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Workplace attire, and how to get it right

By -By Peter Kamuri | February 1st 2013

By  Peter Kamuri

The move by the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) last week to release a new dress code for lawyers has elicited mixed reactions. Some people have supported the move, while others, especially the affected members, have even gone to court to block the move.

In the new regulations, female lawyers are prohibited from wearing revealing clothing, including sleeveless shirts or dresses. But the LSK Secretary, Apollo Mboya, and Chairman Eric Mutua, say female lawyers can now wear trouser suits and braid their hair when appearing before Judges, Magistrates and Tribunals.

Among the forms of clothing that have been disallowed are culottes, shorts and jeans. Skirts must be of dark colours and at least knee length. To add to this, the hair braids must be neat and held back from the face with a hair band, ribbon or hair grip when appearing before court.

The male advocates are not allowed to wear kanzus or hats in court. Mboya said blazers must be of dark colours, pinstriped or played in a combination of dark colours together with white or cream.

The call by LSK to have its members follow a prescribed dress code is not new. Several professional bodies have a dress code that all members must adhere to. Among these bodies include teachers and nurses, not to forget the uniformed forces.

Make A Statement

And dressing is a pertinent matter in any profession. Fredrik Njaramba, a HR consultant working in Nairobi says a person can make a statement just by the way they dress.

“The way a person dresses has so much to do with what you can expect from them. At a hospital, you would feel that you are in safe hands if you are attended to by a nurse who is properly attired,” says Njaramba.

Even then, many workplaces today are evolving and workers do not have hard rules on how to dress.

 “Today’s workplace is evolving fast and among the changes taking place is the way people dress. Most companies and institutions are doing away with formal business attire,” says Fred Oyugi, a career advisor.

“With the sweltering season we have been experiencing lately, it does not make much sense to insist that men must strangle themselves with a tie and the ubiquitous business suits. Employees and professionals should be given freedom to choose,” says Oyugi.

He points out that giving people flexibility in dressing  can boost their morale.

But Oyugi has a word of caution.

 “Freedom in choosing what to wear does not mean you go for  unreasonable clothing that can make you the laughing stock. Avoid ostentatious clothing that may not blend well in the workplace.”

He advises people to also avoid being too casual, for example wearing fancy jeans and sneakers.

“While some office environments may allow them, many consider them too casual for the workplace or professionals. If unsure, find out from your boss whether they are acceptable.”

Common knowledge dictates that disrespectful clothes like see-through types, miniskirts and spaghetti straps should not be allowed. Showing a lot of skin is unacceptable at workplace.

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