Q: I am 30 years old, working in management for a large retail store, and seeking employment elsewhere in management, preferably outside of retail. I have a bachelor’s degree and more than six years of managerial experience. I also have locks, and my wife believes this will hinder me. Please give me some advice.
–A.T. Bell, Chicago
A: Unfortunately, there is sometimes a price we pay for creative and personal expression. But it’s really up to the individual to decide at what cost. The trends show that corporations, in terms of business attire, are becoming more conservative. What makes this trend significant is that the turn toward reinforcing dress codes in the workplace is being tied directly to productivity. According to James Ammeen, president of the Men’s Apparel Alliance, a nonprofit “situation-appropriate” style organization in New Jersey, “[A] predicted 3.6% increase in productivity could be realized simply by reverting to a more professional dress attire.”
What does that mean to a prospective applicant in a significantly downsized job market? You want everything working in your favor. You must be fully able to fulfill the requirements of a given position. But you also have to look the part. If you are bent on keeping your locks, find out what looking the part means. Call the human resources departments of the companies you’re pursuing and ask about their dress codes — particularly their position on hairstyles. Hopefully you’ll find a company that honors your abilities more than it is concerned about your personal style. But know that appearance weighs heavily on an applicant’s overall standing. Locks have become more socially popular over the years, but they are not completely accepted in many business environments.