More Accounting Tomorrow Posts

Forget formality... just maintain professional attire and attitudes

September 10, 2012

I’ve noticed a big debate over “fashion and finance” lately. Lots of people are talking about the “do’s” and “don’ts” for new recruits. In fact, you can see it in a recent Accounting Tomorrow blog post. While it’s a reasonable topic, I’m stunned at the amount of time firms seem to be spending writing “policy” around a basic necessity of working in a traditionally conservative profession. It’s an accounting firm—dress and act professionally. Does it really have to be harder than that?

We all know how busy the average firm is…serving clients, implementing new technologies, earning CPE, etc. Who really has the time to initiate and enforce dress code regulations? Yet, it seems like many firms are doing just that.

Here’s my thing: this all goes back to the fact that we are all people. Why not just talk to each other? When an employee strolls through the front door with Bermuda shorts and flip-flops, tell them it’s inappropriate and explain (briefly) your expectations on attire. Done. My even bigger issue with all the time spent on dress-code policy is that if new recruits haven’t figured out the “traditional” nature of the accounting profession, then there is seriously something wrong with both the new hire and the firm.

One quote from the recent Fashion and Finance post really got my attention: “One thing that we’re doing at our firm is offering people ‘Rea wear’ [company wear] with our logo on it. We’ve set up a shop with pre-approved items in our corporate colors that they can order…I’ve been surprised by how many people have ordered things through the store. Granted, they might not be fashionable…but they are definitely work appropriate…” (emphasis, mine).

I think offering employees universal, branded company attire is a great idea. It not only offers a uniform, professional look, but also further promotes the firm’s brand. Here’s the thing though: Why is it that the clothing isn’t “fashionable?” There are lots of premium providers out there that offer a great selection of branded clothing that employees would find desirable to wear. Our team sports exceptionally attractive quilted vests and other comfortable AND professional pieces (e.g., polo shirts). It’s pretty easy to find branded clothing that meets everyone’s taste. (See below!)

The bottom line is that firms are made up of PEOPLE, so axe the formal policy and take a few minutes to simply coach new recruits on appropriate attire. Talk it out…don’t write it out. You should only have to say it once.

Jody L. Padar, CPA, MST, is a Certified Public Accountant experienced with Complex Federal & State Income Tax Compliance for Business & Individuals. Jody is an adjunct professor at Oakton Community College, where she teaches Taxation and QuickBooks Courses. She is part of Intuit Trainer Writer Network and speaks nationally on various Technologies and Taxation. She can be reached at

Comments (4)
I totally agree. I am a senior consultant at a large accounting firm. I see many peers in my company that dress inappropriately (and sometimes even managers), and yet management says nothing, in order to avoid an uncomfortable situation. Instead they send out email reminders about dress code policy, which I assume the "offenders" do not think is a problem for them.

The problem is that there are many websites for women's clothing that market "firm wear"; however, the clothes are most often too revealing, too slim and inappropriate for an accounting environment.

Sometimes a kind word of advice from a female manager is necessary and frankly it could be helpful to their careers - no one can be taken seriously while wearing spike heels and a mini skirt.
Posted by aomalley | Tuesday, October 09 2012 at 9:01AM ET
Tell that employee in flip flops to call Jason Blumer. Doesn't his dress code REQUIRE flip flops?

Great article Jody, we have so many important issues to address I can't believe this topic is still coming up.

It always gets down to communication.

Hire the right employees, get clear on your values as a firm, take better care of your clients and wear whatever the heck you want while you're doing it. Actions speak louder than clothing.

If anyone wants a collection of gray suits with those little lady-blouse tie shirts, let me know.
Posted by evenanerd | Wednesday, September 12 2012 at 12:36PM ET
I think the problem lies in the fact that current fashion promotes low cut blouses. Even though the fabric is nice, how do you tell an employee that her ta-tas are hanging out in a "politically correct" way.
Posted by Erica M | Tuesday, September 11 2012 at 10:57PM ET
Great post, Jody. " ... take a few moments to simply coach new recruits on appropriate attire." Perfect advice. New recruits have taken their fashion sense and instruction from everyone but the firm until that point, take a moment to influence.
Posted by deductme | Monday, September 10 2012 at 10:06PM ET
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