Oct 29, 2007 at 11:40am IST

Who decides what clothes to wear?

Wondering what clothes to wear today? Well, if you are in Hyderabad, Bangalore or Pune, you may not have to think too much; simply because you wouldn’t really have much of a say.

In Hyderabad, an engineering college wants its students to wear only blue jeans and white shirts; in Bangalore, colleges want a dress code even for teachers; and in Pune, IT sector companies are taking a call on what their employees should wear.

This latest obsession with dresses isn’t the first case where bizarre diktats have been issued and implemented. Earlier edicts included a ban on celebrating Valentine’s Day, holding hands and hugging in public.

CNN-IBN’s Bhupendra Chaubey debated if we need a dress code for college students and professionals on The Sunday Special with Formal Global Head HR, Infosys, Bangalore, Hema Ravichander, Principal of Seshadripooram College, Bangalore, Dorai Raj SN and a student from Mumbai, Avishkar Mhatre.

Much ado about dressing

When Dorai Raj was asked wasn’t imposing a dress code on a person depriving hin/her of a very fundamental right to choose, he disagreed.

“If you dress successful, you will become successful. It’s not about imposing. It’s about bringing an affinity to an institution,” said Raj.

But is that an argument that most people will buy? One may turn out to be a failure in life even though he or she dresses well.

“I want to make a distinction between a uniform and a dress code. A uniform specifies a type of ensemble whereas a dress code has been here to stay for many years,” said Hema Ravichander.

She added, “Dress codes are critical especially from a corporate perspective for three key reasons. One is the business imperative, the business philosophy that the company wants to portray. And the second reason is to reinforce the culture of the organisation.”

But if someone is a financial banker, one doesn’t expect him/her to come to office in a jeans or a t-shirt. Are we then saying that we don’t trust our employees and the youth of our country, and that we have to tell them to dress according to their vocation?

“When you have to bring in any change three things are very critical. You need to articulate strongly,” said Ravichander.

Code for colleges

When asked if she agrees with the logic of a dress code for college campuses too, she pointed out that college students often struggle to get into the corporate dress code which they believe corporate campuses will look for once their selection happens.

But Avishkar disagreed with the views of the two panelists.

“If we are given the freedom to drive a car once we are over 18 years, we must also be given the freedom to choose what we wear,” said he.


Is it possible for students to impose a code of conduct upon them voluntarily? “If it is imposed, we have to follow it. But students can easily adjust to corporate mentality,” said Avishkar.

Ravichander, however, said it was only to make a student comfortable at the professional work place.

“When you want to implement, there has to be a policy. You have to demonstrate so there has to be leadership by example. You have to reinforce so there has to be awards and prizes when it goes right and penalties when it doesn’t,” she added.

Control freak?

Is Dorai Raj pandering to that section of society, which has this inherent desire to control?

“No. It is like a Twenty-20 cricket match. The psychology has been changed. Society has changed. Dress code only means we’re bringing them to mainstream,” said Dorai Raj.

Would it then mean that if you go to a nightclub, you necessarily must be dressed up in western clothes? If a woman is wearing a sari, she won’t be allowed entry.

“Every institution is at liberty to form its own rules and codes of conduct,” Ravichander said.

When asked is she doesn’t sense a bias against it, she said, “As an organisation, you need to have a code of conduct if you want to project a particular business image and philosophy.”

“All clubs that exist across India have dress codes. And when you sign up for club membership, you sign up for those dress codes,” she added.

So do youngsters feel they are not being given the kind of freedom they deserve?

“Yes. You can’t judge a person by the dress code,” Avishkar said.

He added that by just wearing a jeans or a T-shirt, one doesn’t become a well-behaved person and it’s not true inverse.