our uniform policy is ludicrous and pisses me off constantly

A reader writes:

I am an engineering manager in a manufacturing plant, which is a customer- and executive-facing role. Our plant has a uniform policy that requires all employees to wear a shirt with a company logo and jeans. In a sister plant (same company), office workers and managers are not required to wear the company shirts, but instead have the flexibility to dress for their role. When my boss from a neighboring county visits our plant, he doesn’t wear a company shirt, nor does his boss, or any other corporate visitor. The enforcement of the company shirts on salaried staff/managers all boils down to the preference of our general manager, Bob, and his entire reasoning is that he doesn’t want the hourly production workers to feel demoralized because of perceived inequality in the dress code.

This is obviously problematic for many reasons. First, I see no problem with the perception that managers are not equal with hourly staff — we’re not! They report to us. (Of course I’m speaking purely of corporate hierarchies and not human equality.) Our jobs are totally different, which means our clothing requirements are totally different. Secondly, the uniform policy is actually a huge step down from what I would prefer to wear when, for example, customers visit. Under our policy, any shirt goes for any occasion as long as it has a company logo. Bob is adamant that customer and executive visits are “business as usual” and we should not dress any differently on those days.

Every month, we provide themed T-shirts to our employees, and these are permissible for day-to-day wear as part of the “uniform.” These are crappy, cheap, rumpled T-shirts with goofy graphics and slogans on them. Under our current policy, I’m in violation if I wear nice slacks and a dressy blouse for a customer visit, but I’m perfectly compliant when greeting a customer in faded jeans and a wrinkled T-shirt with a silly graphic on it. It makes zero logical sense. It feels like we’re enforcing the policy to the point of lunacy for the purpose of appeasing our hourly workforce, who probably have zero expectation that we dress exactly like they do.

There are other major problems with the policy, as well. We are given a pittance for an annual allowance that will buy exactly two nice collared shirts or several crappy T-shirts once per year. There are extremely limited options for women, and even fewer options for plus-sized women. I’d estimate that the women’s offerings are about one-third of the styles offered to men, and only half of those are offered in larger sizes than a very small 2X. I am at the top of the size range for the women’s shirt offerings, even though I’m at the small end of the typical plus size range in regular stores. If I gain even a small amount of weight, there will be zero options for me.

We’re allowed to purchase our own shirts and have them embroidered with the logo, and over the past few years, I’ve spent literally HUNDREDS of dollars out of my own pocket trying to find shirts that fit, that hold up, and that look office appropriate, and then having them embroidered. Oh, and to top it all off, the company has been through multiple mergers, complete with a total company name and logo change. So I literally just donated two trash bags full of shirts purchased with my own money because the logo is now obsolete.

I’ve tried to just accept that this is a condition of working here, but I can’t let it go. It pisses me off — royally and constantly. Having my clothing selected for me, discussed, and continuously scrutinized is also, honestly, very violating and triggering for me, for a number of reasons. It would be slightly easier to accept if the policy were a corporate mandate required at all plants, or if there was a really good reason for it (customer requirements, product requirements, etc.). But there isn’t. It all comes down to the preference of one thin man with a huge blind spot.

I’ve gone to HR (who agrees with me but feels powerless to change it). I’ve gone to Bob directly and pointed out the sexism and fatphobia. He acted sympathetic but nothing changed. I’ve had employees come to my office begging for shirts because theirs were ruined and they didn’t have the money to replace them. I’m really angry about having to enforce a policy I do not believe in that just does not work in practice. I’ve spent as much capital as I feel I can spend on this, but no one is listening.

I’m not in a position to leave this job and, for many other reasons, I really don’t want to. What else can I do, without burning bridges? Go over Bob’s head? Get a bunch of people together and push back as a group? I’ve thought about wearing nothing but the crappy T-shirts, day after day, regardless of the occasion, but I’m afraid that won’t get the message across, and it will just harm my reputation with customers and executives. Is this a situation where I should just stop spending my own money and stop following the policy because it’s laughably impossible, and then just throw a hissy fit if I’m ever “coached” about it?

I know my email is long and ragey. But it’s an accurate reflection of how I feel about this policy. Please help.

Yeah, this is ridiculous.

A few options, depending on how much you’re willing to push:

1. Inform Bob and HR, in writing, that if they want you and your team to comply with the policy, they will need to offer an equivalent number of options for women as they do for men, and an expanded size range that fit all of your employees. Then say this: “Otherwise, the burden of complying is higher on women, and legally that’s not something we can do.” (This is true! Courts have generally held that dress codes can’t be more onerous for one sex than the other.) From there, you could try just … not complying with the policy and not enforcing it with your team. If Bob pushes back on that, you can again point out the legal liability and suggest he escalate it to your legal department if you have one (or an outside lawyer if you don’t) so that the company isn’t at risk.

2. Go over Bob’s head and ask his boss to intervene, making the points above and pointing out that Bob’s instructions also have you dressing inappropriately for customer visits. Whether or not this is a good option depends on what Bob’s boss is like.

3. Pushing back as a group is always an option too. Bob sounds like he might not be susceptible to pressure from below him, but you could give it a shot. My hunch, though, is that you’ll have more success with options 1 or 2 instead — and 1 is where I’d start.

For what it’s worth, I’d bet that if your hourly production workers have concerns about inequality in your company, they’re much more likely to care about pay than t-shirts … and I assume Bob isn’t as passionate on that.

Read an update to this letter

{ 456 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hi. Please stay on-topic with advice for what the letter-writer can do to solve her problem.

    Some commenters expressed concern about classism; I don’t read the letter that way, given her clear caveats (like “I’m speaking purely of corporate hierarchies and not human equality”), but regardless, that’s been called out as a potential issue and I ask that we not derail it from here. Thank you.

  2. Jean*

    LW, I just want to say that every word of your “long and ragey” email absolutely took me higher. You are 100% justified in your hatred of this situation, and fortunately, Alison is right (as always) about there being legal grounds for pushing back. I bet once HR realizes that this is in fact the case, they won’t feel so “powerless” to change it.

    1. voyager1*

      100% disagree.

      Straight from the LW
      “First, I see no problem with the perception that managers are not equal with hourly staff — we’re not! They report to us”

      Seriously that is some serious classism and snobbery.

      1. Jean*

        Next sentence also straight from the letter:

        “(Of course I’m speaking purely of corporate hierarchies and not human equality.) Our jobs are totally different, which means our clothing requirements are totally different.”


        1. Loulou*

          Then why didn’t she say “we’re not — we have different roles/practical considerations/etc.”? “They report to us” is not, in itself, a reason that they shouldn’t wear the same clothes. Just like an upper level manager who often visits the factory floor might need safety shoes, but their assistant who never does would not.

      2. ursula*

        Literally their next sentence is saying that they mean this only in a corporate hierarchy sense and not in a human value sense. It would be bizarre not to acknowledge that there is a difference in how managers and hourly staff are treated, valued, and empowered within a company.
        Also, as someone who often been on the hourly staff end of a company that tries this “we’re all equals here, and you can tell because the CEO wears jeans” thing, it profoundly does not work and personally aggravated the shit out of me.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          “Sure, Becky. The CEO takes the same salary as everyone else, does he? Thought not.”

      3. Smooch*

        I think this is a really unfair interpretation of their statement. This is a workplace: it’s inherently hierarchical, and different employees have different needs.

      4. Clemgo3165*

        And ALL the t-shirts are crappy.

        I agree with her regarding access to sizes (2x is the max for women?) and having to buy her own shirts, but the message would be better received with a less ragey tone.

        As for customer visits I buy cars (and other things) from people in uniform shirts all the time. A nice polo and a pair of slacks can look good and make a nice presentation.

        1. Rose*

          OP never said she’s a car saleswoman, and there’s no reason a corporate manager dealing with customers should be forced into a doofy uniform just because people who have sold you cars have been. Polos are made to be a dressed down version of mens shirts and look sloppy or just plain hideous on a lot of people, esp women.

      5. MusicWithRocksIn*

        Visually, I much prefer when managers and hourly staff dress differently – that way they are so much easier to find on large factory and warehouse floors. I’m often in the position of leaving the office to go find manger X or manager Y and if they are wearing a dress shirt and everyone who works out there is wearing a company shirt it is way way easier to get them. This goes for hourly workers as well, when you need a manager right away it’s easier to not have to play where’s waldo when everyone is dressed alike. Think of it like Star Trek, no one is saying anyone in engineering yellow or science blue is less important than command red – but when you need a commander in a pinch or a doctor urgently it is way easier if everyone is dressed in ways you can pick them out.

    2. LMB*

      100%. I feel like ranting and raging just reading about this kind of BS. Most men and most thin people cannot wrap their heads around the fact that clothing is an ENORMOUS day-to-day issue for so many women. That type of branded “work wear” is notoriously terrible for women with few options and not only limited sizing, but also “under sizing.” Then you get the people who say “well just buy a men’s size.” Do they have any clue how uncomfortable a typical “men’s” T-shirt is on someone with hips and breasts??? I hate this situation so much.

      1. Picard*


        ahem. Sorry. Got on my ranty soapbox for a minute there. We have branded clothing at my company as well and its ridiculous the “options” the women have vs the men. Sigh.

      2. NaN*

        It doesn’t help that even a lot of unisex shirts seem to have become more man-shaped. My company rebranded a few years ago and handed out free “unisex” t-shirts with the new logo that were narrower in the hips, had huge shoulders, huge arm holes, and awkwardly long sleeves. They were clearly shaped for a man and a fit, muscular man at that, despite being marked “unisex” on the tag.

        1. ADHSquirrelWhat*

          unisex IS male-cut – it always has been. because men are the generic and women are the special case.

          Which is crap, but that’s the problem right there.

      3. Plain Jane*

        Also let’s not forget that women who are a larger size are often held to different standards for how they are “supposed” to look. I would be as ranty as the letter writer, too. I have a very large bust AND I’m tall. Men’s or “unisex” (ugh don’t get me started) shirts rarely work for me either.

        1. Maglev to Crazytown*

          I agree wholeheartedly. They are discussing uniforms, which for no plant floor would be button down dress shirts. I am in dread of this coming to pass. As a very disproportionate and top-heavy woman, I would look like I was wearing a camping tent by the time I found something that fit my upper torso, because to go smaller might be seen as “not safe for work” due to the busting-out risk involved.

      4. Sandangel*

        I have a shirt that I literally can’t wear, bc it’s a men’s cut, and the collar presses on my throat when I wear it. I wish I could, since my brother bought it while abroad, but I can’t breathe while wearing it!

        1. Petty Betty*

          Oh I can’t stand that! Men’s shirts are horrible about the strangulation aspect. I go for v-neck if I can find them in men’s shirts.

          I’m a medium-large in men’s shirts because I have no rear. Women’s? Oh, it depends on the brand and cut. Anything from large to 3XL because I have a very large chest. It is so demoralizing to try to shop in women’s sizes some days. And I’m about average size in most areas of my body?

        2. nonprofit llama groomer*

          I have a shirt like that from a 5K I did a few years ago with my kiddo. I am on the plus-sized scale (14-16 US), but I’ve never been able to wear this shirt even when I was a 12 because it is so high necked and makes me feel like I’m being strangled.

        3. Ally McBeal*

          The place where I volunteer gives out t-shirts to staff & volunteers, but the shirts are unisex and I have a short neck so I felt like I was being strangled (I’m particularly sensitive to things touching my neck and always have been). So I cut out just that ribbed collar, stopping at the seam, and it was SO much better. A tip to try!

          The t-shirts I’ve outgrown, however, are in a pile waiting to be sent to one of those companies that makes custom blankets out of such items.

        4. DashDash*

          I cut the collars off of all of my t-shirts for this reason. Then they look messy and uncollared, but I don’t feel like I’m about to be strangled by lounging clothes.

      5. LW*

        LW here: I almost deleted the “they report to us” comment because I was afraid it could be misconstrued as classism. I understand how it could be taken that way, but I truly didn’t intend that. What I meant, as others have pointed out, is that there’s a level of respect that often comes with being dressed up at work – people recognize you as a leader. It’s hard enough for women in manufacturing to be respected as authority figures – making us visually indistinguishable as managers only makes it worse. Also, ill-fitting and unflattering clothes really have a negative impact on my confidence at work, which feels like another disadvantage.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          It’s hard enough for women in manufacturing to be respected as authority figures – making us visually indistinguishable as managers only makes it worse.

          I hadn’t even thought of it part of it, but that adds a whole other layer of issues. Sorry you’re having to deal with this.

          1. L*

            I wore high viz on site for 20 years and I really don’t get what the problem is wearing the same as the operators. A lot of the world it’s quite common. We’re all part of one team at work. Looking like I belong works better for me as a site manager than looking like an office worker. I have a lot more annoyance with my corporate job and an office dress code with heels and make up… so I just don’t bother. The men don’t gave any such requirements so what are they gonna do, fire me? Lol.

            1. Dove*

              Except that the LW isn’t complaining about having to wear high viz or other safety gear. She’s complaining that the uniform isn’t universally mandatory; that it doesn’t fit the majority of people very well (if at all); and that it has the effect of making her look less professional and less like she’s supposed to be an authority figure.

