topic was more volatile than abortion! I can’t even talk about it except to say that one employee in flip-flops slipped and was on sick leave for a month. Enough said!
  • We didn’t have many men in our work place. The demographics were overwhelmingly female and most men were in upper level jobs.  Occasionally we did have the case of the dropped drawers. Those were the guys with the plumber cracks. Don’t guys know that their cracks are not really that attractive? Eyeow!

As infractions happened, the code became longer and more specific. As for me, I think a good code is no butts, no bellies, no backs, no breasts. That says it all!


Picture credits: Woman in slip — Marianna T-girl, shoes on desk — slworking2 and butt crack — LiewLeanKut, all from Flickr

18 thoughts on “No butts, no bellies, no backs, no breasts | HR memories

  1. Thighs!! Cover ’em up, please.
    I worked as an HR Director for six years and as an ops manager for about a hundred before that. I now work as a tech writer for a publisher that specializes in HR and employment law — what relief to not have to be the dress code police any more.
    My personal favorite was the female employee, bigger than me mind you and that’s pretty big, who wore white leggins with a “short” sequined top. The sight of her walking down the hall in front of me is permanently burned into my retinas. Yikes!


  2. I can’t imagine being the one to police what everyone is wearing. I can see why you didn’t want to do it.

    Seems like some men like to show their back crack and some women like to show their breast crack. If you squint, they look almost the same. 🙂


  3. Can you come to Genoa, Italy and tell the women here the same thing? I cannot believe some of the outfits I see in corporate offices and yet no one seems to be bothered. Once, while teaching a group of high techies, I wore a very nice black cotton dress. It showed cleavage but modestly unless I bent over…well, lets just say that was the first and last time I wore that dress to a lesson. My students were all men and after I bent over I could not get them to do anything! I was soooo embarrassed!!!


    • First, I would love to come to Genoa but not to scold anyone! If there are no rules, it doesn’t matter so much. I live on the east coast (north of Philadelphia) and it’s fairly conservative. I bet you were a favorite instructor!


  4. This is just great! I do often wonder how people see themselves, and then I hope that I don’t have blindness to my own infractions! LOL! I work in a university and the dress code is well defined for faculty/staff, but oh what the students wear! They are finally getting over the “wear the pajama bottoms” to class stage. Maybe if we all had to do a full-body mirror test in the morning, with the lighting you find in most dressing rooms! 🙂 Debra


  5. I love your dress code. (Fashion police – now that was a difficult job). Do you think the “everyone is a winner” and “everyone is special” has made people more willing to push inappropriate outfits? I loved the Walmart response to “I can’t afford”. Personally I do not think flip flops belong at the office…no matter what label is on them ( under your arch) or how many jewels are glued on. Just ugh.(and who would sue the company first if something fell on foot and cut it – or flip flop got caught in elevator, door, or something and caused injury. Companies have to protect themselves.) A little common sense, please!


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