Vox Pop: Should creative agencies enforce a dress code at work?

With the BBC recently reporting that several major companies are putting their leading salespeople through head-to-toe style makeovers to enhance their performance, we asked The Drum Network’s member agencies the following question:

Do you enforce a dress code at your agency and, if so, why?

Paul Shepherd, founder, Coup Media

I'd like to think that people can look beyond personal appearance but the fact is we all make judgements based on appearance every day. The office for us isn't such. People can wear what they like (luckily they're all trendies anyway)! Meetings, though, are definitely a place where we impose a smart dress rule. Not necessarily suited-and-booted but certainly professional, clean and tidy. I think that's as much a mark of respect to the people you're visiting as it is a statement of professionalism.

Rushell Clarke, marketing and communications director, Hit Search

We’re happy that our staff are sensible enough to dress for the occasion and we can always tell when someone has a client meeting lined up! We have a relaxed approach to what people wear in the office and most of us opt for a smart-causal vibe. I think clients appreciate you dressing to their standards. Personally I’d never turn up to meet a legal client without wearing a suit. Generally I think you can’t go wrong with a pair of jeans and a jacket – as adopted by most digital agencies. Always good to keep a smart jacket in the office for those unscheduled client visits!

James Greenwood, digital director, Strawberry

We're lucky - by running a design agency you always end up with a team who care about their own personal appearance. We've a range of looks in the office from ‘PR sassy’ and ‘Design Hipsters’ through to, er, ‘Developery Beards’ (why do developers love beards so much?!). I think clients do have an expectation but fortunately for us, it matches reality. Our clients, who cover large corporates to new start-ups, don't expect suits, collars and ties. I think they'd be more worried if we did wear that sort of 'standard office' outfit. We're smart but very much non-corporate and I don't think it hurts us one bit.

Simon Bollon, managing partner, Boutique Media Communications

Terribly cheesy but it’s true; we’re all patrons of our brands so first impressions count meaning how you look and how you address people matters. We have an expectation of how people represent our brand but think our culture creates its own standards. I like to remind members of the team that every touch leaves a trace.

Debbie Harvey, strategic marketing director, Kolab Digital

Times have changed and, in general, business dress codes are far more relaxed than they were. As a creative agency, we like that we can express something of our personalities in the way we present ourselves but it’s also important to show our clients that we are consummate professionals. We don’t have any hard and fast rules here and some meetings may require a smarter look than others, but If we put our dress code on an invitation, it would have to be ‘smart casual’!

Phil Rainey, creative director, Cuckoo

I think this ultimately comes down to knowing your clients well, both current and prospective, and dressing for the occasion by using a bit of common sense. If I've never met a client I'll play it safe and dress up a bit. Likewise if I know a client well and have a meeting on a Friday, I can dress a bit more casually. The acid test is, when you walk into that room, do you feel confident in your own appearance?

Alex Sibille, managing director, The Future Factory

I think the way our team dress is really important. First impressions really do matter. And of course in this industry it’s not about looking ‘corporate smart’, but showing that you’re from the creative world. Our team dress pretty casually when they’re in our office, but when they’re working from clients’ offices they have to scrub up!

In terms of trying to win new clients, looking memorable (in a good way) really helps. I know a PR agency MD who often wore zebra print Dr Martens. She looked polished, and definitely stuck in my mind, which is a great trait when meeting potential new clients.

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