              1. L*

                Was responding to the comment that its hard for women in manufacturing to be respected if they’re visually indistinguishable as managers. I find the opposite – if I’m not in operational attire, people assume I’m the receptionist or assistant a tragic amount of the time. Including in corporate office.

            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              If you dress like those who report to you, you don’t look like you’re a manager! Especially as a woman, you need to look different to be different.
              When I had to meet with customers in a previous job, I wore a very smart suit with a jacket that had a very feminine flare to it, and a pencil skirt, and usually a silky blouse underneath the jacket. Their reactions were much different if they popped in unannounced and found me wearing scruffy jeans and a shapeless T-shirt like the rest of the staff. T-shirts are NOT SMART.
              When you go to a shop and the staff are all in uniform, and there’s one person not in uniform but with a name badge on a smart outfit, you know that’s the boss.

      6. Mr. Shark*

        Yes, this is true for larger size men as well, unfortunately. I’ve worked at a manufacturing plant with the same requirements–logo t-shirts or button up shirts (so at least better than the LW in that regard), but even men’s shirt sizes and shapes did not fit all men’s sizes and shapes. Most of those shirt were either too tight even if the size said 2XL or 3XL, or they were made for guys that were 6-5 if they were larger sizes, rather than for someone shorter. So they never fit right.

        I’m sure that’s the same way with the women at the manufacturing plant where I worked. It was always a miserable day to go and “get measured” for shirts and to pick up the shirts which I’m sure wouldn’t fit me, or would fit so poorly I hated wearing them.

        1. Fortune F*

          I hear you, and agree. I truly, deeply hate that the default is going up to size 2X in most group/company/free shirts, and they act like they’re being generous. And I’m expected to wear it and smile. Would people ask a man or woman who wears large to squeeze into an extra small? Because that’s the equivalent of what I’m asked to wiggle into–Maybe I need a 3X or 6X, and just because they decided to stop at 2X doesn’t mean real bodies will conform!

      7. quill*

        Not to mention that even if it was comfortable… we’d be told that we look sloppy because the shirt is built for someone who does not have them!

      8. Lady Danbury*

        Ugh, I just had this convo with my boyfriend yesterday (who is normally very lovely and in tune with gender issues). I had mentioned that I was dreading finding an outfit for an upcoming social event with a very specific dress code and he replied that it seemed like I enjoyed spending a lot of time looking for clothes. I told him that I HATED it, but I have to in order to find something that fits me and is flattering, let alone all of the other requirements for clothing (formality, appropriateness, etc). It can be exhausting.

      9. World Weary*

        Late reply, but I had to buy men’s 3x due to breast size. The shoulders were at my elbows and it was long enough to wear as a dress… Except for how snug it was on my hips. Nothing would have made it look good.

  3. CheesePlease*

    At the very least, there should be exceptions for client / executive visits. I worked in manufacturing and most days supervisors / managers (like myself) wore a jeans and polo type outfits, but on “important” days we wore slacks, button-down shirts or blouses etc. At the very least, pushing for this with HR and Bob will eliminate the need to PAY FOR EMBROIDERY ON DRESS SHIRTS for important occasions

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Seconding what CheesePlease says.

      I’ve worked on the office side for manufacturing companies, and the dress codes have always had some “dress for your day” flexibility. Going to be in the plant most of the day? Jeans and a t-shirt are fine. Customer or executive visit? Dress more on the business end of business casual.

      OP, this dress code policy is indeed ludicrous. I hope you are able to change it!

      1. Me!*

        Totally. I’ve worked in manufacturing both on the floor and in the office and this manager’s policy is a load of hooey, particularly the “perceived inequality” thing. No reasonable person expects plant workers to dress the same as the office workers or vice versa. The work they’re doing is completely different.

        At OldExjob, we had to wear business casual in the office; we begged for jeans and polos because visitors were rare and we always had notice. But no. Either way, no one cared what the plant workers were wearing as long as they weren’t naked and had steel-toed shoes. That was the only requirement for them and was (generally) a one-time expense.

        Aside from the sizing issue, obviously the clothing allowance isn’t enough if workers are always hitting up OP for shirts.

        1. Observer*

          Either way, no one cared what the plant workers were wearing as long as they weren’t naked and had steel-toed shoes. That was the only requirement for them and was (generally) a one-time expense.

          And the steel toed shoes are required for a really pragmatic reason.

        2. Lurker*

          Yes, agree. I’m a one woman IT department, so I fill different roles on different days. When I have contract negotiation meetings with a vendor, I dress formally. When I’m doing physical networking, I wear t-shirts and jeans.

          It’s less about equality and more about dressing for the work you have to do. The “perceived inequality” bit is silly and makes me suspect that the plant manager spends more energy in meaningless symbols than actual substance (like pay, as Alison correctly notes). The meaningless symbols are easier, after all.

        3. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          This! I have been on business trips all over the spectrum. One memorable job had me in a (logo-ed) boiler suit in the morning in the engine room, in khakis and a button-down shirt (also logo-ed) in the afternoon on the bridge and in a (logo-less) tuxedo for dinner. I still have a picture somewhere with all these outfits side by side in the closet.

        4. Hats Are Great*

          If Bob cares about perceived inequality, he should work to increase plant worker salaries. In my experience, the factory floor cares a lot more about their salaries fairly compensating their work and a lot less about what dudes in offices wear.

    2. Starsandmath*

      My first employer out of school had uniform t-shirts for operators, overalls/jumpsuits for maintenance and tool setters, and smocks/lab coats for engineering and management. All the same color, all with the same logo, all company provided, and it worked really well. Everyone was dressed appropriately for their day, and no one was out of pocket a bunch of money.

    3. MaureenSmith*

      If the company wants logo’d shirts, they need to provide the logo-ing service.

      1. Essess*

        Exactly this. They should provide an ‘$x’ per year allotment that can be charged for having the logo embroidered on appropriate shirts of your choosing.

        1. Worldwalker*

          Or establish a contract with an embroidery service to have it billed directly to the company.

    4. Yorick*

      If Bob really wants this to continue, maybe they can provide branded blazers or something (in a variety of styles and sizes)

      1. LK*

        Or a branded lapel pin, that you can pop onto whatever top you’re wearing. That way, you don’t have to have separate clothes for weekends, you don’t have to replace all your clothes whenever the company rebrands, and you can keep the clothes you’ve purchased if you move on from this job.

        1. A Malcontent*

          Was actually going to suggest that OP consider getting an embroidered logo pin-on patch to move from shirt to shirt (and maybe get a few of them to share). Then again, I’m the type of person who delights in malicious compliance, sooooo….

    5. Mid*

      Especially since embroidery in bulk is cheaper than having individuals paying for it. Wouldn’t it be easier to have a stipend for people to buy whatever shits they want, and then have a day for everyone to bring in said shirts, get them embroidered by a company, and then given back to employees?

      1. Galadriel's Garden*

        Yes, this! My husband does construction inspection about half of the year, and spends the rest of the year in the office doing design work. His company does branded polos/shirts/etc. out of the Lands End catalog where the employee pays for half the cost of the item, and the company pays for the other half and the embroidery – so he’s able to have an assortment of appropriate branded workwear for the variety of circumstances he’ll find himself in all year. You know, a thing that makes sense for people!

  4. Falling Diphthong*

    Would a lapel pin/broach with the company logo and name du jour be considered acceptable? It puts a hole in the clothes, so not ideal, but you at least wouldn’t be out your work wardrobe whenever this changes.

    I suspect that Bob has some major sunk cost fallacy going, where the sunk cost is insisting for years that it was essential to do it this way.

    1. bunniferous*

      There are name tags you can buy that are held on by magnets-I’m a real estate broker and that is what we use. You can put a company logo and name on and it shouldn’t damage your clothes.

      I would push for that.

      1. pbnj*

        I think this is a win-win for everyone. I do hope they continue to order T-shirts for folks that have roles in the manufacturing area, so they don’t have to get their personal clothes messed up.

      2. Phony Genius*

        I have literally never heard of magnetic name tags until today. I just googled it. Now every time I see a name tag on a service worker I’m going to be wondering whether it’s pinned on or magnetic. (I must have some some sort of mild OCD.)

        1. DragoCucina*

          They are awesome. I used to hate putting on a pinned name tag. My cardigans were not happy either (yes, they have their own personalities and opinions). Magnetic name tags made a huge difference.

        2. Miss Muffet*

          We have them for people in leadership/teaching roles at church and they’re great! Especially since many of us are fairly dressed up for church. I hate putting holes in nice blouses and sweaters too.

        3. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I THINK the trend has been towards magnetic but I could be out of touch

        4. Kacihall*

          My middle school required them for our teachers. My biology teacher hated it and threatened to not wear out because it had a warning about people with pacemakers not wearing them – and the heart is a natural pacemaker.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            … as someone who had a magnet right next to my heart between the mastectomy and finally doing the reconstruction surgery 1.5 years later, this seems very “magnets, ya know!?!” Waving a refrigerator magnet next to someone’s heart doesn’t affect the rhythm. Nor does stuffing them into an MRI machine, where the fields are extremely strong.

            1. Ermintrude*

              Old post but as a general FYI one can’t just get shoved into an MRI machine with a pacemaker; both device and machine settings have to be adjusted. I use my smartphone close to my device when it’s not advised and there don’t seem to be ill effects. I’d just clip a magnetic badge to the side of my chest without the pacemaker.

            2. AnonToday*

              The teacher was saying that because “the heart is a natural pacemaker” people without electronic pacemakers should avoid wearing magnets on clothing. That is obviously sophistry, not science, and I have no idea why a biology teacher would say such a thing.

          2. metadata minion*


            And honestly, the warning is probably a cover-your-ass thing. Unless the magnets are much stronger than I expect, it’s probably at a level of “you should probably pin this on the other shoulder”. With modern pacemakers, even if the magnet does interfere with it, it’ll just go into failsafe mode and you take the magnet off and you’re fine. It’s mostly a serious problem if you’re talking about *very* strong EM signals or the interference is from, say, a running chainsaw where feeling dizzy for a second while using it could be really bad. (I got a pacemaker last year and so have been doing a lot of unexpected learning about magnets lately ;-) )

            1. JayemGriffin*

              I was at a social event shortly after getting my pacemaker, and couldn’t figure out why I was feeling slightly dizzy and nauseated. Not that bad, but noticeably different. It wasn’t until a few hours later that I realized the name tag I was wearing on my left lapel was VERY magnetic. Oops. (I moved it to my waistband on the right and felt WAY better.)

        5. Captain Swan*

          My daughter works at a restaurant and her name tag is held on with a magnet. Which is good because shevhadvto wear it on her hat (ball cap style). I think the magnet has better hold then actag thatis pinned on.

        6. Ally McBeal*

          I love them! I had one at my work-study job in college many years ago and it’s now serving as a fridge magnet.

      3. Ann O'Nemity*

        Yes, I think the magnet version is becoming increasingly common for lapel pins. Especially since many business professional clothing options don’t actually have a lapel buttonhole to stick a pin through.

      4. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

        keep in mind that magnetic name tags cannot be used with pacemakers. I’m not sure about other medical devices

        1. Siege*

          Not on the left, but we can often use them on the right. I prefer them to the pinned version as well and haven’t had a problem with my defibrillator. Obviously an individual should take guidance from their cardiologist, and buy or request what they’re comfortable with, but despite my mother’s persistent belief, I won’t actually explode if I hold my cell phone on the left or walk past a working microwave. I try not to, but I’m not perfect at it.

          1. quill*

            This is very interesting given that the heart is actually much less far to the left than most people believe: most of it is sitting under the sternum!

            1. Siege*

              That’s true, but the defibrillator/pacemaker is installed firmly on the left. Mine is actually pretty vertically centered on my breast, towards the end of the collarbone. I assume the considerations are more around not putting it directly on a bone like the sternum, and just having less to deal with in the implant – the tradeoff is working the wires into the heart itself, but the benefit of something hard that you’re going to have in your body being in an area with fat to cushion it is pretty high. I would prefer not to think about what it would feel like if you got it closer to the sternum and then got a soccer ball kicked into your chest, for example. :) And it’s visually less prominent.

              1. pandop*

                That is absolutely fascinating, and something I hadn’t ever thought about – thank you :)

              2. quill*

                I mean, nobody wants to go under the sternum! I just thought they were much closer to the heart, so this is fascinating.

                1. Ermintrude*

                  My cardiology-trained-nurse sister certainly thought so, when I fell ill then had a defibrillating pacemaker put in!

      5. NeedRain47*

        In addition to magnets there are also clip on badges. The metal clip *could* damage clothing, but I’ve been using one for about five years and have yet to ruin anything. Lanyards also may be a possibility if they’re not working with machinery where a dangling lanyard would be a bad idea.

          1. File Herder*

            We’re required to have the break-aways in my current office job so that our darling customers can identify us but not strangle us. (I do so love stressed out members of the public. I want to go back to a lab job. It has different hazards that are objectively worse but stress me less.)

      6. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        An excellent idea! My company does just that: we all have magnetic name pins with the company name and logo and our own names on them. Everyone from the custodian to the CEO has the same pin. Problem solved!

