Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Dressed to do the business - Clothes that sell or portray an image

(Photos accompanying this post are of  Notting Hill Carnival Costumes August 29th 2011)

Whether Abercrombie and Fitch's recent edict to offer to pay an 'eye candy' soap opera actor not to wear their clothing was a great PR stunt or a serious concern of protecting their brand image by spending marketing moneys in order to try to 'exclude' customers that do not align with their desired market segment -as Mark Ritson argued in Marketing Week 25th August - I know not.
What it is has done is brought back the whole issue of dress and image whether in and out of the work place back onto our new stands , news websites and TV screens.
                                                    Notting Hill Carnival Costumes August 29th 2011 London

“We are deeply concerned that Mr Sorrentino's association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image. We have therefore offered a substantial payment to Michael 'The Situation' Sorrentino and the producers of MTV's Jersey Shore to have the character wear an alternate brand. We have also extended this offer to other members of the cast, and are urgently waiting a response."

Apparently the actor's 'GTL' lifestyle (Gym, Tanning and Laundry)is not a match for A & F. Although this is a little puzzling when you see the photographs printed on the outside of their carrier bags.

I suppose actors' costumes on TV are their 'work clothes' and those off screen are their 'glad rags' - whether A & F's preppy look can be described as 'glad rags' I am not sure.

But all this talk of clothes got me thinking on how dress changes over the years and has been reflected in how people  dress for selling .

 First some observations from one day  'out in the field' ,followed by some research published this year on work dresss.

I was travelling by rail to visit a bio sciences business in Hertfordshire from London's Kings Cross  station by First Capital Connect (08.36a.m. service to Peterborough) when I was asked to show my ticket.

Notting Hill Carnival Costumes August 29th 2011 London

The man who requested to see my ticket was wearing jeans in the manner that youth does- namely slung below the cheeks of his bottom revealing his colourful boxer shorts.

Slung over his shoulder was a back pack. He was wearing some sort of casual cotton black jacket. The only thing that indicated he might be a bona fide ticket inspector was a plastic card with possibly the train company’s logo ( I could not really see that clearly )hung on a lanyard from around his neck.

On taking my ticket he scribbled a rough elongated circle with his Biro and handed it back.

I am old enough to remember when one’s ticket was clipped by a uniformed inspector with a hat! In those days when one was a ‘passenger’ on the railway not a 'customer'.

The inspector did get off at Hitchin Station and go directly to the station offices- so I guess he was legitimate.

Next I met up with a colleague at the station car park and we went went to visit the bio-science business on an industrial estate.

We were both 'suited and booted' but on entering the client's premises the dress code was clearly very relaxed. So our jackets were off pretty sharpish to dress down and match.

On my return rail trip to London the First Capital Connect inspector was smartly dressed in white shirt , a tie in corporate colours and dark blue trousers - a sharp contrast to his colleague on the morning service.

Notting Hill Carnival Costumes August 29th 2011 London

Arriving back at Kings Cross I popped in next door to the British Library's exhibition on "Science Fiction" ( ). On leaving the exhibition a lady stopped me and asked me whether the Library held an original copy of " Samuel Pepys' diary. "

I explained I was (like her) a visitor too and unfortunately did not know the answer to her question. "Oh sorry I thought you worked here" - possibly the fact I was wearing a white shirt and tie prompted her assumption.

Then back on the tube ( metro) I was reading my free  newspaper which had a photo of an elderly distinguished octogenarian German in a white clerical uniform with a chained lanyard round his neck sporting a metal cross. The Holy father was visiting Spain.

So work attire is still ever changing but seldom static with the possible exception of pontifical attire.

You might find the following recent  research of interest.

XpertHR Benchmarking have published a 2011 dress codes survey.

Notting Hill Carnival Costumes August 29th 2011 London

The survey is based on responses from 218 organisations currently operating 269 different dress codes, which cover a total of 163,483 employees.

key findings on dress codes include the following:

• The most common form of dress code is contractual, followed by written guidelines and verbal guidelines.

• HR most frequently takes responsibility for setting the dress code.

Managers are the employee group most likely to be subject to a dress code.

• Employees tend to adhere to dress codes, with little enforcement action required.

Reasons given for having dress codes include:-

The primary reasons for having a dress code are to maintain the organisation's external image, to meet health and safety considerations, and to reinforce company culture among employees.
Notting Hill Carnival Costumes August 29th 2011 London

9 out of 10 employers are willing to relax their dress code under certain circumstances.

Charity days are the most widespread reason for relaxing dress codes, followed by dress-down days and unusually hot or cold weather.

Only one respondent in 10 never relaxes its dress code.

Among the one employer in four who operate without a dress code, the most commonly cited reasons for not operating a dress code are that employees dress appropriately without guidelines, or that the organisation has a "relaxed" culture.

There are both benefits and drawbacks of dress codes the report goes on:

Employers operating dress codes have strong views as to the benefits they bring.
The vast majority say that having a dress code helps set standards regarding workplace culture, and enhances the external image of the organisation.

One in three says that having a dress code helps overcome equality issues in the workplace.

Nine out of 10 organisations have acted to ensure that their dress code does not fall foul of legislation outlawing discrimination on grounds of religion or belief.

The most common such action is to ensure that the dress code does not ban garments or accessories that can be construed as religious.

Only a tiny minority of those surveyed (fewer than one in 50) say they have received complaints that their dress code is discriminatory.
Notting Hill Carnival Costumes August 29th 2011 London

Some employers cite risk of discrimination claims as a drawback of operating a dress code. However, the most commonly mentioned drawbacks are provoking employee complaints and the amount of time and energy required to police the dress code.

What garments do dress codes permit?

"Business casual" dress codes are most prevalent, but what do they permit?
For male employees, both formal and "business casual" dress codes tend to restrict or exclude shorts, trainers and jeans.

For female employees, formal dress codes are most likely to prohibit jeans, trainers and t-shirts. A further two-thirds specify restrictions relating to the length of skirts and dresses, while four in 10 restrict or ban trousers.

"Business casual" dress codes for women are more varied, but most ban or restrict the wearing of trainers, cut-off tops, jeans and shorts.

Other XpertHR's detailed written analyses of the survey findings: XpertHR dress codes survey: Workplace trends and XpertHR dress codes survey: Defining acceptable work wear.
Notting Hill Carnival August 29th 2011 London

Other related links

Selling and Dress Code when visiting clients

Women in business

Tailoring and Work dress


  1. Fabulous photos and I like it. I enjoyed a lot in your post and It has a great content. Big thanks for sharing.


  2. Thanks Michelle

    Notting Hill Carnival costumes are wonderful

    Can't wait for next summer

  3. I think one should be very careful in order to get maximum advantages..