So what are you wearing today?

No, I’ve not decided to use the post valentine left over love to try and crack onto people, but rather ask the question “Does’t matter what you wear to work in a library?”.  This is a topic that I’ve run into many times in my professional life.  For the record I’m fairly well turned out most days (shirt, tie, jacket etc), with the exception of Fridays where I wear a smart t-shirt.  We don’t have a dress code where I work (yet) though one has been mooted, to a unpopular reaction that you might be have been able to guess.   It’s not definite nor a done deal, might even turn out to be quite a useful little tool for those managers who do need to have a word with someone “inappropriately dressed”.

I’ve touched on the subject before with his weaselly nibs and I have to confess it’s an area that I’m still unsure quite how I feel about it.  Yes certainly there are outfits with lashings of flesh on show that really wouldn’t be suitable to work in customer services; but when summer comes and the students are wearing less – is left to the library staff to maintain the grooming standard?  My natural predilections towards chaos over order feel that telling people what to wear is a closed minded approach, but my evolving manager’s gland suggests that it’s a useful yardstick to pull out when someone goes too far beyond the pale.

Come to think of it, I’d like to see one bring in an academic dress code.  Frankly when I attend meetings I’m the smartest one there; and that certainly isn’t a usual state of affairs.  Off duty, it’s combats and slogan t-shirts for me!

But while the clothing you wear certainly can affect the perceptions of the customers, does the clothing diminish or enhance in anyway the quality of the services you offer?  Let me put it like this – if I issued you a book whilst clad in a red leather mini-skirt, how would a set of trousers make the exchange any better quality?

If you can lose for a while the image I might just have put in your mind, I’d be interested in your thoughts.  Do you have a dress code, formal or informal (no pun), in place?  Is it hard to live up to?  Has anyone pushed it to the limit?  Or are you like me, trusting in the majority of the working populace to know what is and isn’t appropriate to wear.  Especially for back office people like myself, just how much does it mater?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go shave my legs…


3 thoughts on “Clothing

  1. Ah, this brings to mind a previous workplace, where they decided that they wanted us to wear smart suits. Bearing in mind this was a historic library, where we were often rummaging in the basement, climbing shoogly spiral stairs (with a loose rope functioning as a handrail), and photocopying piles of mouldering books (which were almost certain to end up rubbing off on you somewhere), we felt that what we wore was smart, yet functional (we had aprons and gloves for the dirtiest jobs), and also relaxed enough to make us approachable: after all, the users were legal professionals who were coming to us and having to admit there was a gap in their knowledge – it’s easier to tell that to someone with smart/casual gear on than a robot in a suit with a name badge.

    Our request for a salary raise was rejected, but the management magically discovered they could find money in the budget for suits, if they could persuade us to wear them. As I was told when we pointed out this inconsistency to them, and explained our reasons for refusing suits, “sometimes it’s more important how you look than how well you do the job”. Nice to feel valued for your skills rather than your clothing, huh?

    My current employer is quite relaxed: as non-client facing I’m able to wear much more casual clothes, but only to a reasonable extent: I wear smart trousers and tops, nothing too low cut/short…just…respectable.


  2. This is something that I have been considering for some time now. It strikes me that libraries are really the only service-led profession that does not have a uniform.

    A smart, attractive uniform could do wonders for the image of the profession. By eliminating the ability to wear a nasty cardigan or reveal too much flesh (not something I need to worry about in my library) we could introduce a little glamour, ad, dare I say it, sex appeal to the profession.

    I’m thinking along the lines of Virgin Atlantic cabin crew…. ;o)


    1. I used to work in a shop some years ago and had to wear a uniform. Nothing terrible, trousers and a coloured t-shirt (plus jumper in winter). I rather liked not having to chose my work day clothes, and getting free trousers that served me for a number of years after I left the shop was handy.

      Not sure I’d look good in VA red though – sat next to a woman in that on the train to Birmingham last week and it did nothing for her.


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