To ask trainee again to change her clothes

(112 Posts)
badbelinda Mon 09-Sep-13 21:11:09

Thread inspired by recent headmistress and uniform thread. I work in a professional role that involves a lot of public interface and within that role I also mentor juniors. My current junior often wears smart jeans (usually black) and a year ago I told her I didn't think jeans were appropriate for our work setting and didn't give a very professional image. At that time she stopped wearing them for a while, changing to smart trousers which I thought was fine. She's recently started wearing jeans again and now also smart trainers. So AIBU to bring this up again? If you go to see a professional in any role, what would you think of them wearing jeans and trainers (albeit smart ones)? Am I just getting old?

hettienne Mon 09-Sep-13 21:12:21

If it's inappropriate for your environment then mention is. Is there actually a dress code where you work?

I'm struggling to imagine 'smart trainers'. Surely trainers are just trainers? confused

Do you mean the shoes that look a bit comfier than normal office pumps, the ones with soft grippy soles?

GirlsonFilm Mon 09-Sep-13 21:18:22

Tell her, I remind the trainee in our office constantly to remove her nose piercing she'll get it one day

Hassled Mon 09-Sep-13 21:20:23

If you don't already have some sort of Code of Conduct which also covers acceptable dress, then you need to write one. Do you have an HR Department? While you may resolve the issue with this trainee, the problem is bound to re-occur with a subsequent one.

Quangle Mon 09-Sep-13 21:23:44

If she's been told no jeans then it's no jeans.

No jeans in our office (not public facing) apart from the IT dept who are always lugging bits of server around so they are allowed. I would raise it if someone was not in line with the culture of the office - particularly if it's in the dress code (ours is).

jellymaker Mon 09-Sep-13 21:26:35

No YANBU. I think it says more about her attitude to authority TBH. I have had to deal with this at work. It starts out as this but turns into not being able to follow instructions on other things as well. Being able to comply with what are on the surface quite small demands is a sign of maturity and someone's readiness to take their job seriously. I Would stick to your guns if I was you but I have colleagues that disagreed with me at work abut this.

Umlauf Mon 09-Sep-13 21:29:35

Personally I wouldn't bat an eyelid at a professional wearing smart jeans and trainers, I think people dressed in well fitting dark jeans and a good tip often look smarter than creased polyester black trousers, but that isn't the point here. The point is that there is a clear dress code that comes with the role that she is flouting, so yanbu and she may need a firmer reminder.

I too am interested to know about the smart trainers. How can trainers be smart?!

badbelinda Mon 09-Sep-13 21:36:16

I meant new looking trainers as opposed to grungy ones (probably designer though I wouldn't know)

chipsandpeas Mon 09-Sep-13 21:38:01

trainers yeah a big no no but cant see a big problem with black jeans, they can be just as smart as black work trousers

timidviper Mon 09-Sep-13 21:44:16

I agree black jeans you could get away with depending on what they are worn with and as long as they are not faded. Trainers definitely no.

I would tell her again and remind her that you have pointed this out previously and, if it happens again, you would have to put it in writing which would mean it would be on her record.

Pipparivers Mon 09-Sep-13 21:47:43

What do you do? I don't expect the same dress code for all professionals

raisah Mon 09-Sep-13 21:50:46

We had a trainee who wore tops so fitted her nipples werw visible and another whose hemline was the same as her knickers. So everybody got an eyeful eyeful everytime she bent down. I dont belive that she wasnt aware of the impact that her clothes (or lack of) had on others. People don't have any self awareness anymore, they are just stuck in their own bubbles.

BrokenSunglasses Mon 09-Sep-13 21:51:00

There's a fine line now with black jeans that are practically trousers, but if she was going to chance it she should have played it safe with boots instead of anything vaguely trainery.

She crossed the line, so have a word. She's probably half expecting it.

sparkle12mar08 Mon 09-Sep-13 21:52:24

If your workplace actually has a dress code specifiying no jeans then just remind her of it in a fairly low key way after a team meeting or catch up or whatever - "And just to finish on, I've been asked to remind everyone of the company dress code - no jeans/bare shoulders/sports clothes/'whatever restrictions you have' etc. Please do take a look at the policy, it's important that we all abide by it especially in our customer facing roles." If that doesn't work then you'll need to have a very specific meeting in a couple of weeks and just come out with it. "Your work is otherwise fine but you are really letting yourself down with your dress - it's not appropriate for this workplace and you need to comply with the dress policy. Please do not wear jeans or trainers again."

If however there is no specified dress code and you are going on your own preferences and general workplace custom, then you may have to be more subtle.

BigPawsBrown Mon 09-Sep-13 21:59:24

Solicitors? Jeans a no no in our office, but with the skinny trouser suit being in fashion some go a step further to jeans. Is frowned upon though.

Awks Mon 09-Sep-13 22:02:54

I had to tell someone no jeans the other day. She looked at me and said "but these are Jaeger".

Jomato Mon 09-Sep-13 22:04:27

I'm a "professional". Today I wore jeans and trainers to work, I do most days. My clothing isn't unusual in my office. It's all about the individual work place so it's very difficult to judge whether you are being unreasonable or not.

badbelinda Mon 09-Sep-13 22:13:56

Don't want to be too specific about work place but think solicitor (it's not that, but is equivalent) and she is a trainee solicitor, so meeting clients who will be putting a lot of trust in her. No specific dress code (small firm in which I am a partner), so this is just my opinion of what I think people expect when they come in (my male partners wear suits and ties).

