Creating a startup is a lot like building your dream job. You’re likely doing work you’re passionate about in a way you’re passionate about. And almost all of the rules on how to run it are up to you, including the dress code for your new business.

Why do you need a dress code in the first place? Because you want to set the intentions of your startup rather than letting events decide it for you. It’s the difference between being proactive and reactive. Your dress code doesn’t have to a 12 page contract. It just needs to be clear about what works for your startup and what doesn’t. And you decide what works by taking in all the relevant factors.


Your Target Client

Your startup’s dress code is a representation of your business’s brand. The first concern when setting a dress code for your startup should be your target client or consumer. All of your business goals center on finding them, getting them to notice you, and getting that product or service in their hands. Your employees should dress in a way that you puts you closer to those goals.

You should know your target consumer backwards and forwards. Ask yourself what they would think if your company was represented by someone in a suit and tie. Does that fit with your brand’s story? Then your dress code will be on the strict side. What about flip flops and surfer shorts? Will your target consumer trust your brand dressed in that outfit? Then you may have a very loose code. Is it important that your customers be able to identify your workers in a crowd? Perhaps you will require your staff to wear go promotional clothing, such as shirts or aprons.

Atmosphere is Important

The second most important consideration in your dress code policy is the staff your employee. Atmosphere is very important to creating the type of workplace that matches your business goals. One subtle yet quick way to affect atmosphere is what everyone is wearing. If it’s important that your workers feel as comfortable at work as they do in their own homes, that lends itself to a less strict policy. If you want the atmosphere to be serious, then you might ask for more conservative business attire.

Getting Work Done

One caveat you should consider is whether the actual work can be done in certain clothing. While general office work usually doesn’t require any special clothing to prevent problems, not all startups are set up that way.

Let’s say you’re a food startup. In your workspace you combine office space with production space. While you wouldn’t mind if your employees wore muscle tees for some of work, it’s actually dangerous for them to do so while working the ovens. So of course, your dress code policy should reflect that arms should be covered.

Protecting Your Business

Don’t forget that your startup’s dress code isn’t just about your brand. It’s also about outside factors. Many jurisdictions have business laws that affect the way your startup’s day to day operation. If we’re still talking about that cookie startup, local health code applies. Sometimes that means you can’t legally allow your employees to wear certain clothing, like open toes shoes in a food production area.

Another example is the US’s Equal Employment Opportunity legislation, which makes certain types of discrimination or harassment illegal. You wouldn’t want anything your employees wear to create an environment that makes the others feel as if those laws are violated.

The bottom line is that dress code in a startup is more than your personal preference. You’re setting the tone for the whole organization and you have to take into account how you want your business to be seen and operate.


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