The next two weeks at work are a couple of my favorites. You would probably assume the reason for this is because of the holidays: time off, free treats to be found everywhere, and most everyone is in a good mood.
In reality, they rank up there because my library is running a Jeans for Charity event. Two or three times a year, our staff is allowed to wear jeans in exchange for a $5 minimum donation to charity. A different charity is selected each time. Past beneficiaries include animal shelters, Family Alliance (a health service), and a battered women’s shelter.
Why, Alexa, (you ask) are you so excited to wear jeans? Because my library has a dress code. A dress code that prohibits blue jeans, shorts, sneakers, t-shirts with writing (other than our SRP shirts), and backless shoes. It is probably best escribed as business-professional.
I do enjoy dressing well and have no complaints about our policy. That said, there are days when I really wish I could wear a pair of jeans. Today is one of those days. It’s 3 degrees Fahrenheit and there is snow on the ground. So I’m feeling extra lucky that I could suit up in my favorite jeans, a tee & nice jacket, and boots. Besides Jeans for Charity days, we are also occasionally encouraged to wear clothing supporting our professional teams when then make it to the playoffs. (Go Cubs!)
We didn’t always have such a formal dress code. When I started here over 12 years ago, we could wear jeans, shorts, and backless shoes. When the new code was implemented the biggest upset was over the banning of backless shoes. But policies change and we learn to adapt.
The last time I had such a formal dress code was when I was a teacher and when I worked as a sales clerk in a high end department store 25 years ago, give or take. As a teacher I was required to wear a dress at least 3 days a week. And the retail dress code was even more stringent and dictated women wear hose, makeup, have manicures, and “appropriate” jewelry. It also required women to wear jackets if they wore pants. I don’t know how this would fly in today’s world, but it was de rigueur at the time.
Do I think having a fairly strict dress code is necessary to do my job well? No. Do I think a business-professional dress code should necessarily be adopted by other libraries? No. Does looking professional mean that a person will act professionally? No.
But I do believe that first impressions are important, and that appearing professional does benefit me when engaging with patrons and the public, especially for the first time. For me, at least, having a business-professional dress code has been beneficial.
I would be interested to hear from those of you in Library land – do you have a dress code in your workplace? What is allowed? What isn’t? Would you argue in favor or against a dress code?
Share your thoughts. I’m curious to know what you think.
Meanwhile, I’ll be enjoying my opportunity to wear jeans and help a local charity at the same time.