I deal with professionals like solicitors, accountants, finance professionals etc. and jeans and trainers would not be acceptable. People sometimes come to work in casual clothes for example if they are on a bike or trainers if they walk to work but people change when they get to work.

If you have told her jeans are not acceptable then it isn't for her to decide that she can wear them anyway.

TheCraicDealer Mon 09-Sep-13 22:25:56

Yanbu. I do not get this- if she's meeting clients then she's the face of the company. Your company! She needs to project a smart, professional appearance.

One of the things my boss told me during my first few months in my job was "never walk into a meeting with your arms the same length, even if it's an empty file, have something. It looks better". Dressing in jeans doesn't mean you're not good at your job, but there are some roles were clients expect you to look a certain way. It inspires trust and gives some reassurance, which ultimately makes your job easier.

TheFarSide Mon 09-Sep-13 22:30:33

Am I the only person in the world who doesn't care what someone is wearing? I certainly wouldn't have a problem with a doctor or solicitor wearing jeans.

IsItMeOr Mon 09-Sep-13 22:36:49

If you're a partner, don't you make the rules?

I'd expect smarter attire than that, as a client.

TheFarSide
Some people care and some people don't. The problem is that you don't know what category your client falls into when you first meet them. You stand less chance of a negative reaction to formal clothing than informal.

SwedishEdith Mon 09-Sep-13 22:39:02

I'm interested in her smart trainers, as I'm after some.

If I was the client of a solicitor(or equivalent), I wouldn't care at all if they were wearing smart black jeans. However, I wouldn't ever wear jeans myself if meeting the public (in professional capacity) but I think that's an age thing. I think ties are looking dated now as well.

TiredDog Mon 09-Sep-13 22:39:55

I wear black jeans if I'm not meeting colleagues or clients. If you are her boss and she was made aware of uniform policy on employment she has to abide by it.

TiredDog Mon 09-Sep-13 22:41:14

I am the boss and am probably scruffiness staff member blush. I do however scrub up well and can look smart if occasion requires it. Scruffy usually denotes a day in the office on my own

<<Some people care and some people don't. The problem is that you don't know what category your client falls into when you first meet them. You stand less chance of a negative reaction to formal clothing than informal.>>

This is a very good point!

I was going to say that non-faded black jeans & non-scruffy trainers should be fine, but not all clients will think so, and it's best to err on the side of caution here. It sounds as if she needs a reminder, but I wouldn't be too hard on her. It takes me time to get used to wearing formal non-scruff clothes every day.

TheFarSide Mon 09-Sep-13 22:44:51

Fair enough Chazs.

I do wonder though how it often seems to be jeans that pose a problem. It's almost like a knee jerk reaction to label them unprofessional when in fact many jeans can look a lot nicer than cheap shiny black trousers (for example).

Notcontent Mon 09-Sep-13 22:46:06

I think for women, in particular, options for work have become so varied and some of the lines are a bit blurred, so some people push it a step too far. I work at a law firm and most women don't wear a suit anymore. But it's common sense really that jeans - even really nice jeans - are just not appropriate unless an office has a casual dress policy.

Finola1step Mon 09-Sep-13 22:48:52

It sounds like you have a straight forward dress code at work (professional attire, suit and tie for men, smart trousers and tops or blouses for women). If this is the unwritten dress code, she still needs to abide by it. But best to get it in written policy for all staff and even volunteers.

TheFarSide Mon 09-Sep-13 22:49:40

I'm challenging "common sense" though Notcontent. Why is that denim = not appropriate but linen/polyester/acrylic/silk/whatever = appropriate?

I'd mention it again with a warning that you couldn't let her represent the company to clients if she's dressed inappropriately. Clear guidance of what is and isn't appropriate, and follow through on the threat if she's in jeans and trainers.

EldritchCleavage Mon 09-Sep-13 22:55:25

I have trainees. My deal is, while they are with me they conform to my dress code.

Which is: on home office days they can be a bit more casual. But they should keep more formal clothes in the office in case we suddenly go out. For all meetings, seminars, presentations and client schmoozing, they have to wear formal clothes (suits basically) or they don't go.

I just can't have someone for whom I am responsible and who reflects on my bopping about in my peripheral vision in unsuitable clothes, distracting me.

McNewPants2013 Mon 09-Sep-13 22:55:37

I really don't care what people wear, I don't judge someone on the clothes they wear. In fact i get nervous around professional people, and the suit just add to the nerves.

However if it's the work place policy not to wear jeans, then she should adhere to the policy.

BackforGood Mon 09-Sep-13 22:56:49

Of course YANBU - if she is not capable of realising that it's not appropriate in that position to be wearing jeans - or, even worse, jeans and trainers, then she needs to be told. That's why trainees / new people are given mentors, surely?

Notcontent Mon 09-Sep-13 22:56:50

Thefarside - I think there is just something about denim/jeans that represents a certain casualness.

