In most formal occasions, especially those held in the fields of academics, such as seminars, many of us would dress in the most presentable manner in attending such events. In most of these such cases, everyone would usually wear professional attire. But what is the reason why we tend to adopt this sort of behavior in such scenarios? Why do we need to implement dress codes in events such as these? How is this type of system important not only in academic institutions, but also in professional affairs in the labor force? Do social perceptions and norms prevail in they way we dress? Are they we dress merely for the sake of a god impression? Is it a symbol of our identities as professionals? This essay aims to explain the very importance of dress codes in the professional world and the benefits of its implementation.
What exactly is the definition of a dress code? According to an article in Wikipedia.org, a dress code is defined as the series of norms, standards, and rules, most often of the time in written form, on the apparel or clothing to be worn at different occasions or occupations, giving more particularity to the type of clothing, the color of clothing, and the manner of which they are worn. These standards are variable, depending on the purpose, social impression, and the circumstances during the duration of the event or the profession. In addition, these codes also vary with the perceptions of the society on the proper way to dress, as well as the dictations of the society’s culture and its traditions. The most prominent example in these kinds of rules of clothing are those found in the Western side of the world. The history of the implementation of dress codes for different occasions and positions have begun even in the times of indigenous tribes in several parts of the world. According to an article by James R. Planché, entitled “History of British Medieval Costume: From the Earliest Period to the Close of the Eighteenth Century”, the first written historical record of the implementation of dress codes dates back to the 7th to the 9th Century during the Medieval Ages of the United Kingdom, mainly in the nation of Great Britain. During this period, members of the royal and noble classes of various kingdoms and townships in the country had a specialized system of dressing and clothing that allowed them to distinguish themselves from gentry and the commoners. Before, all classes had the same manner of clothing, but as years had passed, the differentiation between each of the classes in the social hierarchy had became more and more conspicuous with the addition of ornamental elements to their apparel. The ensemble of the people in the commoners’ caste commonly consists of plain tunics, pants, and boots. However, if they hold or have been included into a specific rank in society, certain decorative pieces are placed upon their clothing, mostly on the collar or waist. These embellishments would include, as mentioned by Planché in his words, beads, rings, brooches, and chains and cross-shaped emblems (Planché, 1847). Another record of the chronological use of the dress code system was written in an account with the lengthy title, “A Narrative of the Adventures and Sufferings of John R. Jewitt, only survivor of the crew of the ship Boston, during a captivity of nearly three years among the savages of Nootka Sound: with an account of the manners, mode of living and religious opinions of the natives”. In his memoir, Jewitt had noted down about his time as a prisoner of the Nuu-chah-nulth, a tribe of indigenous people in the Pacific North West, in the years of 1802 to 1805. He had also jot down details on how the people of tribe traditionally dress, describing the manner of dressing as wearing loose, untailored garments, having their hair cut, and placing paint on their bodies. He also saw the dress code of the tribe as unsuitable for his type of person, being a traditional Englishman (www.canadiana.org).
Different people have different opinions on the idea of a dress code. One man may think that a certain clothing standard may be appealing, but another may think of it as inappropriate or degrading. In addition, However, some of the standards of clothing on certain occasions may be reasonable within the context of the situation where it expected of them to follow such norms. It is said to give a person the feeling and the appearance of decorum and smartness. It also provides an individual or a group of individuals with a sense of a distinction and uniqueness among the other people in the crowd. It is a visual identification of the distinguishable classification and characteristic of the person or people, especially that of formality and recognition. They usually become the basis of society’s first impression and general assessment of the person in his particular field. In the workplace, or in the case of formal events, such as seminars, sales pitches, or important conferences, a set of professional attire, most often an ensemble of a suit, a pair of long pants, and a properly worn necktie, is most commonly the most suitable criterion of apparel. These types of outfits evoke an aura of professionalism from the individual, defining him as a well-trained and qualified person for the occupation he is taking up. Speaking of which, professional dress codes can also be dependent on the line of work occupied by the person and on the company or institution that person has been employed in. For example, an individual working as an employee in a bank or other similar financial institutions has to follow the “suit-and-tie” dress code, which as the name implies, would consist of a suit and a necktie, or, as a minimum if unavailable, a casual business ensemble. In certain companies and institutions, especially those under a prestigious or well-renowned name, workers and professionals commonly wear color-coded business attire as, according to Nicky Lamarco, author of the online article “The Importance of a Dress Code for Professionalism”, a distinction of the employees and a form of cohesion for the workers of that company (LaMarco, 2019). In most scenarios, there are additional guidelines to follow for the dress code, such as the removal of all forms of body art, most especially tattoos, as well as strict regulations against extravagant forms of jewelry and body piercings. The goal of such strict implementations in businesses is to be able to mirror to institution and its set of core values. However, dress codes are not without their backlashes. In fact, in schools and universities that implement dress codes instead of uniforms, some students have claimed to feel uncomfortable in the prescribed clothing ensemble for their respective academic institutions and year levels. This dilemma had become no different for some people in the labor force. This was the reason why a group of Information Technology professionals had come with the casual business ensemble in the 1990s, providing the employees comfort without sacrificing the professional appeal.
After having learned about the origins of the dress code system and why it is implemented, I have completely understood why these kinds of rules about something as simple as the things we wear to school, or work, are important. As a future Electronics Engineer, I want my employers to see me as a professional worker and not just as an ordinary person. The clothes I wear should give me an elevated sense of being distinguished as part of the engineering community. It also empowers me and gives me the confidence the professional appeal, especially when I will face my clients and prospects. However, the professional attire that I would wear should not interfere with being comfortable working in my field. Sure, clothes may make the man in one way and leave a good impression, but what is its use when it gets in the way of you performing your occupation? I believe that there is a middle ground between looking sharp and doing sharp at work. And, to become an effective engineer, I should stand by this middle ground.