Summer dress down 2021

When our parents were living out their corporate dreams, soaring temperatures were no excuse to let the office dress code slide. However, nowadays, warmer weather outside of the office is typically accompanied by a more relaxed style of dress inside.

But the loosening of the dress code rules doesn’t mean abandoning the whole concept of professional and appropriate attire. With that said, we recommend that as you close out Memorial Day, you send a memo to staff reminding them of the rules to avoid an uptick in dress-code violations. In the note, you should include a time frame for this relaxed dress style – companies typically choose the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day – and state that you will be transitioning to a more relaxed summer clothing policy and under what circumstances – companies typically choose when clients won’t be in the office.

Next, you’ll want to include a list of appropriate and inappropriate summer attire. To really drive the point home, we recommend including pictures of what is appropriate so that employees can visualize what you have in mind. The list below is just an example but can be used as a jumping-off point for your own policy.

Appropriate attire:

  • T-shirts (without graphics or non-company logos)
  • Polo Shirts
  • Khakis
  • Denim jeans
  • Capri pants
  • Short sleeve blouses
  • Company merchandise/logo apparel
  • Dresses or skirts that fall to the knee or below
  • Dressy open-toed sandals (where appropriate for safety)
  • Non-dress shoes (such as boat shoes or athleisure sneakers)

Inappropriate attire:

  • Shorts
  • Sleeveless tops, halter tops, or tank tops
  • Sweatpants or leggings
  • Athletic wear
  • Flip flops

As is the case year-round, remind employees that clothing should be clean and neat, so any items that are ripped, frayed, stained, or otherwise disheveled will not fly. Further, employees should be reminded that tight, revealing or otherwise inappropriate clothing will also not be welcome, despite the warmer weather.

Feel like this still might be too rigid for your workplace? One novel concept we thought was an interesting concept was the idea of encouraging employees to “dress for the day.” Under this policy, workers are encouraged to use their best judgement in putting together an outfit that will be appropriate for whatever activities they might have during that day. A worker who doesn’t have business meetings scheduled for the day can dress down in jeans and a t-shirt, while someone that will be client facing should continue with their typical attire.

Now, even with the best laid plans, there’s still a chance you’ll have at least one person who violates the policy. Confronting any employee about a clothing infraction is deeply uncomfortable – especially since you’re essentially critiquing not only someone’s sense of style, but also their judgement! As such, we recommend that if you do have to call out an employee that you take the approach of asking whether they believe they are in compliance with the dress code as stated and then remind them of the rule that they breached. If it’s a matter of modesty, some experts recommend having a higher up of the same gender handle the conversation so that it doesn’t violate sexual harassment policies, but where that isn’t an option, simply keeping the conversation focused on the attire and not the body wearing it will generally steer you in the right direction. Further, the conversation should always happen in private so as to not humiliate the employee or make them the focus of office gossip.   

Do you loosen up your dress code in the warmer months? Let us know in the comments what you do and how you introduce it to your employees.