Junebugjr Mon 09-Sep-13 23:07:55

I oversee trainees, along with my colleagues, so we have about 2/3 a year at any given time. During a strictly office day, I have no problems with casual wear, but if we are at court, or in meetings with other professionals, there's a certain standard of dress that's expected. I think you'll probably have to bring it up again, and be firmer unfortunately.
The problem we have is overly sexy clothing, the amount of times trainees have come in dressed all out to do each other is unbelievable. One came dressed in long boots, mini skirt and vest top once while I was showing round an MP. I've had some bloody awkward convos I can tell you.

EldritchCleavage Mon 09-Sep-13 23:18:36

A client of mine comes to meet me with her trainee who does the overly sexy thing. I mean, to the point where it is really quite strange, drag-queeny. I would have to say something if she worked with me.

One thing though, it does always have to be quite general, about what is appropriate and not simply imposing your taste on someone. I'm getting so old now the trainees quite often wear stuff I think is foul/ridiculous/horrid but that's none of my business really. I grit my teeth and stick to giving perameters.

IAmMiranda Mon 09-Sep-13 23:19:25

I wear jeans to work [shrugs]. Don't do a lot of public facing though and would dress smart for a meeting.
Guess it depends on the context.

If it's companypolicy then yes, call all your juniors together and remind them of the no-jeans rule.
If there is no company policy and it's just you being a catsbumface then you need to get over yourself. People who get very hung up on having pointless rules followed and their 'authority' respected are usually incompetent at their jobs and inadequate in their personal lives.

EldritchCleavage Mon 09-Sep-13 23:27:42

People who get very hung up on having pointless rules followed and their 'authority' respected are usually incompetent at their jobs and inadequate in their personal lives

That's me told. I may have to go and lie down.

Retroformica Mon 09-Sep-13 23:36:37

I would be very happy to deal with professionals wearing smart back jeans/trainers.

TiredDog Tue 10-Sep-13 07:35:01

It's not really about what individuals want or are happy with etc. It's about corporate image and rules. You can rebel against it but tbh enough customers react badly to a particular dress style that I think a safe approach if you are dealing with clients and customers and is a reasonable request....by someone paying you to meet their clients.

I agree that smart black jeans, smart shoes and a work shirt can give a appearance which is acceptable for some professions and situations. Some black jeans look like smart black trousers and are just made of thicker cotton rather than denim (isn't denim thick cotton anyway??)

In my work area we don't power dress (no suits on women) which means there is big range of clothing and the vast majority of women get it right. Smart and dressed for work ...not the supermarket, the beach, the nightclub, the wine bar, the cute guy in the next office.

Sexy dressing at work is usually crass. I smiled at Junebugjr's post because I fairly recently showed an MP around. All staff very smart and the media team brought a new member of staff dressed so inappropriately that I had a struggle to keep my jaw off the floor and not make a direct request that she didn't join us.

kungfupannda Tue 10-Sep-13 07:58:39

Jeans are pretty universally accepted as casual clothing. It's not necessarily about what they look like, but the simple fact that they are being worn that gives a particular impression.

If you're working in a situation where you're giving professional advice, you don't want your clothes to be the main thing that the client notices. They've come for advice - not to admire your trendy/sexy/designer clothes.

But if you're the boss, then just tell her and make sure she adheres to it.

If everyone else dresses appropriately I would introduce a dress code.

Kerosene Tue 10-Sep-13 08:51:07

Some of the clients I work with have an odd attitude to clothes - I've gone to board meetings where I'm expected to do the full Saville Row, and others where they're snitty to me if I turn up in my usual office-wear, but actively embrace me if I rock up to their office in stompy boots and a rumpled shirt. It's not about me, it's about meeting the client's requirements - which might be demonstrating to their Board that the people they've contracted are Serious Business People, or understanding that they've a particular ethos that doesn't sit well with standard corporate practices. Demonstrating that through clothes is an easy bit of non-verbal communication.

If your clients are expecting to interact with traditionally-dressed business people, jeans and trainers - no matter how smart -will put her and you on the back foot. Make sure it's a documented policy and have another word.

LustyBusty Tue 10-Sep-13 08:53:49

It's tricky. I recently had an "incidident" ok, I spilled my breakfast!! that meant I ended up going into work wearing a fitted shirt, flat black patent ballet pumps and brand new black skinny jeans. My (male) colleague frequently wears unironed black baggy trousers and shirts that are very see through (supermarket value range -not snobby, but the material is so thin I can actually see his chest hair THROUGH it! <boak>) which are also unironed. I got pulled up due to looking "unprofessional". He doesn't. Now, I don't bother even trying. My smart trousers need ironing? Bollocks to it.

badguider Tue 10-Sep-13 09:00:02

I work with architects and engineers who wear smart "trendy" jeans and trainers.
As do the 'creatives', academics, doctors and project managers.

For some reason though solicitors and accountants are always expected to dress very boringly / conservatively.

So it's really not about "professionalism" it's about the expectations in the specific field / office.

Platinumstart Tue 10-Sep-13 09:05:50

The overly sexy thing drives me mad - I'm a lawyer at a professional services firm and although no longer as conservative as I was when I was in court everyday I do tend to stick to "corporate wear" (LK Bennett or Hobbs dress etc)

The vast majority of our junior female staff dress like they are going clubbing: thigh length dress, bare legs, platform soled stripper heels, hair back combed into the dragged through a hedge look and false eyelashes. Honestly false eyelashes FFS!

