Dress code for a casual retail store?
August 13, 2013 7:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm managing a shop that sells electronic cigarettes and I'd like to come up with a dress code. The shop is a casual, friendly environment. I'm thinking 'neat clothes that fit' is the basis for it. I'm trying to come up with a good reason to support wearing shorts. Obviously, I'd throw something in that covers "tasteful, no holes, and no Daisy Dukes". Do any of you wear shorts while working with the public? I think it's fairly common in bike shops but we don't have the same physical aspect at my job.
posted by JV to Society & Culture (17 answers total)
Never seen it in a retail environment like that. Bike shops are an obvious exception. Independent game stores are too, probably because people coming in there aren't expecting khaki pants/tucked in collared shirt type of employees.

But every kiosk worker I've ever seen was in pants with a shirt that was either professional or a company branded shirt.
posted by theichibun at 7:46 PM on August 13, 2013

Collared button down shirt, mostly buttoned, and it doesn't matter what is downstairs. It can look super good, and casual, and is easy. You remove writing on t-shirts, hoodies and tanktops with one swoosh.
posted by bensherman at 7:47 PM on August 13, 2013

I managed a few boutiques in Manhattan when I was younger. Nothing, absolutely nothing, compares to content, comfortable employees. More comfortable in shorts? more power to you. The rule was always "don't look like shit." Shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, whatever, just don't look like you came in the same clothes you passed out in last night. All my best salespeople would've quit on the spot if there was a formal dress code. YMMV.
posted by griphus at 7:52 PM on August 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

I guess I should add that these were fashion boutiques, so the people we hired already had a good idea about their personal aesthetics and how to dress for working with the public. If some of your employees are totally clueless, then I still say shorts are okay, but a basic Dos/Don'ts list like you started above would help them out. Just make sure they know it is a list of suggestions, not a mandate.
posted by griphus at 7:57 PM on August 13, 2013

I used to work for a chain retail store with a super casual dress code and wore shorts all the time (but I'm a dude, so no Daisy Dukes for me). So maybe a "must be so many inches above the knee" so people can wear cargo shorts and chinos and normal length shorts but you can't come in rocking booty shorts and be like "It doesn't say in the dress code I can't wear these!".

It was years ago but our rules at the time were no writing (small logos didn't count), nothing offensive, no holes/huge stains/etc., shorts had to come to a not-booty-short length above the knee.

However, I will say I worked in a hot weather city in the South where everyone wore shorts and it was much more accepted than it would be in more formal places or those "nobody should wear shorts ever" cities.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:06 PM on August 13, 2013

Response by poster: I'll add that we're in Omaha, NE so we get some warm, humid days. Most people wear shorts in the summer. We're not in a high-class complex (there's a Pizza Hut, hair salon, and child care place in the same strip of shops).
posted by JV at 8:12 PM on August 13, 2013

If you're in Omaha, I think it would be a wise idea to adopt the old Surfside dress code.

My kid went to a camp this summer that specified that shorts and skirts needed to be 2" below the fingertips. I guess that would work for adults too.
posted by Ostara at 8:59 PM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ostara, the Surfside dress code is fantastic. Thank you.
posted by JV at 9:03 PM on August 13, 2013

Shorts below the fingertips is the same as saying no shorts for women. It's nearly impossible to find shorts for women that aren't short shorts; not quite the same as daisy dukes but close enough that I'd hesitate to try and legislate the distinction.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 9:05 PM on August 13, 2013

Matilda -- I agree. It was surprisingly hard to find shorts my daughter that met that 2" requirement!

JV -- I loved the old Surfside sign, but I heard that it's no longer there. I liked the spirit of the sign, though, and I think it would apply to a fun, casual environment.
posted by Ostara at 9:32 PM on August 13, 2013

Shorts below the fingertips is the same as saying no shorts for women

I disagree. I'm a woman and just stood up and slapped my leg to test what you're talking about (and now Mr Corpse is laughing at me). All the shorts I have that I would feel comfortable wearing at work are at least that long. I do have shorter shorts but they're definitely not work-appropriate, even in a low-key mall. Target has $20 shorts long enough to pass muster; you don't have to shop at Frumpy R Us to get shorts that are only a few inches above the knee.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:35 PM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

I owned and operated a small independent book store for several years. I wore cargo-type shorts for most of the year, and so did just about everyone who worked there. Casual and comfortable was the way to go for staff and customers.
posted by melesana at 9:36 PM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

your store sounds small enough that you could get by hammering it out as you go. you just need to communicate that it is a work in progress, that you'll give your employees enough lead time to know what is acceptable vs what isn't (ask them about how much time they need), talk to them about what they think is ok and not ok. also tell them that if they are someone who has worn something that has gone on the banned list you won't hold it against them.
posted by cupcake1337 at 9:43 PM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Our dress code is probably a little more formal than yours, but it's pretty good:

