Earlier this month, Newsweek employees got a surprise when they officially joined their new parent company, International Business Times: The IBT Employee Handbook, complete with an aggressive corporate dress code.
These journalists — a group normally known for their coffee-stained shirts, and schlubby personal style — were now prohibited from wearing jeans, sneakers, sandals, flip-flops, t-shirts, halter tops, camisoles, tank tops, baseball caps, shorts, or "anything else that is deemed unprofessional or excessively distracting."
In addition, "shaggy, messy, and neglected hair is not permissible regardless of length," and all tresses must be "of natural color."
For those who doubted the seriousness of the new rules, the handbook also warned that "any employee who repeatedly violates this policy will be subject to progressive disciplinary action, up to and including suspension without pay and/or discharge."
The handbook, which was leaked to Politico last week, was not a hit with the media, which quickly latched on to IBT's old-school helicopter management style. The New York Post called it an "outdated dress code for a new media company."
And it's true: In the last decade, office dress has moved past a conservative Wall Street vibe, and toward a Silicon Valley, anything-goes aesthetic. The '80s was the era of power suits; this is the age of Mark Zuckerberg's hoodie.
That said, the corporate world is still filled with examples of fastidious dress codes — some conservative and outdated, some just kind of weird. Here are three:
Walt Disney has long had one of the strictest dress codes in corporate America. When Disneyland opened in 1955, Mr. Disney himself banned male employees from having facial hair. It wasn't until 2000 that men were allowed to start sporting mustaches, and in 2012 beards and goatees got the green light, too, as long as they were clipped to less than a quarter of an inch.
Soul patches, meanwhile, are still prohibited.
Abercrombie & Fitch
Following two discrimination law suits, Abercrombie changed its rules last week to allow employees to wear head scarves for religious reasons. But the company's strict "style guide" for retail employees remains. If you're going to wear a denim shirt, for example, you must pop the collar and unbutton the top three buttons. If a woven shirt under a sweater is more your look, the sleeve should be cuffed at half an inch and slightly visible.
Also, "flip-flops look great with any look," and shirts should get an "easy side-tuck" or and "easy front-tuck."
In 2010, the Swiss bank UBS sent its employees a 43-page handbook detailing how to dress to impress customers. Beyond the basic "no short skirts" policy for women, the handbook was very specific about the importance of wearing makeup. "Light makeup consisting of foundation, mascara, and discreet lipstick … will enhance your personality," the handbook said, adding that women should not wear black nail polish and nail art.
And "the hair-care section notes studies have shown that properly cared-for hair and a stylish haircut 'increase an individual’s popularity,'" said The Wall Street Journal. Way to spell it out.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- After Ferguson: Stop deferring to the cops
- Ferguson riots were terrible — but this racist reaction was worse
- The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency
- Don't argue about politics this Thanksgiving. Just don't.
- Is it now OK to have sex with animals?
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- In Ferguson, Michael Brown lost his life — and America's police lost the benefit of the doubt
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- How to survive a spaceship disaster
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
Subscribe to the Week