It's a constant bone of contention in the office and not dealt with effectively, HR would prefer not to so it is left to individual managers.

Anyway I digress jeans and trainers are not sufficiently smart IMO

AnneElliott Tue 10-Sep-13 09:05:54

I agree that jeans are a no no. In our place we can wear them on a Friday as ministers are not there. If one turned up though andaskedfor me I would apologise for the casual dress. I think you need to tell her.

BeckAndCall Tue 10-Sep-13 09:13:12

If that's the rules, then that's the rules - just repeat 'no jeans, no trainers'.

I'm an accountant and I'd challenge the 'dress boringly' assumption above. I always wear a dress and a coloured jacket with coloured shoes to match. I don't think you have to look boring to look professional.

But my DD is doing work experience in a barristers chambers this summer and the rule is 'black trouser suit'. And that's it - just that, no wiggle room. Makes it easier to just concentrate on being a professional and you don't have to worry about how the client reacts to how you're dressed.

BeckAndCall Tue 10-Sep-13 09:14:47

You realise of course, when I say 'coloured jacket and shoes' I'm talking burgundy, navy or sand coloured. Don't want you all picturing me in neon pink!

Bertrude Tue 10-Sep-13 09:34:36

YANBU

I also second BeckAndCall on the office attire is boring concept. I have a very strict dress code (UAE Government office so no cleavage at all, sleeves down to wrists and no splits in skirts which have to be ankle length, or trousers) and very rarely do me or the other british girl dress 'boringly', although she does occasionally do dress in Neon Pink. I usually wear a black trouser suit with, say, a red blouse/camisole, red nail varnish and red shoes although not red anymore after Pervy Perverson passed comment in a meeting that red looked good on me, or black trousers, black top, multicoloured silk scarf and again bright shoes.

No grey suit, white shirt, flesh coloured tights and black sensibly-heeled shoes here!

eretrew Tue 10-Sep-13 09:46:54

YANBU but I've noticed an increasing number of women who seem to be wearing black jeans instead of black trousers. I thinks its very scruffy though.

Actually, and this does matter: what are the clothing rules for your male employees? If they are allowed to wear black jeans and the female ones are not, then you have a bigger problem than your own personal taste being outraged.

specialsubject Tue 10-Sep-13 11:16:25

makes no difference to her work performance, probably improves it if she is comfortable. I don't care if my doctor/receptionist/dentist wears jeans.

However she should do as she is told at work, or if she wants to change something about her work, go about it by raising it with management not just ignoring it.

Beastofburden Tue 10-Sep-13 12:47:34

Well my view is that this may not be a disciplinary matter, as you are a small firm and dont have the rules in place. So it depends on whether, hand on heart, you think that it reduces her effecrtiveness with the client.

I would talk to her in the context of her professional development. I would say, I know you think these rules are not very rational, but client service can sometimes be irrational. If I send you out to deliver professional services to X (name a fairly formal client) and he tells me he would prefer to deal with someone more senior, how would you feel? Your brand as a professional is something you need to give more thought to. We don't have the client list for you to spend all your time with creative media types who are not bothered by jeans. Our client list is [insert sector here] and you have seen yourself how their senior management dress. You need to dress the same way as their deputy management if you want them to think you are worth £400 an hour.

badbelinda Tue 10-Sep-13 16:31:40

As I said, none of my male colleagues would wear jeans so this isn't a sexism thing. I was really canvassing opinion as it's a big bug-bear for me but wasn't sure if I was being old fashioned and unreasonable. I don't wear a suite myself, or "shiny nylon trousers" but do think it's a step again to jeans. We also have students with us at times and am amazed at what they think is acceptable to wear (but only have them for 5wks at a time and not my direct responsibility so have tended to keep quiet).

Beastofburden Tue 10-Sep-13 16:41:21

The thing is, she will be the first to whine when clients dont take her seriously.

TheFarSide Tue 10-Sep-13 16:52:46

If there is a rule for everyone, then everyone should stick to it BUT there is the question of whether the rule is sensible.

How much evidence do we actually have that clients have a problem with certain types of dress? Has anyone lost business as a result of a staff member wearing jeans? <Genuinely interested>

The gender thing may not be an issue here, but it is an issue. It's not that long since women weren't allowed to wear trousers at work.

Beastofburden Tue 10-Sep-13 16:59:31

It's definitely a gender thing. Learning what to wear at work so people take you seriously is a non-trivial skill. It's not fair that men can wear any old crap, but to be fair, they mostly wear suits.

In Uni vacations, people turn up in their jeans and trainers and I can find it quite hard to connect them with the formally dressed men I normally perceive them as. They look younger, less impressive, less serious somehow. Even though I know them and in many cases work for them.

So, fair or unfair, she is not being realistic if she expects to have a serious professional career in an area where blokes wear suits, if she dresses like their daughter going to sixth form.

