Dress code at work or not?

A friend just posted a note on his blog about a scandal brewing at a large bank in pakistan. Supposedly the bank managers posted a notice for all employees to comply with the "Western dress code" which meant not being able to wear the traditional Pakistani dress of Shalwar Kameez and/or trimming their beards. It was done to put up a 'professional image' for the Bank so its business would grow. In a divided society such as Pakistan, such an issue was sure to stir controversy and brew up a storm. It is important to state my personal opinion here that yes, it has often been quite a nuisance to show up to retain banking outlets and find grossness galore in how people dress and present themselves to customers.

However, the larger question still remains. Should the banks (and other service providing institutions in Pakistan such as hospitals, banks, even universities and schools) be able to enforce a dress code in order to infuse professionalism and discipline? And if yes, can they enforce it even if some parts of the society may consider such a dress code to be a slap in the face of local customs and traditions? Is there much that is said abut an organization and it sprofessionalism by what an employee wears? In the case of Pakistan, these discussions take on a different meaning all otgether. In a society where religion is so intimately tied up with society and even professional life, this may be an important discussion – one that has to be equally respectul towards the individual choices of the people involved (religious, cultural etc) as well as the professionalism and business savvy of their employers. Our greatest hero, Dr. AbdusSalam, wore a shalwar and a beard when he received his Nobel Prize in Physics (see picture), while our current head of state, General Musharraf, is equally comfortable and presentable in a modern wstern dress (see picture). Where should this society go next? And is this a totally pointless and useless discussion?

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2 Responses to Dress code at work or not?

  1. Adil Najam says:

    Bilal

    Good move … this one looks great… best of luck

    On the dress code, to me there is no debate at all that employers can have dress codes and employees should look professional. The questions is WHY we choose one dress as the ‘code’ rather than another… and what is the ‘coded’ message being sent. I am all for looking ‘neat’ and ‘professional’. But I find disturbing the idea, of some, that to wear a trouser is to be ‘modern’ or to have a beard is to be ‘unprofessional’. There is too much evidence to the contrary.

    Each of our rules — from Jinnah donning the Sherwani to Ayub shedding it to Zia adding it back to Musharraf shedding it again — has tried to play the politics of dress; and THAT has not been useful. Maybe the only dress that ultimately counts is the military uniform 😉

  2. Asma says:

    Well, beard’s one thing and shalwar kameez just another … mixing shalwar kameez with Islam’s not right … prior to this banking sector privatization … when you’d go to a bank most certainly the person wearing shalwar kameez would be the laziest one … its in our blood … ad guess what if you’re wearing shalwar kameez the taffic police or some other police man may stop you saying papers check karao … etcetra etcetra but if you’ll be wearing two piece or even pant shirt … it’s rare that you’ll be asked !!!

    so dress matters 🙂 and at work yes it looks good … you feel … bit … disciplined !

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