      7. That One Person*

        I am honestly curious how Bob would view the magnetic pin idea since it would open up one’s wardrobe and thus knock them out of this silly “all building dress code.” Would he get annoyed and view it as OP trying to skirt around the requirements? How much of this is about him trying to make the floor staff feel equal to the office staff and how much is just him viewing the cheap shirts as more cost effective? If it’s really about the equality thing I can assure him that the staff are absolutely aware of the differences in duties and capabilities. I was 100% aware that I was expected to remain visible and available to customers and thus usually expected to be standing for the entirety of my shift while getting a lot of area fixing done. If I worked in the fitting room I was expected to handle people going in and out, deal with the rejected items, originally deal with the carts from customer service (but that was honestly impossible so they stopped that at least), and still deal with the phone while standing – we had to ask for a mat like the cashiers had because it was killer on the knees. When they swapped to HR taking the day calls we knew they got to sit while handling them. We knew the managers and team leaders had times they could go upstairs to clerical and sit while they worked on schedules and plans, did corporate stuff, had meetings, etc. We were well aware of the grunt work our job entailed comparatively to managing the store and of course the difference in pay. We weren’t stupid.

        We had our own life hacks anyways to make things a little more bearable for a job we didn’t really care for. If I sat on my knees while folding a table of shirts or pants nobody was going to yell at me – it was easier to check for hidden items people either no longer wanted or empty packages of stolen goods. I just happened to get off my feet for a few minutes too. The fact that management needed to at least abide by colors didn’t really change anything though.

    2. NoCanDosville*

      This is a great idea, especially if you use the magnet things, so that there are no holes. Bonus points if it looks embroidered.

    3. LTR FTW*

      Yes, I’m wondering if there could be some adjustment to the wardrobe. Maybe a nice blazer or cardigan that has the logo? Could be on a patch/embroidery, but the pin would be even better. But what I’m thinking is, the OP should dress how she likes, and then just throw on an extra layer with the corporate ID on it as needed.

    4. Richard Hershberger*

      Yup. I routinely wear collared shirts with buttons and a pocket. I would rig up some sort of display that could clip onto the pocket.

    5. Snow Globe*

      I was going to suggest this—I work for a bank and all employees are given a lapel pin (magnetic) with the company logo. I also own a cardigan sweater with the company logo.

    6. LCH*

      this. pins that the company pays for.

      companies that make employees pay for very specific uniforms (embroidered shirts) is BS. i realize it is common, doesn’t mean it isn’t BS. this is clothing that cannot be worn elsewhere.

    7. Purple Cat*

      Magnets/pins would be forbidden in a manufacturing environment – they can fall off and damage things, so likely not an option for LW.

      1. Antilles*

        That’s possible, though it might depend on the exact nature of OP’s role – in the same way that people actually working on machinery can’t wear jewelry for safety reasons but an office worker who merely walks through the factory floor on the way to the offices might be allowed to do so.

      2. calonkat*

        But if the company would allow either shirts OR badges, then that would allow people to choose what suited them and their role at the company.

  5. Kevin*

    Wear the crappiest of shirts specifically on the days when a boss comes from another state, or when a customer shows up, and start the encounter by saying “per company regulations I am wearing the only clothes I am permitted to wear.”

    1. 50 years of ears*

      Aka, how to lose all your business (and probably your job) in 5 minutes or less!

      Oh vey.

      1. Susan Calvin*

        To introduce Bob to the consequences of his choices

        I mean I wouldn’t genuinely recommend this approach, but I find the idea very natural!

  6. Arrghhhhh*

    It sounds as if the LW reports to someone other than Bob and their boss does not follow this dress code. I would talk to the boss and ask them to take this on.

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      it sounds like bob is the plant manager so what he says goes, but that the OP has other bosses that work at other plants.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        I think there’s corporate hierarchy above the plant level. OP says “When my boss from another state visits our plant…”

        1. Arrghhhhh*

          At my company, we have a lot of leeway where corporate employees at plant locations follow different requirements than plant employees. Reporting into someone other than a person at the plant leads me to believe they have a potential structure to address that they haven’t taken yet.

    2. Massive Dynamic*

      I would also and I would wear the crappiest, most rumpled and ill-fitting outfit of the bunch too.

    1. Wintermute*

      Worked in an auto parts plant, same policy, and frankly most people liked not having to wear business casual. It helped that we had a uniform service that laundered the clothes for us but still. this is super normal in many industries, and is part of their commitment to avoiding a “factory floor/office” split which can really develop in such environments.

      Breaking down that split was the subject of a massive company-wide culture effort at General Electric, it’s considered a management best practice to do what you can to avoid it, including having a uniform dress policy for everyone.

      1. Lime green Pacer*

        However, this is not a corporate-wide policy, which is creating resentment between LW’s site and the one which does not follow this dress code.

        1. Wintermute*

          That is a fair point, it’s still the plant/site manager’s call though, and I think they’re well within their bounds. Obviously such policies can be done well or poorly, and having admitted to having burned all available capital it might be better to focus on doing it better rather than fighting the system.

          1. Observer*

            This policy is being VERY poorly executed. So poorly, in fact, that I have to wonder if it’s not deliberate.

          2. Wren*

            It’s easy to say this, but it can be a really hard environment to work in. I’m a woman, I work in an environment where we wear uniforms for safety & visibility during some aspects of the job. The uniforms are “unisex” but built for men. If you’re fat, or if you’re busty (like me) finding something you can effectively do your job in can be really hard. Office days we wear our own clothes, thankfully. You can’t exactly get everything tailored. LW deserves to be able to do her job without having to constantly worry about fit.

      2. pancakes*

        “part of their commitment to avoiding a ‘factory floor/office’ split which can really develop in such environments”

        Does that actually work? Their factory floor workers are accepting of huge wage disparities and other types of inequality because everyone’s dressed the same? That doesn’t sound right to me.

        It’s also funny to see someone hold up GE as an example of management best practices because what I know of it comes from the Immelt era. Business schools often seem to use GE for examples on how to not run a company.

        1. Wintermute*

          it depends on the plant and the general culture. My grandpa went through it at GE Medical, and he was union and well-paid, probably paid more than the lower-end office workers because he was in specialist construction (MRI machines). It’s not a solution to all your problems but it can be PART of a solution. If you’re underpaying folks and treating them poorly then having the managers in the same uniform shirts isn’t going to do much, but it can help lower the psychological barrier to knowledge sharing and encourage people at the same level (factory team lead to manager, foreman to supervisor, etc) seeing each other as equals not inherently lower-class because they’re “back of the house”.

        2. Lora*

          I had a professor who thought Jack Welch was the best CEO in the universe ever, the rationalization being that he came up with the whole Centers of Excellence thing and GE’s valuation rose astronomically during his tenure. By all accounts the dude was a total a-hole to work for though, so. Agree that Immelt screwed up a lot, though he was also left with what looked to me like a really weird, discombobulated structure.

          1. pancakes*

            Oof. If you do a search for “GE leadership problems” there’s pages and pages of case studies from all the big b-schools.

            1. Lora*

              Yeah, that professor was by far not my favorite. I know personally many people who worked in various GE divisions (mostly Healthcare and Aerospace), and they report it as paying pretty well but not a great place to work in general – run by personalities, and consequently rather chaotic and disorganized, not strategic or policy-driven.

            2. Generic Username*

              There’s also an excellent television documentary about GE that ran for about seven years. Jack Welch is mentioned a lot and appears on screen a couple of times. Its called “30 Rock”.

        3. starfox*

          It’s such lip service…. “We all wear the same uniform! We are the same!” I’m sure the floor workers don’t care what the office wears, and would much rather have higher salaries than have the office workers dress like them….

    2. anonymous73*

      Thank you. You have worded this much better than I could have and I 100% agree with you.

    3. Smooch*

      Strong disagree. It’s clear she has voiced legitimate complaints about the lack of size inclusivity and waste, and nothing has been done.

      I also balk at the lack of common sense not allowing for dress code flexibility and, most importantly, REQUIRING EMPLOYEES TO PAY FOR THEIR OWN UNIFORM?!?!! Shouldn’t that be provided at company expense?

    4. EngGirl*

      I’d be interested to know where the letter writer is located. I’m in the northeast in a manufacturing plant and we have really specific dress codes for the floor vs the office, which is closer to what this LW is asking for and I don’t find this elitist at all. The floor is much more relaxed and if anything we’re all completely jealous of them because they can dress comfortably.

      I do get where she’s coming from on a customer visit perspective though. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable if a customer showed up in a suit and I was in a t-shirt and jeans because I had to be.

    5. MusicWithRocksIn*

      Honda doesn’t have polo shirts though – they have their white pajamas. Which I find *hilarious*. The Honda uniform looks like of fancy men’s pajamas, like from the fifty’s with red piping along the cuffs. And it gets dirty SO EASILY – like every pair is half covered in grease because they work in a fricken automotive plant. And they wear them when visiting suppliers as well – so everywhere you go you go in your white pajamas. When I worked with Honda and they decended upon our plant it was like a hive of 50 people all in their matching pajamas swarming out over everything.

      1. MaureenSmith*

        I worked at Honda at one point! Yes, everyone had the same white pants/shirt. But the uniform service a) cleaned them and b) fixed or replaced them. No cost to the employees. And they provided PPE including safety glasses and steel toed footwear, again at no cost to the employee. Their policy was that the person/role should not be distinguished by the uniform. Yes, there were names sewn on, but no role markings. It did make it odd sometimes chatting with random folks in the cafeteria and finding out afterwards they were the grand-grand boss of X department.

      2. djc*

        I posted below about Honda! I live in the town with the huge plant and corporate office. We jokingly call then Hondroids.

    6. Rose*

      She did tell them.

      What exactly made you so angry? That she acknowledged that she’s above the people she manages in the corporate hierarchy?

    7. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

      Did you stop reading after this sentence?

      “This is obviously problematic for many reasons. First, I see no problem with the perception that managers are not equal with hourly staff — we’re not! They report to us.”

      Because the next one is literally:

      “(Of course I’m speaking purely of corporate hierarchies and not human equality.)”

    8. NaoNao*

      I politely disagree. People who have moved up into management often expect that there’s certain perks and privileges with the role—the role that comes with greater responsibilities, headaches, and longer hours and more stress/different types of stress.

      One of the perks is having more autonomy—in your hours, duties, comings and goings, and dress.

      I promised myself I would *never* work a job where there was a uniform requirement unless it was a dire necessity because I’ve worked very hard and made tough choices to move up and out of that type of role.

      My mom worked for a “Fortune’s Best Place to Work” company and they implemented a policy where *enterprise employees* who never saw the inside of the retail stores had to wear name tags to work. For “solidarity” with the store employees (who did interact with customers daily). These were marketing and PR folks sitting in a corporate office park miles from the closest store location wearing a doofy name tag because…reasons? The store employees weren’t going to even see it!

      If choosing your own outfits is a privilege, I think it’s fair to point that out and speak openly about how the role and privileges of manager *is* different than hourly. It doesn’t feel snobbish to me at all.

      I also feel that efforts to flatten a hierarchy using very superficial tools like “we all have to wear the crappy shirts” are transparently condescending to all involved. What hourly employees don’t want is managers who “we all wear the same shirt, we’re just like you!”, they want respect, chance to grow, competitive salary, fair time off, good working conditions, and solid management.

      1. whingedrinking*

        Yup. I have noticed that the more money I make, the less anyone cares what I wear. The piecework that I do from home comes out to the highest hourly rate I’ve ever made, and I can literally do it naked if I want – I don’t even have video calls.
        (Also, the pandemic seems to have broken down at least one barrier in my other line of work, which is that if we can wear jeans on Fridays, obviously it’s fine for us to wear jeans every single other day of the week. And there was much rejoicing.)

        1. Summer*

          Jeans on Fridays – that was something I never understood about my old job because they accidentally found out some of the field offices were wearing jeans on Fridays and mandated and no one was to ever wear jeans any day of the week. We never had any outside visitors ever. Sometimes people from the home office would visit but those times were always announced in advance. But they apparently thought that we couldn’t manage to work our desk jobs while clad in jeans. Then they had the temerity to offer us the “perk” of paying $5 for the privilege of wearing jeans on certain designated Fridays. I never participated. (And yeah, I’m still a bit bitter about that toxic hellscape ;)

      2. Aitch Arr*

        Your username may be NaoNao but I was saying YassYass while reading your comment.

    9. Karia*

      You’ve said this a few times. I’m saying this as someone who used to work in a factory; I think you’re off base. A lot of visitors are going to find it offensive and odd if a manager is greeting them wearing a wrinkled cartoon t-shirt. Additionally – while I don’t know your gender or size – as a plus size woman, certain clothes that look ok on thin men look *ridiculous* on me. This is in terms of fabric, structure, design.

      If I wore the sort of t-shirt she describes I would look like I was in pyjamas. I wouldn’t want to leave the house, let alone greet important visitors. Then there are societal expectations. The reality is that women, especially plus size women, are perceived as sloppy and unprofessional wearing clothing deemed fine on men.

      1. Dona Florinda*

        “The reality is that women, especially plus size women, are perceived as sloppy and unprofessional wearing clothing deemed fine on men.”
        You nailed it.