-- No clothing may have holes, tears, stains, aesthetic distressing, or snags. We have a policy that states that all items must be either solid black or solid white (exception is jeans, and shirts may be solid red or solid blue) but you may want to specify just "no slogans or logos." I really resent being told what colors I can wear-- it's the only thing that really bothers me.
--If you specify colors other than white or black, give examples of the colors allowable. If you specify only white or black, make sure to specifically exclude grey. Otherwise you'll have to fight both battles, trust me.
--No mesh or see-through garments.
-- Skirts must be no less than two inches above the knee. Tights, hose, or leggings may be worn if in good condition and a solid color. Up to you if you think your employees can handle patterned tights-- it's a hard look to pull off.
-- Pants may be dark jeans in good condition, or other type of pants like khakis or slacks, and must fit at the waist. If belt loops are present, you must wear a belt.
-- Shirts with tails must be tucked in. Polo shirts and sweaters do not need to be tucked in. Shirts must have a collar. Layering vests, cardigans, etc. is fine. No tank tops, spaghetti straps, tube tops, or strapless tops unless they are completely covered by a shirt, sweater, or other top layer. Midriff may not be exposed, including while bending, crouching, etc.
-- Tattoos may not depict gang affiliation, racism, or other symbols perceived as offensive to others. Covering a tattoo with a wristband or shirt is acceptable.
--Piercings, jewelry, manicures, and hair styles must be considered in terms of safety (i.e. no dangling items that could get stuck in something or would prevent you from doing your job.) Up to you how you feel about unnaturally-colored hair. Ours doesn't specifically forbid it but the culture of the place does. If you feel strongly about pink hair or whatever, spell it out or risk fighting about it later.
--Our dress code actually says that "Ties are always welcome!" but you may feel differently. I think a shirt and tie would be overdressing in a casual store. Then again, I think that the conservative bent of our dress code influences people to dress a little nicer than they otherwise would.
-- When I worked at Starbucks, we were allowed to wear shorts provided that they were khaki or black, no more than 2 inches above the knee, and no cutoffs or cargo shorts. I would argue that shorts are a fine thing to wear in a casual environment provided that they aren't cutoffs or tiny. Functionally, most places let women cheat on the length of shorts a little-- what's an extra inch if it's otherwise OK?-- but you should specify a correct length like 2 inches above the knee so you have a leg to stand on when people push that issue with the Daisy Dukes.
--No visible undergarments, including while bending, crouching, etc.
--Shoes must be closed-toe and closed-heel (there are legal issues around open shoes, apparently.) Ours are required to be all black with no logos or contrasting colors, although in practice Doc Martens or anything with contrasting stitching is OK. Saddleshoes are usually OK. You may want to provide specific examples of shoes that are acceptable.
-- If you allow sneakers, specify whether they can have more than one color, a logo, and that they must be in good condition with no stains, holes, etc. Otherwise you'll have people showing up in beatdown runners. I once worked at a place that specified that "shoes must be able to be shined and should be shined regularly and maintained in good condition." Not that I think suede is unprofessional, but it was a pretty good way to specify "not sneakers."
--In terms of heel height, you have two options-- cap the height of heel somewhere reasonable, like three inches, or specify only that employees wear heels at their own risk and must be able to stand, walk, and perform their jobs safely. Most people are unlikely to wear 5" heels at a retail job, but you never know. Don't get blamed for a safety issue that you didn't create.
--For a long time, our dress code specifically forbade combat boots. I don't know why. It doesn't any more. I think combat boots can be worn in a casual setting if they are well-maintained and in good condition.

As I understand it, you cannot write a dress code specifically for women or men unless you have a job function that requires only women or only men to do it wearing that specific garment (i.e. Hooters. I'm struggling to think of another example, but they do exist.) You have to write the dress code from the standpoint that if any employee wore a specific garment, it would be OK. If you don't want men to wear the professional, knee-length solid black skirts that your dress code allows, forbid skirts altogether.

Don't say "tasteful." There is no working definition of "tasteful" that you will share with every employee. You may say an employee looks distasteful, and that employee may think you're racist/sexist/singling them out/etc. Stick with defining what is specific and measurable; skirts that are two inches above the knee are fine, but it's impossible to fairly enforce a dress code that forbids skirts that are "too short." The stricter the dress code, the easier to enforce...but the less your employees will like it. Definitely write a dress code before you have a dress code dispute!
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:24 AM on August 14, 2013

I would say that some sort of uniform item of clothing would help customers identify your employees and differentiate them from the other folks in the store.

A custom polo shirt, or a bowling shirt with names stitched on them, or Hawaiian shirts. Khaki bottoms, of any sort.

I see this in sports bars and it looks nice, can be customized to an extent by each server, and is comfortable.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:21 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I understand their place, especially if you are managing lots of employees in a place with a very formal structure, but I think that nothing degrades employee morale so quickly as long, draconian dress codes with guidelines on inches and such and such.

An electronic cigarette shop? Shorts are fine, so long as they are tasteful. People know what tasteful means. A good dress code for many places I have worked has been "clothes must be clean, in good repair and free of logos. Shorts, jeans, tennis shoes and t-shirts are fine as long as they are tasteful and appropriate."

The best employees are comfortable employees.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:23 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Be sure to set the standard you want to see in your employees. I always gauge what I wear by what my employer wears. If you're looking sharp in walking shorts and a polo and boat shoes, I can do that, too, especially if I know I can duplicate the look at Target or Sears or LL Bean without going hungry.

Use polos with your corporate identity as sales incentives, and then when you're pretty sure everybody has one, everybody wears them one day a week, like Saturday. Choose a light color because dark colors fade too fast.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 3:47 PM on August 14, 2013

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