Last week I wrote about a judge’s request for lawyers (lawyers!) to get out of bed and put some clothes on before appearing in a virtual court.
I knew this would result in people telling me that dress codes are stupid and what matters is performance and not whether the lawyer is wearing a swimming suit. I was right. I got messages.
Okey-dokey. Performance is what matters. What is a part of performance? How you communicate. What are clothes? A means of communication.
This quarantine when everyone is joking about not wearing pants and staying in their pajamas for days on end proves it. If you’re not seeing other people there is no need to communicate anything about yourself.
We choose our clothing, just like we choose our words. We do so to demonstrate things about ourselves. Showing up to court (virtual or real) in your swimming suit or pajamas says, “I don’t think this is very important.”
If you disagree, think about what you would do if you were falsely accused of a very serious crime. You hire the best defense lawyer that money can buy. You show up to court on the appointed day–what are you wearing?
Betcha you’re not wearing your pajamas. And if your lawyer showed up in her swimsuit you’d freak out. If you’re in your pajamas and your lawyer is in a swimsuit and the prosecuting attorney is in her suit and the judge is in her robes, just who do you think the jury will take seriously? It’s not you.
Militaries wear uniforms to communicate that they are military. It’s part of the Geneva convention. And even so, the Army has a different uniform than the Marines, who have a different uniform than the Navy. For cost-cutting purposes, you could say every military member wears the same uniform. They would not like this–the point is to identify who they are.
When you choose what to wear–be it to a brick and mortar job or a virtual Zoom meeting–you communicate who you are.
For some situations, it’s perfectly fine to be in your slouchy couch friendly clothes. For others, it’s absolutely not. And you know this. It’s why you dress differently for different occasions.
You don’t wear a white gown to a wedding unless you are the bride (or an especially obnoxious groom’s mother). You don’t wear a suit to watch a hockey game.
Clothing is a form of communication and businesses have every right to determine how they want their employees to communicate with their coworkers and their clients.
So, yes, dress codes matter. Wear pants. Or a skirt. Take a shower. If you’re unclear about what is appropriate, ask your boss.