  7. animaniactoo*

    Potentially missing: It’s possible that the purchase requirement would effectively push some of the employees below minimum wage if it’s a significant hit to their paycheck.

    1. Nobby Nobbs*

      “We are given a pittance for an annual allowance that will buy exactly two nice collared shirts or several crappy T-shirts once per year.”
      I bet, especially if their work is physically onerous and hard on clothes, this policy is hitting the hourly workers just as hard as or harder than OP.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Right, but that doesn’t include the need to pay out of pocket for replacements, OR the need to get the logo embroidered at your cost if none of the provided shirts fit.

        1. Nobby Nobbs*

          Why not, if the same requirements apply to both sets of workers? The only difference I see is that impressing people is part of OP’s job. Which is a legitimate reason to have beef with the policy, but so is having to choose between working in a grungy ruined t-shirt or paying out of pocket, assuming the options even fit. The hourly workers are more likely to be in a similar boat to OP at lower pay than not.

          1. Karia*

            Yep. I’m currently in a job paying £5k more than my last job. I’m also not client facing, which practically speaking, saves me money in manicures, hair, shoes, clothes, accessories, transport… I’m probably materially better off to the tune of £15k.

        2. KoiFeeder*

          This is one of those situations where I fall firmly in the camp of “if a workplace wants a uniform, the workplace needs to provide the uniform free of charge in sizes that fit all workers.” If nothing else, the idea of folks being pulled below minimum wage because their manager is a control freak makes me want to bite.

    2. Narise*

      Yes some states have stated that uniforms cannot take employees below minimum wage. It’s unlikely to impact manufacturing because their pay rates are usually above minimum wage.

      1. OyHiOh*

        If maintaining uniforms pushes an employee’s compensation below minimum wage, that’s potentially in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSH Act). I say potentially, because the act specifically addresses an employer deducting uniform costs from an employee’s paycheck, and I don’t know if either of the Acts would also apply to an employee “choosing” to purchase items “out of pocket.”

    3. She of Many Hats*

      “I’ve had employees come to my office begging for shirts because theirs were ruined and they didn’t have the money to replace them.”

      It does sound like the dress code is financially impacting the lowest paid/front-line employees as well as the women in the offices. Many states have laws about compensation and required uniforms such as the company must provide the uniforms and/or provide stipends/compensation for the employee to purchase the uniforms that does not come out of their base wages. LW should look into that as well.

  8. INeedANap*

    OP, I think the bulk of your complaints are totally valid, but I would avoid talking about the “appeasing the hourly workers” stuff. I am not sure it comes across as you intend, and those employees are not your enemy in this fight. I would not be surprised if a lot of them didn’t want to wear the uniform shirts either, for exactly the same reasons you enumerate.

    1. Sweet 'N Lower*

      That part of the letter really rubbed me the wrong way. I was actually not on OP’s side until she started talking about all of the other issues with this policy (cost, lack of options for women and plus size folks, etc).

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I agree, I don’t think the policy is a problem at all in theory with wanting it to be the same for everyone–it’s just the limited options based on size/gender that are an issue in my eyes.

    2. Rose*

      I think it’s clearly tongue in cheek since the hourly staff also have issues with the policy and have given no indication that they care what OP and the other managers wear.

    3. Be kind, rewind*

      I definitely got the sense that that was the excuse provided by management, and OP is mocking it because it’s ridiculous.

      1. LW*

        LW here: yes, you’re exactly right. I think a lot of our hourly workers dislike how restrictive the policy is in terms of sizing and the annual allowance, but I think the worries about perceived inequality are all coming from the plant manager focusing on the wrong things. I do care about how our production workers feel about the policy, especially those who need larger sizes and those who ruin their clothes and can’t afford replacements. It’s horribly embarrassing to ask for the largest size and have it still be too small.

  9. Katie*

    Until the policy improves, get a jacket and/or vest in a neutral color embroidered with the logo and wear it over whatever you like.

    1. Nameless in Customer Service*

      Seconded thoroughly. At my hospital job one of the least awful aspects was that we desk clerks were issued very lightweight blazers with the hospital logo that we could wear over anything appropriate. That was orders of magnitude more convenient than scrubs.

  10. Panhandlerann*

    It’d be great to have a survey of all the workers that includes a question or two about the dress code. I’ll bet that women across the boards (whether hourly production workers or otherwise) would complain about the lack of choices and sizes for them. Perhaps the number of complaints would hold some sway.

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Good idea. Add in the cost per year for buying uniforms, issues with getting them (e.g. size, not enough $$ for more than 2 shirts), and any additional costs like laundering, and the HR (likely the ones to do the survey) would have good information on the current policy and how it plays out. This might result in more $$ for all to buy shirts, more inclusive sizes, company provided laundry services, or a change in the dress code for office only staff or days when staff are only in the office/meetings.

    2. MsM*

      I don’t know. I think OP might be surprised by the number of people – women included – who prefer not having to think about what to wear. Size, cost, and quality might come up as complaints, though.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        Preferring not to have to think about what to wear and being told specifically what you have to wear aren’t necessarily the same thing, though.

        1. MsM*

          I also think OP might be surprised by the number of employees who don’t object to the idea of a uniform on principle, and might actually want that codified as long as it comes with the understanding that the company needs to shoulder the cost of keeping everyone outfitted regardless of size. I’m trying really, really hard to respect Allison’s request not to derail the conversation, but I’m in the group of people who was put off by OP’s initial arguments against the policy (and for what it’s worth, I’m a plus-size woman myself). The more she hinges her argument on “this is an unfair burden on employees in ways that could get us in legal trouble” than “I personally don’t want to dress like this, and I can’t imagine anyone but Bob would,” the better her odds of getting this overturned are.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            “I personally don’t want to dress like this, and I can’t imagine anyone but Bob would,”

            Except that was never her argument? Her main argument was that since she is in an outward-facing role (and therefore deals with executives and customers) it makes sense that she would dress differently for her role than someone on the work floor might. On top of that is the fact that the chosen uniform offers few options for larger folks (especially women) and the need to have the (ever-changing!) logo on there creates a financial burden on all workers.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          I dunno, I think any kind of jeans/khakis you want plus a shirt with the logo is pretty loose as far as uniform rules go and I know a few of places where that kind of dress code would be pretty welcome.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            I don’t necessarily disagree that it’s loose in terms of a dress code, but that doesn’t mean it would be a good fit for every person’s position, and folks have a right to push back when that is the case.

            1. LW*

              LW here, chiming in again: I really, really appreciate all the feedback and comments! Sometimes my negative feelings about this policy are so strong that I wonder if I’m going overboard. Your shared experiences are very validating.

              I just want to add, too, that I wrote this letter on a particularly bad day, after another failed discussion with management about the policy, and I was angry. I regret my angry tone and ranting, and I didn’t present my concerns in the clearest terms because I was upset. I promise I’m a really good person. :) I’m not a snob or classist, and I don’t want to dress “better” so I can lord over anyone. My snark about perceived inequality was a jab at our plant manager’s belief that different shirts would make our production workers feel “less than”. My frustration comes from being unable to dress appropriately for my job responsibilities because I’m being forced to dress identically to people with a totally different job. And, yes, it’s frustrating to feel like I’m not trusted to select appropriate clothing on my own at this point in my career. I guess the bottom line is that if I want to wear clothing that matches my perception of what a professional manager should wear, while still adhering to the policy, the cost has to come out of my own pocket 100%. The sizing, selection and quality issues are where the policy really hurts the most – and where, honestly, I can throw more money at the issue because of my pay level, but people at lower pay levels cannot. Talk about inequality!

              And for what it’s worth, I like a good T-shirt, I wear them all the time on my own time, but the ones provided at work are really poor quality. The brand being purchased stretches out of shape and wrinkles severely within about an hour of wear. It almost makes me feel irresponsible to wear them, if that makes sense. Like I’m not respecting my leadership role enough to look the part, because my clothes are misshapen and rumpled.

              Anyway, lots of great advice here, and much appreciation to those who saw through my anger and understood where I was coming from! I’ll give it some more thought and keep pushing!

              1. HappytobeWorkerBee*

                I am sorry you felt like you needed to apologize for sounding angry. From where I sit, it feels like you have a right to be. This is a ludicrous policy, one supposedly designed to make people feel equal in some way when we all know that is not the case. I am an hourly office worker; all of the people I report to are salaried. Their jobs are much more stressful and intense than my own and while they are well compensated, you could not pay me enough to have to do what they do every day. That said, no amount of perceived ‘clothing equality’ is gonna make me feel like we all have the same gig; we don’t and that is ok by me.
                The angering parts of this situation for me? The lack of equality for women and the fact that people are expected to pay for their own uniforms. In the lowest paid job I ever had, I was required to wear one but it was company provided and had one logo the entire time I worked there. Please stay with your anger here, LW, and enjoy using it to push for positive change using Alison’s excellent advice. Please post an update to let us know how it goes!

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Requiring everyone to replace all their work shirts whenever the logo changes really does make this an expensive place to work.

      3. Wren*

        I would love to not have to think about what to wear. But since my firm (like LW’s) has fieldwork uniforms based on male bodies, I have to think about it a lot. Will sizing up give me more room in the chest to do my active job? Yes. Will it cause the sleeves and hem to drag, creating a risk with machinery and site hazards? Also yes. LW mostly wants things that fit, which seems fair. As it is, she has to spend a *lot* of time trying to make the “no thoughts, just uniform” policy work

      4. quill*

        Yeah, the main problem is not the existence of the uniform, it’s that the uniform is inaccessible and impractical for many employees.

      5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        That would probably be women who are not in customer-facing roles, because once you need to meet with people, expectations for you looking smart suddenly sky-rocket.

  11. JulyAh*

    I don’t think that was what she was saying at all and I don’t understand how you got that conclusion. Image does matter to potential customers and being aware that wearing a cartoon t-shirt is seen a certain way by potential customers is not classist, although you could argue that those customer perceptions are classist. But business attire for customer facing positions is the norm, and not wanting to pay out of pocket for adding logos to your business attire does not make someone classist?

    1. Wintermute*

      There are multiple different groups you’re presenting an image too though. The company might decide, quite reasonably, that it’s worth customers seeing managers in T-shirts so they look like “part of the team” and to de-emphasize the distinction between floor staff and office staff. Or that it’s more important to avoid an us/them mentality between the staffs by dressing everyone alike than it is for customers to only see people in polo shirts. It’s worth asking if it’s actually expected or if that’s self-imposed expectation– it’s quite possible they would be fine with, or even prefer, managers to dress the same as everyone else.

      1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

        In this particular instance, it’s clear that it’s not a company-wide policy and that other places within the same company do expect their managers to wear business casual/unbranded clothes.

  12. T.*

    I definitely feel you with the sexist choices. The men in my co (sales and engineering) all have co logo shirts and the women (customer service and hr) don’t. We have to be business casual and I would love a couple logo shirts to make getting dressed easier. Our manufacturing floor has their own dress code (safety and a dirty job). The whole co got long sleeve t shirts and I wore mine once a week until out of season just to make a point.

    1. Oakwood*

      I haven’t gotten a logoed shirt in decades, because I’m tall (6-4).

      It’s not just women that get forgotten about. If you are a male that is anywhere outside the norm (tall or overweight) it’s unlikely you’ll receive a garment that fits.

      I’ve made a point over the years to complain that not everyone comes in men’s S, M, L, or XL, but it seems to fall on deaf ears. The promotional products industry (which produces the logoed garments) is not geared up to produce tall, large sizes, or garments cut for women.

      I’ve been in company pictures where everybody was dressed in a company shirt but me, because they wouldn’t provide one in my size. I’ve also been excluded from company pictures for the same reason. I tell them I’m not going to look like a fool for posterity because I was wearing an ill fitting shirt in a photo. When I ask them if they’d be photographed in a shirt that was a size too small and wasn’t long enough to reach the top of their pants, they finally understand.

      I finally refused to take shirts that wouldn’t fit. I suggest the LW take the same approach. Refuse to wear anything that doesn’t fit. Insist on being provided–at the company’s cost–garments that fit properly. A quality polo shirt (which is what you should get) with a custom logo is going to cost $50 to $100 dollars (more if you are an odd size). You need at least 5 to make it through a week (unless you plan on doing laundry every other day) . It’s not reasonable to expect an employee to shell out $250 to $500 every six months (which is about how often you would need to replace them) for new uniforms.

      1. LW*

        Copying and pasting this here, because it got buried on another thread instead of as a standalone comment, which I intended:

        LW here, chiming in again: I really, really appreciate all the feedback and comments! Sometimes my negative feelings about this policy are so strong that I wonder if I’m going overboard. Your shared experiences are very validating.

