Agency Agony Uncle – dressing the part

Encore’s agony uncle Chris Savage tackles your agency dilemmas in his weekly advice column. This week, office dress codes.

Hi Chris,

What’s wrong with all these young people today coming to work as if they’ve come straight from a nightclub? Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I think presentation is important. How can I establish a dress code with my team without seeming, well, old fashioned?

John Singleton used to send shabby dressers home. They could only come back when they smartened up. It worked. Times have changed, though, and with this has come much more liberal dress codes to keep the new generation happy. That’s okay. But there have to be boundaries and limits. Set some sensible ground rules. No flip flops. No tank tops. No torn jeans. Whatever. Get your key team together. Work out sensible guidelines. Communicate them. Never let them be broken. If they are, send the culprit home.

Chris Savage is the chief operating officer of STW Group. His blog, Wrestling Possums with Chris Savage, can be found at

Got a question for out Agony Uncle? Email


This feature first appeared in the tablet edition of Encore. To download click on the links below.


  1. Wheelie
    20 Feb 13
    12:28 pm

  2. having worked at both casual and workplaces with more conservative dress codes, I can tell you, what I’m wearing doesn’t impact my ability to do my job. If however, I know i’m going to be seeing clients, who might appreciate a more dressy demeanor, then i’ll smarten up (after all sometimes its nice to wear heels to the office!).

    It all comes down to what kind of image you want to project? Is your client base conservative but looking for something edgy? Then let the hipsters have their brogues. If on the other hand they’re more cautious and haven’t got to know your (and your staff’s) good work, perhaps dial up the jackets for meetings with those clients.

    Plus if you let your staff know that you feel this way and let them help you in designing the dress code “rules”, they’ll be more inclined to follow them and keep each other from reverting back to their flip flops et al.

  3. Ricki
    20 Feb 13
    3:30 pm

  4. As an office newbie I remember working somewhere that had in their ‘Welcome to your first day of work’ manual something like ‘Everyone who works here is expected to shower before they come to work, wear deodorant and fresh, clean clothing every day’.

    At the time I thought….what the hell? But let me tell you…I think more companies should make this clear because evidently it is not obvious to everyone.

    So I don’t care much if you wear flip flops. Just don’t stink.

  5. offal spokesperson
    21 Feb 13
    1:16 pm

  6. For an industry that is all about the impression, its amazing that a number of places cant see what impression their staff can convey.

    You never know when the next big client might walk through the door, if they look around and see shabby, hungover and tatty staff, there’s a fair chance that’s what they are going to imagine thats the type of work they are going to receive?

    bed hair and a torn tshirt isnt evidence of creativity

  7. Nobby
    21 Feb 13
    5:02 pm

  8. Call me a dinosaur but I run a serious business with serious objectives.
    I want my employees to have an impression on each other just as much as any client. We aim to offer meaningful employment. That starts with some real basics. Dress smart, think smart, work smart.
    If this concept is hard to grasp – then try explaining at your next job interview why your last boss “like sacked me for, like, wearing thongs and a t-shirt, like, WTF!”