BoozyBear Tue 10-Sep-13 17:06:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Thing is, by the sound of it, this is not a company rule, but a bit of old-fashioned officiousness on your part. Taking it upon yourself to police what your staff wear, if staff higher up than you have not asked for a particular dress code to be enforced, doesn't say a lot for your management skills. Your prejudices are your problem; don't get so hung up on them that you overlook talented staff.

carabos Tue 10-Sep-13 19:41:01

I have had this conversation a few times with a friend of mine who is a GP. She wanted to know if, as a patient, it would matter to me what my doctor was wearing. After discussion we arrived at the conclusion that what matters is that in a professional setting (hers or mine) the clothing shouldn't be distracting. So nothing sexy, too quirky, or too blingy would be the rule. Clean, tidy, ironed, properly fitting are also important. Clean tidy hair and nails at minimum and not just in a medical setting.

I was once told off for wearing a denim jacket over a smart ish dress - I wasn't wearing it in the office, just slung it on to travel to and from work that particular day. My boss was very big on being representative of the company (posh property consultants) but I'm not sure how she thought anyone else in the train would know who I worked for hmm. To my mind that over stepped the mark.

MrsDeVere Tue 10-Sep-13 19:54:06

I am still wondering why someone in an office should have to remove their nose piercing? confused

I don't usually give a toss what people wear but it has to be practical. I used to work with someone who wore very short skirts and high heels to work.
Not a problem usually but she worked with very young children.
If you turn up looking like that it says to me 'I am more interested in what I look like than doing my job'. Because you cannot do all the things you need to do trussed up like a turkey.

But it is a brave person who would tell me what I should and shouldn't wear.

LessMissAbs Tue 10-Sep-13 19:58:25

No, jeans and trainers are not acceptable in that role, and you shouldn't have to remind her. Particularly if she is a trainee solicitor - she should be trying to create a good impression so that she is kept on, and to build a client base of her own. Most clients expect solicitors to be quite formal and traditional, and it just isn't the right image. Especially if she is dealing with commercial clients or executries or similar. Neither is figure revealing or hugging clothing. There is plenty she can wear.

I have a couple of friends who were told not to wear trousers (only skirts or dresses) when trainee solicitors, the idea was not that trousers were bad but that people would use it as an excuse to wear jeans, or that some people cannot wear trousers without looking scruffy.

SeaSickSal Tue 10-Sep-13 19:58:41

BadBelinda Just a thought but as she is a trainee how much are you paying her? If it is not a high paid role and she has high overheads such as travel then perhaps she's she's financially struggling to afford a full wardrobe of work clothes hence the jeans/trainers. Could you ask her if this is part of the problem when you bring it up if you think this might be the case?

LessMissAbs Tue 10-Sep-13 20:05:11

TheFarSide How much evidence do we actually have that clients have a problem with certain types of dress? Has anyone lost business as a result of a staff member wearing jeans? Genuinely interested

In the small- medium sized solicitors firms I've worked for, the partners have put a huge effort into being seen as solid, respectable members of the community, whether that be members of committees, church elders, whatever. Its worth the effort on their part because it brings in business ie clients and new work. People like to view solicitors are non-transient and dependable entities where they can be guaranteed formality and all that goes with that - courtesy, privacy, respect.

Add into that some of the wealthiest clients at the moment seem to be farmers who sell land off for various things and have lots of cash to spend - country farmers who expect to see suits or their equivalent when they come to town to see their solicitor. Or employment law - clients don't want to see a solicitor dressed less informally than their own staff.

I was always told that a solicitor should cultivate an image of a "general man or woman of business". That means a suit, or equivalent.

TondelayoSchwarzkopf Tue 10-Sep-13 21:59:36

You need to have a written dress code if you wish to enforce it. If you've not given her any guidelines on dressing other than one informal suggestion then it is not surprising she is not following it.

I don't understand if you work in a business "like a solicitors" why you don't have written staff policies and codes of conduct under which dress code would fall, regardless of the size of the business. It is not "common sense" - people have widely varying concepts of what is formal dress and most people under 60 consider jeans acceptable.

Personally I think the concept of 'professional attire' is so dated. Plenty of professions where trust, formality and dealing with the public are important don't have rigid dress codes. I've been treated by doctors with tattoos and piercings and taught by professors who look like they've slept in a hedge.

LolaCrayola Wed 11-Sep-13 05:10:30

Yes you are old-fashioned. Jeans can be very smart. Trainers not so much.
I work in an environment where the men wear suits and ties but many of the women wear jeans. We look smart and professional.

Crowler Wed 11-Sep-13 05:54:28

At a push, I'd say a solicitor-type role could be smart jeans with (for example) a pair of nice shoes and a blazer. At a push.

In the case of jeans + trainers, this is just ridiculous and I'd wonder if she was really taking her job seriously.

nooka Wed 11-Sep-13 06:16:40

If I were you OP I'd have a chat with the other partners and determine what you (collectively) think appropriate attire is, and then talk to your junior. I think wearing trainers (unless they are dark and unobtrusive) is rarely appropriate for work, but she may feel that smart jeans are OK because in many work setting they are. If you have a mentoring relationship then this is the sort of thing you talk about isn't it? The impression you might give to your clients etc.

Personally I would not have a problem with seeing a professional in jeans - one of our corporate lawyers sometimes wears smart jeans, but that's not really the point, as you get to set the rules (so long as they are not discriminatory).

Trazzletoes Wed 11-Sep-13 06:34:52

Get a formal dress code. Then everyone knows where they stand.

I'm a Solicitor, I'm expected to wear a suit because my clients expect me to wear a suit. They want their solicitor to look like a solicitor.