        I just want to add, too, that I wrote this letter on a particularly bad day, after another failed discussion with management about the policy, and I was angry. I regret my angry tone and ranting, and I didn’t present my concerns in the clearest terms because I was upset. I promise I’m a really good person. :) I’m not a snob or classist, and I don’t want to dress “better” so I can lord over anyone. My snark about perceived inequality was a jab at our plant manager’s belief that different shirts would make our production workers feel “less than”. My frustration comes from being unable to dress appropriately for my job responsibilities because I’m being forced to dress identically to people with a totally different job. And, yes, it’s frustrating to feel like I’m not trusted to select appropriate clothing on my own at this point in my career. I guess the bottom line is that if I want to wear clothing that matches my perception of what a professional manager should wear, while still adhering to the policy, the cost has to come out of my own pocket 100%. The sizing, selection and quality issues are where the policy really hurts the most – and where, honestly, I can throw more money at the issue because of my pay level, but people at lower pay levels cannot. Talk about inequality! The execution of the the policy is canceling out the intended benefit of making people feel like equals. It’s actually doing the opposite.

        And for what it’s worth, I like a good T-shirt, I wear them all the time on my own time, but the ones provided at work are really poor quality. The brand being purchased stretches out of shape and wrinkles severely within about an hour of wear. It almost makes me feel irresponsible to wear them in the office, if that makes sense. It feels like I’m not respecting my leadership role enough to look the part, because my clothes are misshapen and rumpled before the workday even starts.

        Anyway, lots of great advice here, and much appreciation to those who saw through my anger and understood where I was coming from! I’ll give it some more thought and keep pushing!

  13. Just Another Zebra*

    LW, I know you know this… but this is asinine. I work for a plumbing company with two distinct staff groups – our techs and office staff. Techs are required to wear a company logo shirt – we provide them, no cost to the tech. Office staff dress business casual(ish – its been a bit more lax since COVID), but get 10 logo shirts / year, also no cost to us. We order styles and sizes for everyone’s body type.

    I know you say you’ve used all your capital, but I’d definitely go above someone’s head and explain why this is problematic. Show them receipts and demonstrate how much your staff are spending on embroidery. I hope that spelling out the problem fully will set off a lightbulb for your higher ups.

    If that doesn’t work, embrace the crappy t-shirts with cartoon characters. Stop spending so much of your own money on clothes. Is it the best decision for the company? Nope. But I’d go malicious compliance with this one.

  14. LDN Layabout*

    The irony of talking about sexism and fatphobia when LW’s entire screed reeks of classism.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        LW’s key focus isn’t on getting the same shirt availability as those in male and non-plus sizes, it’s a diatribe on why they don’t want to wear those kinds of shirts at all. Because what if someone mistakes her for one of those plebians who work in the plant.

        1. Rose*

          No, because there’s no reason for them to have to, and because jeans and tshirts are out of sync with her role not just generally in the world but even at other locations in the company.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I don’t get your last sentence from the post at all.

          I get that the officially okay option is a looks-very-cheap T-shirt, and OP hates that. Something that doesn’t fit well and looks like you got it off the floor this morning can make it hard to convey the Serious Professional With Responsibility vibe most managers are going for.

          And OP would be totally fine with all the lowest level workers being allowed to wear something else.

          1. LDN Layabout*

            Every manager in the plant is wearing the same clothing, including people above the OP. That’s something that would also easily picked up by any external visitor as ‘oh, that’s what this plant does’. Just because the OP dislikes something, doesn’t make it wrong.

        3. Erin*

          I can only see one potentially “classist” comment: “I see no problem with the perception that managers are not equal with hourly staff — we’re not! They report to us.”
          But OP herself clarifies that she’s speaking of different statuses within the workplace context, not implying that she’s a better class of human being.

          Her primary complaint is that the uniform is not appropriate to her work, her role, or her personal needs. But yeah, wanting her clothes to accurately signal what her day job involves and where her expertise lies is not a “diss” on the plant workers.

          I would hate to be mistaken for being staff at my favourite coffee shop precisely because I can’t do what they do (seriously, my family and I are major dropper/spillers).

          And visitors should not be put in the position of having to ask “why are you dressed like a production worker when you’re a technical auditor” or whatever.

    1. Jean*

      Where? I didn’t get that at all. If anything, LW is expressly mindful of how this policy is just as dumb and crappy for the people who report to her as it is for her.

      1. anonymous73*

        OP carries on for the first 3 paragraphs about how they shouldn’t be dressing down to “appease the hourly workforce”. Her complaint about options for women is legitimate, but she lost me any an all sympathy/empathy from me before she got to that part because god forbid she should be mistaken for a line worker.

        1. Jean*

          I feel like it was pretty clear that LW thinks it’s dumb to have this policy IN THE NAME OF appeasing the lower status, and presumably lower paid, staff, when in reality it does no such thing and actually benefits no one. I’m really confused on where so many people are getting the read that LW is mad about this because of classist reasons.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I think the problem is that the argument “appease the hourly workforce” is coming from the top manager, while the hourly workforce likely does not actually care about whether middle management all have matching T-shirts.

        3. Rose*

          One, that’s literally not the content of the fist three paragraphs.

          Two, why should a brown ass woman be forced to dress in ugly tshirts to appease anyone? It’s actually totally fine if she doesn’t want to pick out her clothes to appease other people.

          Three, it’s pretty clear this is all coming from Bob, and there’s no indication that the hourly staff has any issues with corporate/salaried staff dressing in office clothing. At least some of them have an issue with the policy itself because they’ve come to OP very upset when a shirt is ruined.

        1. Vinessa*

          The part where the LW is just assuming what those hourly workers think instead of actually talking to them? I did read it, thanks.

          1. Reba*

            LW is restating the boss’s stated reasoning for the policy. Not her own opinion, as the second half of the sentence makes clear.

    2. NeutralJanet*

      How so? Part of LW’s complaint is specifically that the uniform policy is expensive enough that many of her reports find it a burden.

      If your problem is that LW thinks that she as a manager should have a different dress code than the hourly staff that does the manufacturing, the fact is that people who work in factories have different types of clothing requirements than people who work in offices, for safety and practicality reasons–that’s just kind of how it is!

      1. LDN Layabout*

        How so? Part of LW’s complaint is specifically that the uniform policy is expensive enough that many of her reports find it a burden.

        If it’s expensive enough to be a burden on her reports, the same surely then applies to those on the manufacturing floor?

        1. Combinatorialist*

          But the people on the hourly floor *can* wear the cheaper t-shirts without it affecting their role. Unlike the LW

        2. Aero*

          My impression was that she wanted the dress code changed for the entire plant, which would be including the people on the floor. Did something in her letter make you feel otherwise?

        3. big yikes*

          oh the irony of you calling OP out for so called “classism”, when you’re also assuming that people who work in manufacturing automatically make less money. Manufacturing can be just as, if not more, lucrative than being in management or being an office worker. Considering the skills needed for such a job, and the risk they’re putting themselves at, if it’s a dangerous type of manufacturing.

          1. LDN Layabout*

            Nope, I said if something is a burden on OP’s reports, it should also be seen as a burden on those working on the manufacturing floor.

            Making more money does not mean people should be forced to supply their own uniforms.

    3. CheesePlease*

      Having worked in manufacturing many years, it is very reasonable for hour workers (who may be getting dirty, operating machinery, working in hot or messy condition) to wear company-provided work shirts while supervisors or managers wear a more business-casual type outfit. It’s not unreasonable for LW to want to have a different dress code policy for hourly vs salary workers.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        I think it’s reasonable either way, I’ve seen both front and back office set-ups where there’s a split dress code and ones where it’s shared.

        But what isn’t reasonable is the sheer disdain going on for the fact that they have the same dress code. This isn’t someone working with heavy machinery wearing unsafe clothing, they object to a dress code followed by the entire plant, something a customer or exec would be aware of with one glance into the office.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          I read it as “the dress code works for the hourly workers because they can buy [however many] t-shirts with the yearly allowance and that works for their job. The dress code does not work for me because I can only buy 2 collared shirts that are appropriate for customer visits with my yearly allowance, and then I need to pay out-of-pocket for other shirts with logos that I’ll need to throw away during the next merger/rebrand.”

          I did not see “how dare anyone mistake me for a lowly plant worker” in the letter.

        2. CheesePlease*

          I think LW isn’t saying “only hourly manufacturing operators should have to wear crappy company shirts”. but rather that the code places specific burdens on her (based on her size and gender) that prevent her from effectively doing her job ( appearing professional with clients) and are a financial burden (both to her, and her employees) – so a more open policy would be best for everyone. I think if the company paid for all their mandated logos or expanded their options, that would also be helpful, they may not have specifically asked for that but it’s a viable option. It’s also probably frustrating it isn’t a company-wide policy but site-specific for no reason other than “it makes some employees feel better” (according to what LW said about Bob basically)

          As a woman who worked in manufacturing, I have been given company-issued polos to wear for specific occasions. I was one of 3 female managers in the whole company (20+ managers). They didn’t order any women’s sizes and the smallest they actually ordered was a men’s M. Because I am very short, I looked ridiculous because it was so long and I couldn’t tuck it neatly. I asked if they could order me a new one, and I was told we had what we had. I suppose I could have spent money and had it tailored – but why is that burden on me and not on the other men in the office? Even if the execs coming in thought “She is clearly just following the policy” I wouldn’t be surprised if they also thought “The company isn’t doing a good job of providing all their employees with an adequate uniform shirt” which isn’t a good reflection of the company. So I guess I sympathize a bit with LW having been in similar situations.

      2. Wintermute*

        At the same time, a lot of companies find that doing that leads to an upstairs staff/downstairs staff split between the factory floor and the front office, which has real consequences. breaking down that split has been a major effort for a few companies, GE being one. As a result uniform dress policies that are designed to apply across the organization are completely normal, in fact they’re considered better for the business in a lot of cases.

        There’s obviously ways to do it well and ways to do it poorly, and this company could be doing it better, but I don’t think the core idea– that hourly staff should of course dress differently from office staff– is accurate and, more importantly, it seems like it would be going directly against the grain of the company culture here meaning traction might be hard.

        It would be more productive to focus on how to make it less of a burden while buying in rather than saying they should do the exact opposite of what they seem to be doing very intentionally.

    4. Blue Glass*

      I did not see classism. I saw frustration at being in a managerial role and being forced to spend $$$ on the fashion choices of one Bob or dress unprofessionally in cheap t-shirts and jeans.

    5. Combinatorialist*

      But the fact that the manufacturing workers have to wear company shirts is company policy and the fact that the office workers do is Bob’s policy. That is a pretty big difference that is not coming from the LW

    6. Cabubbles*

      It’s less classism and more looking the part. Customers don’t take you seriously if you don’t look like you have authority. This is especially true for women who are subconsciously labeled as “not the leader”. This can be amped up even further if she is also under 40. I’m the second in command at my location and am 30 years old. On days where I’m a little more casual (due to work requirements), I’ve had customers completely blow me off and try to talk to older (less experienced but better dressed) workers. LW’s need to look different then the floor employees isn’t automatically an ego thing.

    7. SnarcasmQueen*

      It felt the same way to me. It’s weird to classify all tee shirts as grubby and wrinkled as if regular clothing does not wrinkled or wear out. I also don’t think customers care nor is it some crime to wear the same thing everyone else does.

      I cannot fathom getting an Oxford you like embroidered for client visits costs any more than whatever else she’s trying to wear.

      That being said, not having shirts available that fit everyone is problematic. But honestly, most people wear so called men’s tee shirts.

      Bottom line, size range options need to be expanded and uniform policies suck but next time let’s leave out the part where you just can’t bear to wear the same clothes production does, quelle horror!

    8. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Per the commenting rules, please give LWs the benefit of the doubt. Many of us didn’t read it the way you did at all; I respect your right to have a different read of it, but you do need to be kind and constructive when commenting here.

  15. Spicy Tuna*

    While I can totally see the OP’s points, which are valid, I would have LOVED a uniform when I was working in an office. I can’t stand shopping, I am not remotely “fashion-y” and nothing fits me nicely right off the rack. I would loved a uniform in school, too. So much time could be freed up not having to shop or get stuff tailored or put together outfits.

    1. kupo!*

      It seems pretty clear from LW’s letter that they are still having to spend a bunch of time trying to get the uniform to fit nicely.
      (FWIW, most people do not fit clothes well right off the rack, and I would guess that a corporate uniform would be even worse.)
      (Also, you absolutely *can* create a uniform for yourself for work– doesn’t need to be as strict as what some of the tech giants do, but a capsule wardrobe sounds more or less like exactly what you want.)

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I’m much like Spicy Tuna and hate thinking about what to wear in the morning and I’m pretty sure I do the capsule wardrobe thing. Basically I can grab anything out of the work side of my closet and it will match, fit me, and be work appropriate. I buy a lot of duplicate items in multiple colors when I can and all my work purses and shoes are black. My style is boring but really easy.

        1. Flash Packet*

          That’s me, too. I work in a corporate office where the dress code is “dressy business casual”. (Yup, it’s as confusing/frustrating as it sounds).

          I found a blazer that looks sort of OK on me and that is machine washable, and bought it in every color they had (black, maroon, gray, navy, dark teal, and periwinkle). I pair one of them with a printed tank top (I swear, the printed patterns make them look dressy vs a sports tank top, even though I wear the same brand’s solid color tank tops when I mow the lawn), a pair of black stretch jeans, and one of the pairs of shoes that I also bought in every single color because they’re actually comfortable.

          So that’s my uniform: The same style of shoes, blazer, and tank top.

