Friday, 4 February 2011

Do Clothes make the Sales person? Dress Code for sales

Do clothes make the sales person? Dress Code for Sales
The red (orange) swimsuit that helped make "Charlie's Angels" actress Farrah Fawcett a 1970s icon became part of the USA's Smithsonian's collection this week 4th Feb 2011

Whether we might see entrepreneur Peter Jones of Dragons' den donate his iconic snazzy socks to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London in their business dress collection – should they have such a thing is just conjecture - but dress code is for sure a regular topic in the business press.

Swiss bank revises 'no garlic code'
was the headline of a recent article in the Business Press.

A Swiss bank, UBS, had revised its dress code after coming under fire for suggesting its employees avoid garlic breath, shun beards and wear skin coloured underwear.

UBS employees did not take kindly to being told to how to their ties and apply their make up.

Yet the importance of dress is an everyday fact 'bigged-up' by dress gurus such as 'TV’s Trish and Susannah , and Channel 4’s Gok Wan

We are all being encouraged to consider the effect of our clothing more seriously and be happier about our bodies.

No dress code can cover all contingencies for sales professionals but we must exert a certain amount of judgment in our choice of clothing to wear to sales meetings.

Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly.

Epictetus AD 55 -AD135

Certain days in the sales office ( if you do not work from home like the majority of field sales people nowadays) are declared as 'dress down' days -generally Fridays.

On these days, jeans and other more casual clothing, although never clothing potentially offensive to others, are allowed but

what should visiting sales professionals wear?

In the Buyers Views of Salespeople Survey over the last 13 years we have asked such questions and the slide below shows their responses. If in doubt veer towards the formal side.

If we need smart casual some questions come to mind:

What is appropriate business casual attire for sales people?

What items are not appropriate for salespeople in the office?

Some Companies that sales professionals are likely to visit are taking this issue of corporate dress increasingly seriously.

So here are some views taken from an HR handbook from the USA which might interest readers of this blog. I have also interspersed this abstract with some quotes regarding clothing which might amuse or even provoke!
Does anyone know of a company who specifically stipulates dress for salespeople? Years ago IBM used to have their sales people wear a code of dress that became known as the Big Blue.

Clearly the following directives are gender dependant and will vary from national as well as market sector norms. I leave it to readers to discern this! - My question is -

Should Sales dress Code be as prescriptive?
Please post your comments, views and advice

Slacks, Trousers etc.
Slacks that are similar to Dockers and other makers of cotton or synthetic material pants, wool pants, flannel trousers, and nice looking dress synthetic trousers are acceptable.

Inappropriate slacks or trousers include jeans, sweatpants, exercise pants, Bermuda shorts, short shorts, shorts, bib overalls, leggings, and any spandex or other form-fitting pants such as people wear for biking.

I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans:
the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and nonchalant.
They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity - all I hope for in my clothes

Yves Saint Laurent

Skirts, Dresses, and Skirted Suits
Casual dresses and skirts, and skirts that are split at or below the knee are acceptable. Dress and skirt length should be at a length at which you can sit comfortably in public. Short, tight skirts that ride halfway up the thigh are inappropriate for work. Mini-skirts, skirts, sun dresses, beach dresses, and spaghetti-strap dresses are inappropriate for the office.

Shirts, Tops, Blouses, and Jackets
Casual shirts, dress shirts, sweaters, tops, golf-type shirts, and turtlenecks are acceptable attire for work. Most suit jackets or sport jackets are also acceptable attire for the office, if they violate none of the listed guidelines. Inappropriate attire for work includes tank tops; midriff tops; shirts with potentially offensive words, terms, logos, pictures, cartoons, or slogans; halter-tops; tops with bare shoulders; sweatshirts, and t-shirts unless worn under another blouse, shirt, jacket, or dress.

Shoes and Footwear
Conservative athletic or walking shoes, loafers, clogs, sneakers, boots, flats, dress heels, and leather deck-type shoes are acceptable for work. Wearing no stockings is acceptable in warm weather. Flashy athletic shoes, thongs, flip-flops, slippers, and any shoe with an open toe are not acceptable in the office. Closed toe and closed heel shoes are required in the manufacturing operation area.

Jewelry, Makeup, Perfume, and CologneShould be in good taste, with limited visible body piercing. Remember, that some employees are allergic to the chemicals in perfumes and make-up, so wear these substances with restraint.

Hats and Head Covering
Hats are not appropriate in the office. Head Covers that are required for religious purposes or to honour cultural tradition are allowed.

The conclusion from this handbook warn in draconian manner employees that:-
If clothing fails to meet these standards, as determined by the employee’s supervisor and Human Resources staff, the employee will be asked not to wear the inappropriate item to work again.

If the problem persists, the employee may be sent home to change clothes and will receive a verbal warning for the first offense.

All other policies about personal time use will apply. Progressive disciplinary action will be applied if dress code violations continue.

Disclaimer ( The lawyers obviously had the last word here!):
This sample policy is provided for guidance only. The provided information, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct.

Seldom do people discern Eloquence under a threadbare cloak.

Juvenal late 1st - early 2nd century

I am no expert on commercial sartorial rectitude as both friends and foes will attest;but there are specialists who advise on such skills e.g. "Dress for success"

and Colour Me Beautiful 66 the business centre, 15-17 Ingate place, London, SW8 3NS
tel: +44 (0)20 7627 5211 +44 (0)20 7627 5211 fax: +44 (0)20 7627 5680 email:

Click for free executive summary of the Buyers Views of salespeople research study
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