It doesn't really matter if you don't care if your solicitor is in jeans, there are plenty of people out there who do, so better not to wear them.

MrsDevere I used to have a nose piercing. I started taking it out when I started applying for training contracts. There's so much competition for jobs nowadays that if you don't fit with the image, you don't get hired so you either conform or go jobless. Iirc I wasn't allowed to wear it when I worked for Disney either.

Platinumstart Wed 11-Sep-13 07:11:39

"people have widely varying concepts of what is formal dress and most people under 60 consider jeans acceptable"

I simply do not believe that most people under 60 consider jeans acceptable as formal dress and frankly if they do I pity them - on a personal level you might think jeans are fine for whatever job you do but to have no concept of what is generally considered to be appropriate is absurd. And puts you well behind the curve when it comes to employment opportunities.

badguider Wed 11-Sep-13 15:25:49

Jeans are not "formal dress" buts at people do not wear "formal dress" for work. I never have. Mine is more "smart/casual" for daily and a bit "smart workwear" for presentations.
I wear jeans a lot with boots and jackets. I sometimes wear trainers with smart trousers. I try not to wear jeans and trainers together though.

badguider Wed 11-Sep-13 15:26:23

Sorry that should read "most people do not..."

sarahtigh Wed 11-Sep-13 16:00:06

at the place I work staff are provided with top and are supposed to wear smart black trousers and shoes with them,

unfortunately it has had to be spelt out that it means no leggings/jeggings/ combats / shorts or really tight trousers as you need to be able to move and black means black not navy or dark grey or stripes
no trainers or sandals ( because no open toes for health and safety) and they must not be fabric for the same reason

sometimes you do just have to be very specific

BackforGood Wed 11-Sep-13 17:46:03

Even my teens know that, whereas jeans can look smart / nice with the right top, etc, if you are going socialising, they are not 'formal' enough to wear to many work places / or interview / anywhere where you are representing your group / school / company / club / whatever somewhere formally / wedding / Christening / etc.
It's about a time and a place and dressing for the occasion. Something which you'd have expected a trainee in a professional environment to have some idea about.

ILikeBirds Wed 11-Sep-13 18:00:31

I've been to an interview in jeans, I even got the job. I think it's a useful barometer of attitudes of a business. Restrictive dress codes go hand in hand with businesses stuck in the dark ages ime.

Dackyduddles Wed 11-Sep-13 18:08:20

She's working in law? Then she dresses with respect, for herself, it and client.

You should have a code of conduct agreed to buy trainees/employees. It would help these niggles.

BackforGood Wed 11-Sep-13 18:13:39

...and that's fine ILikeBirds if that's how it works in your industry / profession. My dh's interviews (and daily clothes) are the same, but law isn't. The point is, you differentiate depending on where you are going.

SlowlorisIncognito Wed 11-Sep-13 18:18:37

I think you should possibly talk to the other partners about introducing a formal dress code? Then everyone can see clearly what is and isn't acceptable. If she continues to not dress appropriately after this, you can just refer her to the dress code and explain why this is in place.

Trazzletoes Wed 11-Sep-13 18:37:04

When you list qualities you look for in a solicitor, I'm guessing "a sense of fashion" doesn't come in the top 10. Most qualities (like reliability, honesty, knowledge etc) are more linked with formal business dress in people's minds.

We're not "stuck in the dark ages", thanks.

ILikeBirds Wed 11-Sep-13 19:18:35

I employed a solicitor without even seeing what she looked like or what she wore - reckless!

Trazzletoes Wed 11-Sep-13 19:23:45

Has someone upset you today?

As has been said countless times already on this thread, some people (obviously including you) don't care what their solicitor looks like. The majority of people, however, expect a solicitor to be in business dress. So that's what we wear. In my area of law I have enough trouble getting my clients to take me seriously because I'm a woman. I wouldn't stand a chance in jeans.

And you haven't stated whether the job you got while wearing jeans was in law.

Plus, if your boss asked you not to wear jeans because they looked unprofessional, would you carry on because you know best?

ILikeBirds Wed 11-Sep-13 19:35:05

The OP said " If you go to see a professional in any role, what would you think of them wearing jeans and trainers?"

I answered the op, that's all. Seems my answer is less valid than other people's, must be because I'm wearing jeans smile

NomDeClavier Wed 11-Sep-13 19:40:17

It all comes down to image really and if the image you wang your firm to be projecting doesn't include jeans you need to tell her, and the rationale behind it.

It's easier to say 'no jeans' than 'very smart, branded jeans are okay in the following styles but ripped, faded, studded, flared etc etc etc aren't'. If they're noticeably jeans then you potentially have a problem.

I don't wear jeans when I'm meeting with people I want to take me/my organisation seriously in terms of shaping public policy etc. I will wear jeans if I want to appear informal/put someone at ease although I still obviously wang them to take me seriously. It's the expectation of the other side that counts. The former will think 'what does she know, she's wearing jeans'. The latter will think 'she doesn't have a clue about me or my needs, she's wearing a suit'.

Part of learning to be a professional and moving in a professional sphere is dressing appropriately for your audience.

Do I have an issue with my doctor wearing jeans? No. They wash well and who wants bodily fluids on an LK Bennett dress? Besides it humanises them a bit.