          Also, I work for a manufacturing company. The people in our factories and warehouses can wear whatever they want as long as it’s within the safety protocols. I would be livid, as a woman of size, to be forced to wear ill-fitting t-shirts in front of customers simply because that’s what our factory workers are wearing.

          Back when I was in sales, the software companies I worked for would frequently have booths at trade shows. If we were told that we had to all wear the same logo’d polo that was only offered in Men’s M/L/XL sizes, I’d suddenly find myself violently ill on the day of the show and unable to work my shift in the booth. There was literally no way for me to look like a competent professional in a man’s polo shirt.

    2. Fiddlesticks*

      I agree with all of your points, but I bet we wouldn’t have been so eager to wear ugly, cheap-looking uniforms that made us look bad. That’s part of the OP’s objection.

      1. CheesePlease*

        I think there is also some sexism that occurs in how men vs women’s bodies are perceived professionally. Traditionally in my work (mostly manufacturing, as a line supervisor, dept manager and office worker) anyone who isn’t on the factory floor getting dirty wears a polo and jeans type outfit if they are a guy. For plus-size men, tucking in their shirt to their pants and having their belly more prominently shown is still considered clean / professional – but the same is not for women. Women are more often expected to wear “flattering” clothes to look professional, just like there is often an expectation to wear makeup to appear professional. All this to say that the same options (standard t-shirts, collard shirts, polos) may read professional on male bodies but not on female bodies (where a flowing blouse may look better). I think uniforms are not always comfortable for everyone – and in this case specifically it seems like they company’s response was to make people pay out-of-pocket to comply which is very annoying

        1. kicking_k*

          Yes, this. As a curvier woman trying to wear unisex work uniform in the past, I’ve sometimes been caught between “slightly too small” which is both uncomfortable and potentially tacky-looking if it’s tight across the bust, and “fits the bust, too large everywhere else” which can look very sloppy. It’s not easy to feel professionally dressed in either situation, however unfair that may be.

          1. Dona Florinda*

            Fellow curvy woman here, and most of my company-provided clothes are tight on the chest and hips, and loose everywhere else. Not only it’s unflattering, it brings a lot of unwanted attention to parts I’m privy of.

        2. EngGirl*

          So much this!

          I spend most of my time in an office but every now and then I have to travel and spend weeks on the floor. It’s a personal hell to wear something that makes me look professional while still being good for the floor, and ideally for my personal taste feminine. I end up in polos and jeans and just resolve myself to the fact that the people I’m working with will have to think I have no fashion sense lol

    3. Kaiko*

      I am curious why you think a uniform would fit better than clothes you would choose yourself?

      1. Spicy Tuna*

        It wouldn’t, but it’s a uniform so there’s no expectation that it needs to actually fit nicely or look that great. My issue when I was working was that I had to spend my own time and money to look bad. If the company says, “hey, wear this” and it looks bad, well, who cares? Versus showing up wearing something that looks bad that I actually chose myself. Not sure if that makes sense. Also, I would think that *everyone* would look equally bad while wearing company provided uniforms. The great equalizer.

        I just really hate shopping! Since I’ve been WFH, I literally wear the same baggy jeans and stained shirt all week, then launder it, and repeat!

        1. pancakes*

          A uniform that doesn’t fit properly seems like it could be a safety hazard in a manufacturing environment.

          I can’t quite get my head around feeling at ease with looking bad so long as it’s not on your own dime. Why shouldn’t clothes fit reasonably well regardless who’s paying for them? Why should uniforms have to look bad? That seems like a poor shortcut to a pretty shallow form of equality.

          Anyhow, Big Bud Press sells jumpsuits in every color of the rainbow, if that appeals.

        2. Esmae*

          Having worked in places that required uniforms or specific branded clothes, everyone definitely does not look equally bad in them! People who fall within the “average” range for height and weight, and people who aren’t curvy, tend to get a much better fit. If anything, it makes it much more obvious who falls outside the “norm”.

          1. Oakwood*

            It’s my experience that you can take the dumpiest looking man or woman and dress them in correctly tailored clothing and they look fantastic.

            Requiring uniforms, particularly the T or polo shirt variety, robs them of the ability to look their best. In many cases it highlights the negative aspects of their physiques.

        3. si*

          In my experience, not everyone does look equally bad in uniforms. Slim bodies, male bodies, average height bodies are all infinitely better off fit-wise. I am plus size and inconveniently busty, and trying to put me in the same shape of clothing as everyone else is like putting a blinking neon AWKWARD sign over my head.

          1. MsM*

            See, I feel like it takes the burden off me for not looking good, and tells me who was going to be judgy no matter what I wore. I’d much rather know who and what I’m dealing with than have to second-guess whether I need to retire an outfit I was happy with right up until I encountered that person.

            1. pancakes*

              Retiring an outfit you like because you suspect someone you work with doesn’t like it on you is giving them so much power over your choices. Why isn’t it enough that you like it?

              The idea that no one can be burdened with looking good if people are wearing uniforms is hard to follow. Have you seen those videos of Sydney Sweeney repairing old cars? Conventionally attractive people are still conventionally attractive in uniforms.

        4. whingedrinking*

          Part of the problem with that is that even if people are consciously aware that everyone is wearing a uniform provided by the same supplier, it’s hard not to subconsciously judge people for things like how well the uniform fits and flatters them. Clothes that “read” well on a more typically male physique can make a lot of women look like they just don’t know how to dress themselves (and vice versa, but that’s a less common issue), not to mention often being less comfortable.

        5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Clothes that look bad often feel bad too, so the shirt will chafe your skin or gape between buttons over your bust, while you wonder how long before a button pops off, or if you get a larger size, it’ll be forever catching on door handles.
          A manager meeting customers needs to dress smartly, and should be given an allowance to achieve this. Women obviously need a larger allowance because they need to vary their outfits more often because fashion. Not to mention make-up, jewellery and other accessories.

    4. kicking_k*

      I wore a uniform to school (I’m in the UK where that is normal) and it had its good sides and bad sides. Did it make decision-making easier? Yes. Did it make it more obvious if your body differed from the average? Also definitely yes. (It also did not entirely remove peer pressure to dress a certain way, because the few things we did have options on took on vast importance.)

      I’ve worn uniforms at work in my younger days and have struggled with how to look presentable in an enormous men’s shirt that fitted my bust and nowhere else, or a very straight-cut T-shirt that rode up over my hips. I don’t miss that.

      1. Nameless in Customer Service*

        Yes, this. (going through puberty in school uniforms was an extra layer of unfun)

      2. quill*

        I remember toe socks during my school uniform days… the difference in how your stuff fits, and whether your parents will splurge on hot pink toe socks, definitely kept the uniforms from disguising how much money you had and being the great social equalizer that many people assumed they were.

      3. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

        In my Catholic middle school, the fashion was to wear your skirt hiked up as high as you could get it without violating dress code… which didn’t work for me, as I was so short that the skirt was practically a midi on me.

    5. Siege*

      You can just … make yourself a uniform in that case! No one will find it weird in most offices if you wear black pants and a solid-color polo. They probably would find it weird if you wore red on Monday, orange on Tuesday, yellow on Wednesday, etc, but absolutely no one anywhere is stopping you from deciding on a work uniform and only shopping for/wearing it. Want to wear dresses? A black dress and a blazer in a color are your uniform. Find that you’re two different sizes between bust and waist? Order five shirts that fit the larger measurement and have them tailored.

      Because I promise you, a uniform is also off the rack and will have exactly the same sizing challenges. As OP has found.

      1. pancakes*

        Yes. Your last paragraph touches on the only parts of the letter that confused me. The writer’s seemingly endless trial and error process of finding her own shirts to have the logo embroidered on, at great expense, seems to me to mirror the problems of finding uniform vendors. People who are towards the higher end of size charts seem to have a very hard time finding suitable clothes, period. They don’t seem to be well-served by manufacturers. Of course it’s going to be problematic for employers to point them toward vendors with poor options, but there don’t seem to be many good options in any corner of the market.

        1. Oakwood*

          I used to be involved in the promotional products industry. At that time, the ONLY vendor that was selling odd-sized blanks was Tri-Mountain. I still wear their stuff today, because they make a quality product in my size.

          Their men’s sizes run from S to 6XL-Tall. Women’s sizes run from XS to 4XL-Tall (and they are cut for women).

          They have a wide range of upper body garments (polos, fleece jackets, light & heavy jackets). Their quality is good, but like any company they have some products that are higher quality than others.

          If the LW can’t find a workaround for the logo wear, they may want to start using Tri-Mountain. See if your company will start using them to provide their logo wear (they used to also embroider their garments for a fee, but any independent embroider can order blanks from them).

          BTW, if the price on the website says (p) $28.00 it means the wholesale cost of the shirt is $14.

          1. pancakes*

            That sounds like a really good option.

            I just remembered because I got an email from them about new stuff, Girlfriend Collective has nice athleisure-type tops and goes up to 6X. The fabrics are nice quality and partially recycled. Despite the name I think most of the tops are unisex. They also use models of a much wider range of body shapes and sizes than most sites, and tell you which sizes the models are wearing.

        2. Siege*

          One of the main things to be aware of with women’s clothing is that most women are not one size. My bust is a 20W, my waist is an 18W, and my hips are a 26W; I’m 6’4″, and my leg inseam is average because my torso is very long, for example. Add to that that for all practical purposes we should consider shoulder length a defining measurement, but don’t, and you have the answer to why almost no woman is well served by clothing manufacturers: they’re making clothes for people who literally don’t exist. Unfortunately, the general consensus, reinforced by our society’s fatphobia, has been to make clothes smaller, because it’s actually hard to make off-the-rack clothing that fits multi-sized people well, and you get more multi-sized the larger size you go. And it’s worse when your narrowest measurement isn’t the one that manufacturers want it to be.

          OP, I personally hope you fight this policy like hell and I hope you win, because I think you’re right. But if you can’t, even aside from the patch option, there may be something to tailoring uniform items to try to make them look better-fitted, which will read as more professional. That obviously does not help your report, which is why the policy should be scrapped. You could probably also add a passive-aggressive explanation you use when shaking hands for why you’re underdressed, but only if that’s personally satisfying to you.

          1. pancakes*

            I try to be aware of this stuff, and certainly haven’t escaped all of it in shopping for my own clothes, but I wear straight sizes and would need help navigating this stuff if someone put me in charge of ordering clothes for a group. To be clear I’d definitely seek it out if I was in that position, because of what I’ve learned here, but that doesn’t seem to occur to the Bobs of the world. I have a feeling many are going to need to have it spelled out.

    6. Spicy Tuna*

      These comments are all really helpful and interesting! I grew up poor and never had “new” clothing. I was always dressed in hand-me-downs and thrift store clothing, so I am super uninterested in clothing as an adult while simultaneously being very sensitive to being criticized for my appearance. It brings up a lot of uncomfortable feelings from my youth!

      In the workplace, both my hair (super curly) and my clothing have been commented on negatively numerous times (and FTR, I am white and “average” sized; the comments are horrible and make me feel bad about myself, so I totally get that things can be much worse for POC, non-cis, and / or larger folks that have to deal with it more frequently).

      Someone upthread made the comment about there being no expectations about looking good in a company provided uniform, and that’s where I was going with my initial comment about preferring a uniform. But, as someone else pointed out, some people will always look good if they have a “standard” body type – a thought that hadn’t occurred to me, which is why I like this site… someone always brings up a different view point

    7. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

      For me, on the other hand, picking clothes is only a mental burden once per day, but wearing clothes that have to be adjusted or are physically uncomfortable because they don’t fit right is a mental burden all day.

    8. starfox*

      Except you would still have to get things tailored, and go shopping, because the bulk of the letter is about how the company only allows for two collared shirts a year and for the rest of her clothing, she has to go shopping and get it logo’d and tailored.

  16. FG*

    I don’t have a problem with all workers having the same dress code, regardless of rank or job function (as long as there aren’t safety issues, etc. involved), and even if different locations have different rules. That’s not worth raging over. Honestly if a customer visits & sees everyone dressed in a uniform of sorts, how is that even a blip on anyone’s radar?
    LW you obviously have a whole set of class & personal preference issues about clothing that’s a red herring here. The REAL issue is that the uniforms provided – “crappy” or not – are not adequate in terms of allowance or in terms of what can be worn by a given person. There are plenty of uniform providers that offer plenty of choices for women and who offer a wide range of sizes for all. Your best course of action here is to campaign for a change of vendors. Unless there’s a kickback / my buddy owns the vendor sort of situation going on (is there?), that could be a fruitful effort.
    “For those of us who can’t wear the items currently available, we simply can’t spend any more of our own money on custom logo apparel.”

    1. Blisskrieg*

      Really good points. There are so many hills to die on in American workplaces. I respect the OPs point of view, but really have a hard time understanding the extreme significance they are placing on the class aspects of a uniform requirement. I agree that some of this is a red herring. However, the quality, fit and money spent are certainly real issues. I do see where OP did look for a change in vendors. Perhaps banding together with others would help.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Because a t-shirt with a cartoon on it does not convey professionalism. Especially a rumpled one.

      Good grief, people don’t normally meet C-suite folks who are WEARING SUITS in a t-shirt.

