Thongs Need Not Apply…

Kathy Rapp Generations, Kathy Rapp

There was an article in the Denver Business Journal that caught my eye recently – “Generations clash over tattoos, body piercings in the workplace”.   So, what is all the fuss – especially in Denver (not the most conservative of towns)?  Essentially the article talked about tattoos and piercings becoming more mainstream and how employers are dealing (or not) with the shift in attitudes about body art.  The question was posed – what will dress codes look like in 30 years when the tatted-out employee becomes an executive?

Hmmm….ok, you should know up front that I do not believe in dress code policies. Too often “managers” hide behind a dress code vs. stepping up and truly managing people.  I do believe in treating people like adults and calling them out if they show up in sweats, a thong showing or a vulgar t-shirt. I also believe in talking openly about how the way you dress (including visible art) impacts initial impressions and whether you’ll be hired for a customer facing role. I worked in luxury hotels – and had no problem telling an applicant that they’d have to remove the decorative gold tooth if they wanted to work the front desk. If they were interested in a back-of-the-house role, no problem.

Bottom line, I don’t believe the way you dress/look impacts your ability to perform, but I do recognize and respect that in some organizations and in certain jobs, you have to dress the part.  Personal freedoms aside, if you want to excel in a customer facing role you’ll need to cover up the tat or take out the piercing.  So, in 30 years I hope dress codes have gone the way of paper applications and disappear from our vocabulary all together – which hopefully means we’ve taken personal accountability for how we present ourselves, and those in management roles truly know how to manage.

I’ll also confess I have a slight exception to dress codes when it comes to what people wear to the gym.  I’m a YMCA gal, so you would think I’m not going to be too shocked….yeah, you would think.  A glimpse of what I saw just this morning (while listening to Saving Abel’s “New Tattoo” – awesome track btw):

  • Muscle man in a tight tank and short shorts.
  • A woman with a bra top, skort, visor and full make-up.
  • Yoga man who insists on putting himself into inappropriate poses (in spandex) on the mat where everyone else is doing sit-ups.

The bright side – at least we’re past the 80’s/90’s where women would prance around in leotards, leg-warmers and thongs. Now I get to see women whose lower back tattoos have gotten a bit larger…perhaps the thongs weren’t so bad!