Fashion Q & A:
Wearing Black Jeans to Work

Q: I ordered the "Addressing the Dress Code" reference material from your organization. It was a wonderful tool in setting up our dress standard. However, I have a question about one issue. That is jeans.

I would define our dress standard as business casual, but we are a customer-based company and need to project a professional image.

We have allowed nice colored jeans (i.e. green, lavender, etc.). But in our dress standard, we have asked that employees do not wear black/blue jeans, except on casual day (Friday).

Are black jeans acceptable attire in a business environment? What is your professional opinion on jeans? Any advice on addressing this in our dress standards?

A: Glad to hear that you received our materials and that they have been helpful in shaping your policy.

It's my opinion that jeans are too casual for the business environment you describe. The problem is that while some folks look great in them and understand the importance of making sure they are presented professionally, others will always look sloppy and, well, too casual in them. Also, you have no control over how customers view them. Many people (especially some over 50) think jeans are a sign of disrespect. They were never allowed to wear them to school, never mind to work. No matter the color, they are generally thought of as too casual in most professional service environments, which I believe is the category that your organization falls into. Some high tech companies we work with allow jeans on Fridays which is fine in their business environment.

Hope my insights help shed some light on your particular situation. It's tough to take away something that is currently being allowed. Maybe you can put out a memo that states your concern with jeans and asks folks to refrain from wearing them. "Asking" as opposed to "telling" often yields better results!!