On quite a few occasions over the last few decades, I have been asked by clients to have a ‘chat’ with their company staff members with regard to the way they dress and to improve their professional image. My firm is all about helping people find their individual style and dressing clients to convey their unique character. However, a person’s personal style choices should not be a distraction to the productivity of a workplace! Most of these clients own small firms without a human resources department; so, it has become a part of my job to discuss the re-evaluation of wardrobe choices and decisions. These conversations would make anyone cringe, but the bottom line is this: during working hours, dress appropriately to represent your firm not just yourself.

Most of the controversies need only apply common sense, but year after year, the sense appears to be diminishing. Here are some examples that have thankfully made a difference [names changed]: they may offend some, they may entertain others …

1/ Judy – wearing flip flops with a mini dress to a high end executive firm is inappropriate. Open-back rubber-soled thongs are more suitable for the beach. If comfort is your concern, look into Easy Spirit or Clarks. In addition, the hemline on your dress is far too short for a professional workplace. Hemlines need to hit within 2 inches of your kneecap. (However, if your kneecaps aren’t your ‘best feature’ – choose a longer hemline!)

Ladies, if your thighs are not your ‘best feature’, wearing a short hem shows a lack of good judgment [-that would be a ‘bad feature’].

Heed this advice: Focus on highlighting your best features.

2/ Charlie – your breath is not favorable. I realize that there could be many factors as to why you may have a problem. Stress, from my research, is often a huge factor…otherwise known as ‘sour stomach’. It could be that you need to floss more, brush your tongue, see your dentist, avoid onions –whatever it is! People cannot concentrate on what you are communicating. invest in Altoids & gargle regularly.

Focus on hygiene. Greasy hair is perplexing and makes people think you are unclean. Ditto body odor – if your regular deodorant is not capable of shielding odor, consider an alternative. [ie, Certain Dri]

3/Paul – while I appreciate that you “Love your Sexy girl”, having it tattooed on your forearm is more of a personal form of communication. In this office, individuals need to focus less on the personal and more on the professional form of communication. Your tattoos need to be covered. Just like low cleavage, and short shorts, tattoos signify nothing short of ‘individual style’ – uncover them after working hours! The focus from 9 to 5 should be on work, not personal forms of communication.

This absolutely includes facial piercings of any sort. The policy is not intended to offend anyone’s personal preferences; it’s intended to focus on the tasks at hand in a non-distracting atmosphere.

Many tattoos, piercings, neon colored spiked hair dos, excessive jewelry, overpowering scents, 4” fingernails, excessive make up, ‘nudity’ etc… are all examples of diverting attention away from the professional environment. The workplace is not a runway for crazy fashion statements.

4/Shandra –You have obviously worked very hard to build your abdominal muscles. Your cropped tops are not appropriate for the office. The more bare skin you show, the less professional/authoritative you appear…therefore, cropped tops, spaghetti straps, deep plunging tops, bare-legged and micro mini skirts will no longer be permitted in the office.

Under NO circumstance should an inflated jelly-belly be visible under a shirt of any kind ever. [this would be construed as a cropped top.] Yikes.

PLEASE NOTE: LADIES. There is a difference between a top and a camisole. Camisoles are designed for use under another top. They are skintight, sometimes have built-in bras, and have NO PLACE in the professional environment unless worn under another shirt, or blouse. These undergarments are also suitable for pajama tops. Make no mistake, if a top is suitable for sleeping, it does not belong at work.

5/Thomas. Every person struggles with something – most of us gain a few pounds here and there – it’s perfectly normal. The thing is, these same people have different sized clothing for when weight fluctuates. In other words, your clothes are being worn too tight. [The buttons are missing on your shirt because the threads are not bungee cords.] You would feel so much more comfortable if you could put on a trouser that did not hold you hostage…Together, let’s find you some temporary clothing that is more comfortable and hence more professional.

The conclusion: Dress to represent the image of your company.

Your personal style choices should stay in your social life because in your professional life – it’s not about ‘you’. It isn’t about ‘you’ until you leave the office, or… get your own company!

As Don Corleone would say – “It’s not personal; it’s just business.”

The HLN company is an image management firm for men, women, and kids. The office is located in Deerfield Beach, Florida. Visit www.theHLNcompany.com for more info.