Dressing for Success

One of the main tenants of Libertarianism is property rights, simply put: your gaffe/body, your rules and my gaffe/body, my rules. Sounds simple but what happens when you are at your place of work? It is your employer’s place and thus their rules apply but what about when those apply to your body? Your employer (assuming that you aren’t a slave) doesn’t own your body and can’t tell you want to do with it, right?

In reality a compromise has to exist, with one of the areas in which your employer can commonly expect you to abrogate your right (which they make up for by paying you for your time) in favour of theirs being a dress code, such as a uniform for hospitality and housekeeping staff or the suit for the white collar worker in a client or customer facing role. The idea of course being to present the employees favourably to guests or customers in the hope of winning business or repeat custom.

But how far can the employer go in dictating what is, or isn’t, acceptable attire? Flesh-coloured underwear? Black, unpatterned socks? Skirts of at least knee length but no longer than 2″ below that? A limit to the amount of jewellery that either gender might wear? Only white blouses?

It might sound (with the exception of the jewellery) like you are back in school but these are items from the 44 page dress code that UBS has issued to employees in 5 of its Swiss branches and compliance with it is mandatory.

Unsurprisingly the document has been the subject of much mirth around the world since its publication.

How though is UBS going to enforce the less visible parts of the manual? Are they going to institute panty inspections to ensure the females haven’t gone for something in black, white or a more risqué colour? Whilst I’m sure they’d be able to find a queue of men around the block volunteering for job, the cost of the resulting claims would destroy their profit margin. What about the instructions on toenail length? I can’t see employees being asked to remove shoes, socks or hosiery whilst someone measures them. Or how about the instructions on how to care for your clothes? No, I can’t see any employee (except the very stupid) agreeing to have their boss over to check.

Expecting your employees to look smart is one thing, dictating down to the smallest detail whilst patently being unable to enforce it is ridiculous.


  1. Demelza Beaumont says:

    The most original forms of personal expression often come against the tightest constraints of form.

    At least, if they’re wasting time on this, they’re not working on “Personal Development Handbooks”, or “Service Delivery Methodology (sic)” or the other shit which gets laminated and posted to every employee.

    This guide is, of course, risible, but it seems relatively harmless.

    • Misanthrope Girl says:

      Many bad ideas seem relatively harmless initially. It is only later on that you wish that they had been strangled at birth.

  2. Mark Wallace says:

    “how far can the employer go in dictating what is, or isn’t, acceptable attire”? They can go as far as they like – so long as you are free to choose whether to take the job/sign the contract or not. As you say, it’s property rights – my freedom to trade my labour and liberty for your money, if you offer enough…

    In UBS’ case they are rightly being ridiculed for this – and it’ll discourage other firms from being so absurd.

    It always amused me that my sister’s school specified underwear colour in its uniform rules. To my knowledge there weren’t any inspections.