Death to the Dress Code!

Accounting is a profession, and professions have uniforms. For years, that meant variously strict definitions of business attire – but those days are almost over.

Younger generations are rebelling against the requirements of ties, pinstripes, stockings and close-toed shoes – and the concurrent prohibitions against jeans, polo shirts and the like – and smart firms are relaxing their dress codes as a benefit for staff.

A lot of the Best Firms to Work For are starting with “Casual Fridays,” where the regular dress code of business attire is set aside in favor of business casual, or even just casual clothing. This is often tied with a charity, where employees donate $5 or $10 to a firm-nominated charity in return for the right to wear jeans or other casual clothes on Friday, but in other cases, Fridays are open even without a donation.

Many firms stop there, but a few others, like Colorado’s Anton Collins Mitchell, extend those kind of clothes throughout the week – ACM’s “smart casual” dress code allows jeans every day.

The most nuanced, and increasingly popular, version of the move away from business attire is what Illinois’ Mowery & Schoenfeld calls “Where What You Can,” and Virginia’s WellsColeman calls “Dress for Your Day” (its most common name), where what employees can wear is dictated by the demands of their calendar. Pennsylvania’s McKonly & Asbury describes its version thus: “We have a relaxed dress code when not at a client site. Using good judgement, jeans, capris, sneakers and other casual footwear can be worn in the office.” The firm also allows “extreme casual” during a handful of very-off-peak weeks during the year.

“Good judgement” is the most important part of M&A’s description, of course: Staff need clear direction on what kinds of “casual” are acceptable. Banged-up sneakers and jeans with holes in them, for instance, are never appropriate, and it’s wise to avoid being more casually dressed than your clients.

So while making the move to a more casual dress code, it’s important to give employees clear examples of what’s being newly allowed – and what’s still forbidden.

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