      That is OP’s problem. HER plant is out of touch with all the rest of the company, forcing her to look like she doesn’t know how to dress appropriately. Also the cost TO HER to make this one boss happy.

      Not to mention that absolute sexism that men gets multitude of choices and women get fewer. Also the crappy uniform allowance. You want me to wear a uniform — you pay me enough for it.

      1. Siege*

        Thank you. I’m really over the number of people deciding that hierarchies and professionalism are only products of the OP’s imagination. When I worked on the floor of a warehouse, I had no expectation that the office staff would dress the same, and my preference would have been for the company to actually create the path to office work they claimed. When I got semi-close to being offered an interview for a professional position, the recruiter literally started telling me that the written job description wasn’t accurate, it was more this other wildly different job, blah blah. It was hilarious to say “yes, I’ve done that too. It’s on my resume.” She hadn’t read it because I was from the warehouse side and she wasn’t going to hire me, despite my education and professional credentials.

        Compared to that, leveling the dress code is just idiotic. I promise, no one on the floor thinks they don’t exist in a hierarchy with the office staff above them, no matter how many nice middle-class progressive commenters on an advice blog think that’s nonsense.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Exactly. And Bob’s suggestion that it’s demoralizing to have different dress codes is frankly infantilizing – as is some of the outrage in the comments tbh.

        2. Shallow Sky*

          Yep. I used to work at a place where the uniform was a branded company polo shirt and black shorts or pants. The company provided them (two of each; yes, this meant doing a lot of laundry), and I assume if they changed the logo we’d all be issued replacement shirts. I assure you, even when they had to cover for us, management did not wear company polo shirts and black shorts. The one we most commonly dealt with wore a lot of purple blouses. The district manager, the one time I met him, was wearing a suit. If they needed to show that they were part of the team, they had nametags like the rest of us (these weren’t super ugly, just the company logo and the name in block print).

          They weren’t at the same level as us in the corporate hierarchy. We knew that. They knew that. Everyone knew that. My first priority, if I was trying to make people think we were all at the same level, would have been health insurance, not making them all wear the same uniform we did.

          1. Siege*

            Right? There are real and material ways to demonstrate equality and equity and none of them are matching uniforms or pizza parties or having managers serve the food at thanksgiving. They’re benefits you can actually afford to use! They’re being treated with respect, not policed on bathroom use! They’re having your union recognized, not a suggestion box that isn’t used!

      2. Abogado Avocado*


        LW, your tone is not ragey and you are justified in expressing concern about a uniform requirement that doesn’t take into account the needs of your sales position, nor the differing anatomy of a woman’s body, and that has cost you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars over the years. EPLawer is right: if they want you to wear a uniform, they need to pay you enough to do so.

      3. Underrated Pear*

        Yes to all of this. And I want to point out that I have seen multiple comments saying something like “A visitor at the plant will see that everyone is wearing the same thing and they’ll understand it’s company policy.” Maybe – but just because they LOGICALLY know that doesn’t mean they won’t unconsciously be affected by it. It’s come up many times on this site, but *outward appearance affects how people perceive and react to you.* It shouldn’t, but it does. A C-suite man dressed in a suit talking to a woman dressed in an ill-fitting polo shirt and jeans is simply not going to regard her the same way as he would another man dressed in a suit. (And I don’t mean this as a knock against men, I am just pointing out that we all carry around unconscious biases. The same statement would be true if the LW were a man, but being a woman adds another layer of needing to work harder to be perceived as a professional equal.) If the LW’s job performance relies on metrics from these customer interactions, her company is negatively impacting her by not permitting her to portray herself professionally.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Not to mention we don’t KNOW if a visitor will see that everyone is wearing the same thing. If it’s a customer I’m guessing they’ll just be in the office area and will have no reason to visit the work floor.

          1. NNN222*

            Also, if one of LW’s bosses from a different location is also there meeting the client with her, they literally won’t be dressed the same because office workers at other locations do not have this same branded clothing requirement.

        2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

          Yes. Appearances matter, especially when you are customer-facing. I’m not clear but it sounds like customers might be able to see plant workers working as well as being able to see the office staff. But if that’s the case I don’t think someone coming to see the salesperson is going to necessarily pay much attention to the other workers, at least not enough to care that they are wearing the cartoon shirt. But they WILL pay attention to the salesperson who comes to them in jeans and a faded shirt. (to me it sounds like the t-shirts are low quality and so I imagine they are faded and/or the design easily comes off).
          Also, I wonder what would happen if they got a new CEO who was visiting the plant for the first time and sees all the office staff in the same type of t-shirt and jeans as the plant workers. What would the new boss think? especially since all the other locations do not do this. Heck, I’d like to know what the other plant locations think of this plant?

          I think the solution would be that they provide iron on patches that can be easily applied to any shirt.

        3. EPLawyer*

          I mean she literally says in her letter that when higher ups from other plants come visits they are WEARING SUITS. So yeah, it looks really out of touch IN THE COMPANY itself.

      4. Avril Ludgateau*

        Especially a rumpled one.

        I don’t know how you can hold the employer responsible for the “rumpling” of the shirt. That falls squarely on OP and how she cares for her clothes. Put them in the dryer, fold them neatly, iron them if needed. But unless it is a fancy (and expensive) weave designed to have a texture, which I just don’t get the impression corporate t-shirts would be, blaming a jersey knit shirt being “rumpled” on the employer is extremely bizarre and desperately grasping.

        1. NNN222*

          No, different fabrics get rumpled more easily than others. Thin t-shirts on plus-sized bodies definitely become more rumpled throughout the day.

    3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      The blip on the radar is that if you’re looking for the manager, you will not ever think it’s the woman dressed in the same ill-fitting T-shirt as everyone else. If you see one guy in a suit, you know it’s him. If you see one woman in a suit, you’ll look round quickly and if there are no men in suits, you’ll think it might be her, and you’ll approach her to find out. Managers do not wear the same as everyone else, especially if they are the only ones interacting with customers walking in.

  17. Lab tech*

    Maybe ask the hourly workers how they feel about the uniform policy. It could be sexist and fatphobic for them, too – and you’ve got a stronger case if the policy is hurting everybody.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I think there’s a rule that we’re not to try to speculate about the name of the company so as not to out the OP.

  18. bee*

    So, the sizes thing is an actual problem, and the company should be providing options to fit everyone who works there.

    The rest of it… I’m not convinced is an actual issue? LW just wants to dress more formally than the office dress code and has gone to great lengths and expense to do so. And, like… okay? Congratulations? If everyone at your office is wearing company polos/tees and jeans or khakis, I really don’t think anyone will look down on you for it, and honestly I think I would find it way more alienating to be the one person in a blazer. I just don’t see why this is A Big Deal.

    1. Beebee*

      Yeah I agree. When I was reading the first part of the letter I figured it didn’t really make sense as something to push back on because wanting to be more formal but your boss says no falls under “things you have to deal with”.

      The cost / lack of sizing is definitely an issue though and LW will have more traction getting the policy changed if they focus on that element because that’s where the harm is, not in the having to be more casual.

    2. EngGirl*

      Except outside vendors/customers might depending on your industry/location. Or if they’re working with another branch and that branch doesn’t need to follow this policy.

      I’m in a manufacturing plant. We have customers come in in jeans and t-shirts because they’re “at the plant” and we have customers come in in suits. When a customer is here and I’m meeting with them I always err on the more formal side because I feel more professional that way. If my company told me I couldn’t dress in the more professional attire that made me more comfortable in those situations I too would be frustrated.

    3. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      She said it was triggering for her for many reasons, and we’re supposed to believe the LW. Just for example, maybe it’s a big deal because she’s a large woman and we large women are treated like lazy slobs anyway and wearing a rumpled unisex t-shirt doesn’t help us with that stereotype.

    4. Jennifer Strange*

      LW just wants to dress more formally than the office dress code and has gone to great lengths and expense to do so. And, like… okay? Congratulations?

      You say that like the OP is wanting to dress more formally just for the fun of it and not because she meets with customers and they may expect a greater level of polish.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        That doesn’t make any sense when every person at this location that a customer meets with would be dressed the same way. The customers don’t care, they aren’t writing in to complain about the outfits. OP just doesn’t like them. Which is fine, but it’s weird to try to frame it as some sort of objective affront on everyone she has to meet with.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Just because every person that a customer meets with would be dressed the same way doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be a turn off to certain customers. You don’t know that the customers don’t care, and it makes no sense to assert that that is the case just because they “aren’t writing in to complain about the outfits”. Why would they write in to a work blog to complain about such a thing?

          As someone mentioned elsewhere, if customer-facing workers at other plants are being allowed to dress more formally (which it sounds like is the case) it could also make the LW look bad, as though she’s not putting as much effort into presenting herself to customers. Let’s not assume that this is having no effect on the LW and others’ perceptions of her.

    5. Nameless in Customer Service*

      W just wants to dress more formally than the office dress code and has gone to great lengths and expense to do so.

      The fact that LW is a plus size woman is an important piece of context. We have to present ourselves in certain more formal/tailored/dressy ways to help counteract people’s automatic assumptions that we are sloppy and unqualified.

      1. Artemesia*

        Why can’t people see this? If she wears jeans and a cartoon t-shirt, no one will think ‘oh that is the dress code’ — they will think she is a slob. People judge based on what they see, not what is in the rule book. If everyone wears polos and the guys all look put together in them but the smallest size ordered hits shorter women at the knee, or busty women have to order extra large and then it swims like a tent over the rest of them — what is perceived is ‘women who look like they don’t know how to put themselves together.’ No one blames the person in charge of polo shirt selection.

    6. LilyP*

      Yeah I think it was fair to flag a concern about professionalism and appearances, but the boss has clearly said that that’s a tradeoff he’s willing to make for the universal dress code and ultimately that’s his prerogative to decide, as it’s his to deal with whatever consequences to the business might ultimately come out of it. I don’t think it’s worth OP’s time and energy to keep pushing back on the whole idea of a universal dress code or the level of formality in general — she should focus on insisting that the company provide her with enough suitable uniform items that are comfortable for her to wear and that fit her correctly. Honestly, khaki pants + a clean well-fitting branded polo + a blazer is basically business casual anyway and would be totally appropriate for most general business meetings anywhere.

      In the meantime, if there are specific instances where she’s seeing evidence that the clothes are causing an issue (visitors making comments, double-takes/snide looks, a number of sales lost after an office visit, whatever) that is also something that could be worth raising; it’s harder to argue with an actual impact than someone’s opinion on what is not acceptable.

    7. Batgirl*

      It’s quite significant that it is *only* “everyone at the office” and not “everyone in the company”. The LW’s boss is deliberately preventing her from dressing like her role within the company, making her appear different from peers in other locations and choosing, despite her repeated complaints, for her to permanently be out of step with other managers and bosses. What does he care? He’s already in the role he wants to be in, and he has a slim average male body that fits his choices well.

    8. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      It’s a big deal because she needs to dress up when seeing customers! Let’s remember just how much women are judged on their appearance. She has to look the part!

  19. COBOL Dinosaur*

    Instead of buying business clothing and having a logo embroidered on could you have the logo embroidered onto a patch and then attach that to your clothing with magnetic attachments? Then you can move that logo from clothing to clothing?

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      That is what I would do.
      But there is still the expense of having the logo embroidered and it keeps changing.

      Maybe a cheaper screen printed logo on fabric and attach to clothes?

  20. Phony Genius*

    As Wintermute explained above, some companies feel that having the factory floor wear different clothing than the managers can lead to an upstairs/downstairs split.

    The thing here is that Bob believes in this theory, so he wants the whole plant to dress the same way. However, corporate does not subscribe to this, since they don’t do it at every location. So my question is this: should this be a call made at Bob’s level? Should the company have a single culture, or can the corporate culture vary by location?

  21. Sweet 'N Lower*

    If OP can’t get the dress code changed, maybe she could convince management to at least reimburse employees for embroidery costs? It wouldn’t fix the issue, but it would at least relieve some of the financial burden from employees.

  22. Chickiepunk*

    This policy is bananas. I’d be tempted to embroider a reflective vest with the company logo and wear that over my dress clothes every day.

    1. JK78*

      LOL. I love it! Someone else used the term of “malicious compliance” and this would be a PERFECT way to do it, a NEON VEST that would blind Bob!!! He’d need to pull the shades in his office! But seriously, my boss almost always wears a black vest. I don’t know how much they cost, I don’t know where she got them from, but when I was growing up I had a ton of sweater vests which were my epitome of “dressing up.” Since there’s a shirt under the vest, they wouldn’t need to be washed as much? Hence they’d last longer? Or maybe even make some of the crappy t-shirts INTO a vest? But maybe vests aren’t acceptable…

      Plus, the LW has already spent MORE than enough personal money in company logo shirts, I’d vote to wear the crappiest cartoon shirt on the biggest Boss Visit Day. Compliment the Big Boss’ attire and explain that the washer isn’t broken, it’s just that the crappy cartoon shirt IS acceptable at this location. Heck, have a spare crappy cartoon shirt for the Big Boss, as they are OUT of uniform at that location!! Better yet, mention THAT concept to Bob and see if HE will run with it. Because the hourly workers seeing someone all spiffed up might hurt their feelings after all!?