Do I have an issue with a union rep accompanying me to an employment tribunal wearing jeans? Yes, because I want them to look serious and scary, not like they've come from/are off to the pub/trendy wine bar.

I don't wear jeans. I do occasionally wear casualish trousers with a nice top and lots of leggings and tunics. But then I'm not a solicitor. I'm an NHS manager and I need to be comfortable and approachable and friendly. If I've got a scary meeting I dress accordingly. OP - I'm not chuffed to read that your male colleagues 'wouldn't wear jeans. If you're making an issue of it with this person it should be an issue know to everybody. You cannot rely on people simply not doing it. If she can't there should be a documented reason why not or it starts to look like victimisation.

BTW on the trainers issue. I once employed somebody who wroe sort of canvas shoes in a dark colour to work. AFter a few months these disintegrated but they kept wearing them. I asked if they had any other shoes and they revealed they had their best shoes which were killers on the feet (and they had to walk 3 miles a day to get to and fro work plus a LOT of running round at work) or trainers (which they were wearing for the commute) or the falling apart shoes. They thought I wouldn't like the trainers. Now I knew how much this person was paid - also a training wage and what their commute already cost and I made the decision that what mattered more to me was an employer who was safe and comfortable in their shoes. On my instruction they wore trainers the rest of their contract. Looked fine and when they got a decent paid job straight from working with me the first thing they did was but good comfy, smart shoes. I would do exactly the same with any other member of staff.

TheFarSide Wed 11-Sep-13 19:47:03

Trazzletoes - what actual evidence do you have that "the majority of people expect a solicitor to be in business dress"? Do you think a majority of people prefer a solicitor to be in business dress?

Are we just making assumptions and therefore perpetuating certain traditions?

Perhaps a majority of people don't care.

LessMissAbs Wed 11-Sep-13 20:09:28

Trazzletoes - what actual evidence do you have that "the majority of people expect a solicitor to be in business dress"? Do you think a majority of people prefer a solicitor to be in business dress? Are we just making assumptions and therefore perpetuating certain traditions?Perhaps a majority of people don't care

I doubt very much that the Law Society has carried out a survey of people's attitudes towards what solicitors wear with verified formal sources of empirical evidence. Just as it had probably not carried out a survey of the general public's precise understanding of fiduciary duties, such as respect owed to the employer.

What is certain is that before getting to the stage of a trainee, a potential solicitor will have spent at least 4 years and possibly more studying the subject of law at university with a heavy emphasis on practice, including office and business skills. Towards the end of that, the trainee will have realised how difficult it is to get a traineeship at the end of their student years, and during that traineeship, hopefully the importance of being kept on or at least given a good reference will have sunk in. There is constant complaint from the profession to the universities that trainees are not coming out well enough equipped to be of use when working in the profession, but it is supposed to be a vocational degree.

This trainee is not doing that well. These things should not have to be pointed out to her at this stage in her career. And definitely not more than once.

TheFarSide Wed 11-Sep-13 20:48:42

Exactly, LessMiss - no evidence exists.

I'm not disputing the fact that knowing how to dress according to one's environment is a skill. I am however disputing wild claims about what the majority of people think. Some people on this thread are just projecting their own opinions.

NomDeClavier Wed 11-Sep-13 20:55:55

If it weren't a thread about a thread it would be interesting to do a snap survey in MN - 'what do you think a solicitor should wear?' I suspect most people would automatically says a suit/formal business wear regardless of whether they would care hugely if the solicitor wasn't wearing a suit. I reckon the expectation is there for most of the population.

LessMissAbs Wed 11-Sep-13 21:01:29

TheFarSide Some people on this thread are just projecting their own opinions

That appears to be what you are trying to do. Who has given you the authority to lay down whether evidence is required and in which form? As for me, I am not "projecting my own opinion" - I am qualified in the profession in question and now spend my time attempting to teach these skills to students. What we are trying to do is to make students employable, and not only on graduation, but in a vocational course to go on and have a professional career. This is something that will have been drummed into this trainee from almost the word "go", and she must either be very dense or have missed a lot of lectures and reading if she is unaware of it.

TheFarSide Wed 11-Sep-13 21:38:49

I mean projecting their opinions onto the majority, or as if they are a majority view.

I am merely challenging this assumption (in addition to putting forward my own opinion).

BadLad Thu 12-Sep-13 03:24:07

I wouldn't want a solicitor who wasn't wearing a suit or business dress.

nooka Thu 12-Sep-13 05:21:26

I never met the solicitor who sold my house for me, and have zero interest in what he was or was not wearing. I would expect a solicitor to be fairly formally dressed, but that's just because it is a fairly stuffy profession, not because it makes any difference to my opinion of them. The perception of appropriate wear within the legal profession and in the wider population (i.e. what 'ordinary' people think solicitors should wear) might well be different.

I dress pretty casually at work because my office is casual, but if I am representing the company then I am always much smarter. When our company lawyers are in court they are super smart. Just one of those business dress rules to learn really.

MooseBeTimeForSnow Thu 12-Sep-13 06:05:52

Can I stick my tuppence worth in? No one appears to have mentioned the Court aspect yet. If I was doing non contentious work I'd be a bit more relaxed about what I was wearing. However, I was at Court at least three days a week and my local Judges would have said something if I'd turned up in black jeans. The only concession they would make would be during summer when a notice would go up on the board, permitting the removal of suit jackets.

