Company dress codes expand to consider body piercings, tattoos

Like most law firms, Jolley, Urga, Wirth, Woodbury & Standish is a buttoned-down kind of place. Male attorneys are expected to wear coats and ties, Fridays are not casual, and employees who greet visitors in the reception area must remove jewelry worn in body piercings.

Meanwhile, at, the Henderson-based Internet fashion retailer, T-shirts, tennies and tats are the rule rather than the exception, and employees can wear just about anything they’d like to work, although they are expected to exercise good judgment.

Two successful companies, two approaches to handling the perpetually contentious issue of what employees should — and shouldn’t — wear while they’re on the clock.

Whether the actual tipping point is T-shirts, tattoos or flip-flops, the tug-of-war between personal sartorial freedom and professional workplace accountability probably began with the first shots of the Industrial Revolution. And, in the decades since, it’s a tension that has ebbed and flowed along with changes in society at large.

Attorney Patrick Hicks, founding partner of the Las Vegas office of Littler Mendelson, has practiced law for nearly 25 years. “In the last 10 years, I’ve had more of these issues than in my first 15 years of practice,” he says.

Why? In part because the specifics of company dress codes have moved beyond clothing to also include body adornments, piercings and tattoos.

It also may have something to do with the natural tendency of young people, and young workers, to push the boundaries of what already exists in a company. Bill Spohrer, director of administration for Jolley, Urga, Wirth, Woodbury & Standish, notes that “the work force that’s coming up now (is) almost like a reprise of when I came up in the ’60s. People are a little more individualistic in their thinking, and feeling like, ‘Hey, I don’t need to wear a shirt and tie to be good at my job.’ So you have to take that into account.”

Why do businesses have dress codes at all? For reasons related, not surprisingly, to business.

“All companies have a particular image they want to project, and companies have a right to project that image as long as it’s consistent with social norms,” Hicks says.

If, for instance, a law firm wants its attorneys to project a professional, solid image by wearing suits and ties “knowing that their customers and clients prefer that … they are certainly free to institute a policy that requires that,” Hicks says.

In fact, from a legal standpoint, employers enjoy “a good deal of leeway” in requiring what employees may or may not wear on the job, Hicks says. What becomes potentially problematic, he continues, are prohibitions that can be seen to, for example, discriminate on the basis of sex or infringe on an employee’s religious practice.

But, even beyond issues of law, wearing appropriate dress in the workplace “goes to the heart of etiquette, that it matters what people around you think,” says Daniel Post Senning, moderator of the Emily Post Institute’s Etiquette Daily blog ( “You might be doing your job doing data entry just fine. But what if clients show up? What if the CEO shows up? What perception is created for them when people wear flip-flops?”

What’s particularly sticky about company dress policies is that they reflect social norms, and social norms change as often as society does. Sandi Milton, vice president of public relations for Nevada State Bank, recalls that, a mere 20 years ago, women who worked in the banking industry — and, probably, many other professions — were required to wear skirts and hosiery.

In addition, dress policies reflect “corporate culture,” and a corporate culture — those spoken and, often, unspoken norms to which employees are expected to adhere — vary from company to company and even from region to region.

Generally speaking, for example, “things are much looser on the West Coast than East Coast, especially in the New York area, where traditional dress is still a big part of corporate culture,” Senning says.

At Jolley, Urga, Wirth, Woodbury & Standish, the corporate culture is strictly professional. But even while attorneys are expected to dress “as if they were going to court,” Spohrer says, some employees — including those who have no direct contact with the public — are permitted to dress less formally.

At Nevada State Bank, “we always try to (appear) professional,” Milton says, a vital consideration because of the trust — and money — customers place with bankers.

Nevada State Bank’s dress guidelines prohibit “revealing or suggestive clothing,” Milton says, and “you can’t be unkempt, and that type of thing. But, for the most part, you have to have a professional appearance.”

Employees have no problem with that, Milton adds. “I think that is something most people in banking are used to.”

At, in contrast, the dress code is “extremely casual (and) relaxed,” says Rebecca Ratner, the company’s human resources director, although employees are asked to use “good judgment” in their choice of attire.

The comparatively loose dress code is designed, in part, to allow employees to, as Rather puts it, “be who they are.” But, she adds, one side benefit is that “we get to know people better.

“If someone wears a Grateful Dead T-shirt, they can make a connection with somebody through that. Or if a person has 25 different pairs of Converses and wears a different color each day, that’s a point to talk about and a way to connect. So that is one of the good things.”

Ratner concedes that getting used to’s liberal dress code can take time. When Ratner joined the company after spending 10 years in the casino industry, “I had to go shopping for jeans and flip-flops,” she admits. “I didn’t have enough to get me through the week.”

Yet, Ratner can recall only two cases in which she has had to discuss workplace attire with employees. In both cases, she says, the issue was “more about ill-fitting clothing” than inappropriate clothing.

Clothing that was too tight? Ratner laughs, and answers, “Probably.”

In both cases, Ratner continues, the “easy fix” was to give the employees Zappos T-shirts to wear for the rest of the day. And, in both cases, Ratner says, the employees were extremely apologetic.

“They really value having so much freedom, it disappointed them and hurt them that they might put (that) at risk.”

Contact reporter John Przybys at or 702-383-0280.

Incarcerated Christmas
This is the fourth year HOPE for Prisoners has worked with the Nevada Department of Corrections to create a Christmas for prisoners to visit their families. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2018 Homeless Vigil
Straight From The Streets holds its 23rd annual vigil to remember the 179 homeless individuals who died in Clark County this year.
Getting through the Holiday blues
Psychologist Whitney Owens offers advice on keeping your mental health in check during the Holiday season in Henderson, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military program gave meal kits to 200 families at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10047 in Las Vegas Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. It all started with a chance encounter in a supermarket in Utica, N.Y., near Fort Drum. A soldier, his wife and infant had a handful of grocery items they couldn't afford. A Beam Suntory employee picked up the $12 cost for the groceries. The program has grown from providing 500 meal kits to military families in 2009 to providing more than 7,000 nationally this holiday season.K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women at WestCare Women Children Campus in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Former 51s manager Wally Backman chats about new job
Former Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman talks about his new job with the independent league Long Island Ducks during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 10, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Roy Choi on cooking for Park MGM employees
As he prepares to open his new restaurant Best Friend later this month at Park MGM, celebrity chef Roy Choi took the time to cook for the resort’s employees Tuesday. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Great Santa Run
People participated in the 14th annual Las Vegas Great Santa Run which raises cubs for Opportunity Village.
World Holidays Exhibit At The Natural History Museum
Migratory Bird Day teaches adults and kids to celebrate birds
Different organizations offered activities for kids and adults to learn about birds and celebrate their migration journey at Sunset Park. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"Jackson: The Red Rock Canyon Burro" is a children's book about Red Rock Canyon
"Jackson: The Red Rock Canyon Burro" is a children's book about Red Rock Canyon (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Interfaith Amigos speak in Las Vegas
Celebrity photographer dedicates dance book to Las Vegas shooting victims
Behind the scenes with local celebrity photographer Jerry Metellus as he talks about his Dance For Vegas coffee book dedicated to the 58 victims of the October 1 shooting. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Dreamsickle Kids Foundation founder Gina Glass talks awareness
Gina Glass, 35, founded Dreamsickle Kids Foundation to raise awareness for sickle cell disease in Nevada. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like