My company had a dress policy. Somewhat ironic that the person who flouted it most regularly was a female equity partner.

joanofarchitrave Thu 12-Sep-13 06:19:08

To me, jeans are just not office wear, but these things can clearly change over time (I'm not THAT old though). My aim with work clothes is to be 'unmarked' i.e. to wear things that do not intrude on the process of my work in any way. If a professonal I'm interacting with wears jeans, I do notice, and although I don't care hugely, it is a small distraction.

MattZelst Thu 12-Sep-13 10:18:56

if you're good at your job, then it doesn't matter whether you look a little more casual

LibraryBook Thu 12-Sep-13 10:26:23

I think this is bonkers. I'm no less likely to trust a solicitor in jeans and trainers than one in a well-cut navy suit.

I dislike corporate uniform. It has no place in 2013 and it's time we ditched it.

LillyNotOfTheValley Thu 12-Sep-13 16:10:37

I think there are two separate issues here: the fact she is wearing inappropriate clothing and that she is not abiding to your instructions.

A dress code is a dress code! Even when it is not written down and signed you have to follow it, whatever your fashion ideas are. I am working with writers and whenever I take them to clients meetings I have to sendthem a reminder on how to dress (corporate). I would not dream of hiring a lawyer that does not look like one too, I am trusting them with three digits contracts, ffs.

I would be more worried about her not abiding by the rules and not list to you tbh. That is where she deserves a good telling off.

Actually, disobeying someone who is overreaching his/her authority is quite a good thing to do. It slaps down the officious middle manager and stops him/her from bullying less confident staff.

LillyNotOfTheValley Thu 12-Sep-13 22:53:53

Solid except that when it is your own business and your employee may actually reflect badly on your clients - whatever you think of their ideas on how a lawyer should look like!

LibraryBook Fri 13-Sep-13 00:19:44

Nothing shouts 'middle manager' quite like a skirt suit from Matalan. grin

ZillionChocolate Fri 13-Sep-13 08:08:56

http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/media/43507/revised_guidance_on_court_dress.pdf
If you're a lawyer who might need to go to court, then you should be court ready, that is in a dark coloured formal business suit. I think you should wear much the same if you might be seeing/meeting clients.

Time for a written dress code I think.

TondelayoSchwarzkopf Fri 13-Sep-13 13:14:38

Does everyone realise that the OP does NOT work in law? It's like that but not. So all this discussion on what solicitors should wear is beside the point.

NomDeClavier Fri 13-Sep-13 13:23:18

She doesn't say it's not law - she says it's not a solicitor. That could still be patent or trade mark attorney, conveyancer etc...

PosyNarker Fri 13-Sep-13 13:31:54

I would say something. I work in an office casual environment - thicker cotton 'jean style' trousers would probably be okay teamed with a shirt, jacket and appropriate shoes. Obvious denims are only allowed on dress down Friday or if there's a good reason (away day, office move, IT lugging kit etc.)

Most people 'get it' and will automatically dress up for more important meetings, or when meeting externals and save the more casual end of their wardrobe for days in the office with no meetings. Trainees often don't (there is I am sure a reason why our policy explicitly states that cropped tops and micro minis are not appropriate for dress down Friday)

Comfort isn't an excuse. It is perfectly possible to be smart and comfortable (I wear a lot of jersey dresses, skirts with smart wool tops rather than shirts etc and actually find the jeans I wear on 'dress down day' more restrictive).

badbelinda Sun 15-Sep-13 20:41:59

Sorry have been away. Thank you all for your interesting thoughts. I'm not middle management and I'm not bullying her, just trying to work out whether in my capacity as her mentor this is worth tackling, partly for the image of our firm but mainly for her own future credibillity and employability.

BiBiBroccoli Sun 15-Sep-13 20:49:41

I went to see a solicitor recently and the receptionist was wandering around barefoot. The solicitor was also scruffy and the office was full of boxes of paperwork and old coffee cups.

Took my business elsewhere as it really made me question how professional they were and how disinterested they may be in their work.

LongTailedTit Sun 15-Sep-13 22:07:26

It's a tricky line OP - I used to work with my sister and was friends with her assistant.
DSis had to speak to her a couple of times about appropriate office dress and makeup, as the assistant was a fan of plunging crop tops, and was plastered in makeup but several days old eyeliner all over the place and hair unbrushed (not a fashion look, just v messy).
The assistant took it as bullying and considered reporting her to HR.

Knowing both of them as I did, I can guarantee my sister did NOT bully her, but would not have backed down when disagreed with, and may have chosen her words badly.
The assistant did actually look too tarty/unkempt for her role, but couldn't see it, and was offended by the suggestion.
I am very glad I kept out of the whole discussion!

If you are going to approach her, I'd do so with a freshly written company dress policy in your hand, as you distribute it to all staff, without directly criticising her clothes.
Bear in mind tho, a new work wardrobe doesn't come cheap, you may need to give her a while to get it sorted! <Memories of minimum wage job with ridiculously tight dress code for non-client-facing role>

How about:
"Smart business attire to be worn, jackets and ties preferred for men, minimal makeup and jewellery, no denim, sportswear, or casual footwear (trainers/flipflops)" etc.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now