  23. CommanderBanana*

    Bob sucks.

    My (thankfully now former) boss used to insist that we get crappy screen-printed t-shirts to wear onsite at our conferences, despite the actual conference dress code for staff being business, and the crappy t-shirts were not something I would have even felt comfortable wearing in our office. Not sure why she thought that this was appropriate for our fairly formal conferences when a screen-printed T-shirt wouldn’t even be in dress code in our actual office, but that was #hernamelogic.

  24. LDN Layabout*

    Considering a number of commenters have pointed out that uniform uniform requirements are not uncommon in manufacturing/engineering facilities, would you change your advice to the LW?

    (Fair enough not being aware if you haven’t ever worked in those industries)

      1. LDN Layabout*

        Fair enough, I saw it as more generalised pushback vs. specifics but the offerings available do need to account for differences in sizes and male/female cuts.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Especially since illfitting clothes in manufacturing can frankly be dangerous

    1. Jess*

      Haven’t a fair number of commenters who work in manufacturing also pointed out that differences in manufacturing versus office dress is also really common? Because I work in manufacturing and that’s how it is at all of my company’s plants.

    2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      I don’t feel that the OP’s problem is that she has to wear a uniform. It doesn’t seem like everyone wheres the exact same thing. It’s more everything has to be branded and the offerings for women and plus sizes are very limited compared to the men’s. (I’d be interested to know if the men’s goes above 2X? I bet it does). Or you can get your own clothes branded at your own expense. I don’t think the OP would have a problem if they paid for her to embroidery clothes of her choice. Or if they had more options that worked for her.

  25. soontoberetired*

    Occassionally, we have to wear branded clothing at work and years ago the sizing issues were brought up, and things got better somewhat. We still have issues the few times they want us to wear logo items despite the fact that anyone with eyes can see we have a lot of large people in the office! It is frustrating as one of those people.

    but the employees who do the “dirty work” – mailroom, grounds, clealing, etc, where never expected to dress in that clothing or to follow the dress codes for office workers because they got very dirty in their jobs! (also, our company bought the logo clothing for us on the times we had to wear them). I am perplexed why plant workers can’t wear comfortable clothes.

    1. Siege*

      Seriously. I don’t like doing demanding work in structured pants; they’re uncomfortable to me for bending, reaching, etc. I think it’s both reasonable and necessary to have a dress code that governs safety (no capes, which I have actually seen on a manufacturing floor once!) and content in the sense that your tee shouldn’t have obscenities or slurs or other obviously-horrible content, but beyond that, let people dress for their comfort in their job.

      Bob needs to get off his power trip and the company needs to look seriously at whether they need a “can’t” dress code instead of a “can”.

  26. CatCat*

    If Alison’s suggestions do not work or are not feasible, another thing that occurs to me is to offer Bob an alternative to the shirts. How about name tags with the name and company logo? You can get them with magnets instead of pins so as not to poke holes in clothes. “If management and office workers all wear the tag with names and logos, that will work much better with business attire while also showing hourly production staff that we’re all equally on the same team!” (I think the “we need to same shirts with company name/logo so production workers don’t feel demoralized” is completely silly here, but I suggest this framing if it’s an approach that would work with Bob).

  27. Cake or Death?*

    Maybe get a pin of the company logo and just wear that attached to a regular shirt? Or some sort of similar idea; something with the company logo but removable. An embroidered patch that you can attach to your shirt with 2 magnets?
    Just an idea for “complying” with the dress code without completely complying.

  28. OyHiOh*

    It sounds like this plant manager is threading a very fine line between “dress code” (no legal mandate for employer to pay for clothing) and “uniform” (employer legally required to pay clothing costs). The “any shirt you like, as long as you have the company embroidery” plus minimal annual clothing allowance reads as trying to skirt this line. AND, if I understand the rule correctly, if the company embroidery is required, then the company needs to reimburse that cost.

    1. LlamaDuck*

      +1 This. It sounds like the manager wants a uniform, but it too cheap to actually budget for one.

      Someone needs to call that out specifically.

  29. Observer*

    OP, obviously Alison is right about your general approach. The current setup is ridiculous even if there were appropriate, cost effective options for women in general and plus size women in particular. And you should definitely point out that the courts have been very explicit that if you can point to a dollar cost to people that is definitely a problem.

    In the meantime, look into vendors like LandsEnd – they have reasonably good quality shirts in a fairly high plus size range and they will do the logo stuff. But someone on your end needs to set up the logo authorization. I’m sure they are not the only ones, but they are the ones I know about.

  30. SomebodyElse*

    I like the idea of the magnet ‘pin’ with the logo and just buy and wear any shirt that you would normally buy and wear. You can get them with just the logo vs. a name tag. It sounds like you won’t win this fight, but you can at least be within the ‘letter of the rule’ which might be a good compromise with your plant manager.

    I hate polos, they look like crap on me and what my dad used to describe as a soup sandwich. I do think that with customers and traveling execs you want to be able to dress more professionally.


    (No affiliation or endorsement of this company- just the first one that came up when I googled to give you an idea of what is possible).

  31. LlamaDuck*

    I am legit confused as to how the uniforms are this expensive. I’ve worked at a place where I had to wear scrubs with my name embroidered, and it was clear if you order from Company A, the scrub outfits cost $X, so the employer reimburses you for the cost of four outfits from Company A.

    Did nobody in charge of the budget actually do the math? Why is the reimbursement only enough to buy two shirts, and why don’t they pick a supplier that offers plus sizes?

    I can see the benefit in outfits with the nametag, and I understand how “unisex” polo shirts don’t always work for women. It just seems like this should be fixable by choosing a different uniform supplier. There should be competition, isn’t that what the free market is all about?

    I think the person to target here is whomever is in charge of the budget for the uniforms. If it’s Bob, he needs to understand that the current stipend only covers two shirts, and that’s not reasonable.

    I realize hospitals are different than plants, but every hospital I’ve been at always covered four complete outfits or more. Plus hospitals have onsite laundry.

    This is just ridiculous. People will start quitting if they can’t afford the uniforms.

    1. pancakes*

      This makes a lot of sense. It might be helpful for the letter writer (or someone else among the people who want this handled better) to identify a vendor with a good range of sizes, if the uniform policy has to stay. It sounds like that’s part of the problem, though – even when shopping for shirts to have embroidered out of pocket, the letter writer seems to have had a lot of trouble finding ones that were suitable. I’m not sure it’s realistic to expect the employer to come up with better options for her, after all that.

    2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      It think the OP is paying out of pocket for the embroidery because the company does not have clothing that fits her needs (professional style and large enough).

      You are right, being that the stipend will cover 10 t-shirts (which sound low quality) or 2 more business-style shirts. It should be regardless of your role you get 10 shirts of whatever style. So maybe she could have a few t-shirts, a few button-up shirts and a few polo shirts.

      Or they could make patches that could be ironed on to a button up shirt.

  32. Generic Name*

    What abut making a patch or a pin/button with the company logo on it and attaching it to clothing you are comfortable wearing? Some “pins” can be held on with magnets so you aren’t constantly poking holes in your nice clothing. I’m sure Thin Man with a Blind Spot would purse his lips at that, but he might see it as an acceptable compromise. Do you think he would threaten your review or your job over that? I would hope not.

    I join your rage at how masculine-body centric certain types of clothing are. Give me pants with pockets and a wide selection of outdoor gear that fits my body.

  33. Beebee*

    In the event you cannot change this policy or if it takes a while, could you push for funds to be available for those who have to pay to replace or embroider shirts? Maybe if you’re able to force Bob’s hand he’ll realize he’d rather pay nothing and have you wear what makes sense than pay money to keep up a policy that is just personal preference. Since HR was sympathetic, you could go back to them and mention having had to donate a bunch of clothes and how employees have come to you needing extras. You could say you understand that changing the policy may be difficult/take time/etc but until then, could the company allocate $X per person for t-shirt embroidery / replacement?

    1. Beebee*

      Also if your employer cares at all about the environment / waste, you could mention how it’s very wasteful to have to change everything any time the logo changes.

      I feel like if you can push back on needing to switch when the logo is updated, pushing for a bigger allowance (that covers the cost of embroidery and replacements… people should have at least 5 shirts because that’s how many days they have to work), and pushing for vendors that provide a larger range of options in style and and size then you might be able to come to a compromise. If you could find a high-quality material shirt that looks nicer with the logo (ex a polo, even a nicely made cotton t-shirt, a long sleeved collared shirt) then you could wear it with khaki dress pants and you’d still be complying but could look more professional for higher level meetings? As others mentioned it would also give the hourly / floor workers more options too which I’m sure they would appreciate while still allowing Bob to keep his policy.

    2. LilyP*

      I think Bob’s response to the embroidery reimbursement would be “nobody’s requiring you to get shirts embroidered — if you don’t want to spend the money on that, don’t, and just wear the company tshirts”. But there should definitely be enough shirts and replacement shirts provided that nobody has to worry if one gets damaged.

  34. Ann O'Nemity*

    As a manager, I wouldn’t expect my company to buy shirts for me. The LW complains that they’ve spent hundreds on shirts over the past few years – but buying clothes exclusively for work sounds super normal to me. And I think logos can look perfectly professional on nicer dress shirts and polos, so I don’t necessarily disagree with Bob on wanting to keep one dress code across the board. The bigger issue, in my view, is that the free shirts unequally benefit men.

    1. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

      LW is having to pay to have the logo embroidered which is straight up ridiculous.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      If it were clothing I could wear outside of work as well that would be one thing, but when it’s attire that’s specific to the company I feel the company should provide it, even if they just provide a pin to wear on the shirt.

    3. LTR FTW*

      Logos might look professional on polos, but polos are not particularly flattering on plus sized women. I’d hate to have to wear one for work.

    4. Beebee*

      I know it’s normal to have to buy clothes for work, but if my company was requiring me to specifically wear things that there’s no chance I already had in my wardrobe nor could I use at a future job I would expect them to cover it. Otherwise I see it as having to pay to work there. It’s a similar argument to people feeling that strict, professional dress codes should come with some sort of stipend so those who make less money or are poorer are not disadvantaged. I think the same can apply even if the clothes in question are t-shirts or jeans and not a suit.

      Again, I know a lot of jobs make people pay for their clothes but I think that is something we should seek to challenge about work / jobs in general!

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        I’ve thought about this angle too, but most of my work clothes are exclusively for work. You do make a good point about being able to wear them at future jobs, though. I guess I’m just used to shouldering some unreimbursed business expenses, and it sounds pretty normal.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I’d be pretty torqued if, like the OP, I had to replace every shirt in my work wardrobe every time my company changed its logo on my own dime. There’s reasonable expenses with maintaining a work wardrobe that can move with you between employers (a bunch of my work clothes are old enough to vote and one suit can drink alcohol), and then there is this nonsense

      2. I AM a Lawyer*

        Also, the LW has to regularly get rid of the logo clothes she’s purchased and buy new ones because the logos keep changing. That’s different from the requirements to purchase business casual work clothing.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Yeah. I need button-down shirts and slacks? I need a blazer or a cardigan? I need a proper suit? Well, I’m probably opting out of that last job, but those are all within reasonable business expectations (the suit is just more formal than I want my day-to-day job to be.)

          I have to wear *branded* clothing? Even before you start changing the branding every year or whatever, that is now something I cannot use when I leave, and I will expect to be provided with appropriate clothing by the company.

          I had one job where I did need branded business-wear when in front of clients. They provided it. And when people left that company, they’d offer any such shirts still in decent shape to others who were still there, because who the heck is gonna wear a button-down shirt with their *Former Employer* on it? Never mind if it’s their former employer’s old logo.

          I do still have one of the sweatshirts from there. It was a *really nice* sweatshirt, very good quality. I sewed a patch over the logo & name. But if it had been, say, a subsequent logo & name or a new company’s, it wouldn’t work – you can tell it was added after, it doesn’t look perfect or well done. But it does look good enough for casual wear.

          1. pancakes*

            I think there are a number of retailers that give employees fairly generous discounts, because they want them wearing the clothes in the shops. I know J. Crew does.

    5. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      Whether something is professional-looking is context-specific. I’m a lawyer and going to a meeting with other lawyers in a polo is not a thing I’ve ever seen. It’s pretty clear from the letter that the people she’s meeting with are dressed differently from her unless she buys something and embroiders it.

    6. Hlao-roo*

      When I buy clothes for work, I pay for them. There are no logo requirements, so I can wear the clothes outside of work and I can use them until they wear out.

      The differences in the LW’s situation are:
      1) she has to pay for the logos to be embroidered, which adds to the expense of the shirt
      2) because the shirts have logos, she (probably) doesn’t want to wear them outside of work
      3) because the company changes names and logos every few years, the clothes are obsolete before they have structurally worn out

      I think those three factors increase the frustration the LW feels toward the dress code. I know they would for me.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        #1 and #3 would piss me off so much. I generally get 10-20 years out of my work clothes (my size and shape are pretty stable) unless I spill something on them that can’t be removed so having to get a logo embroidered on all my shirts and then have to get rid of the shirts, replace them, get new shirts, and then get a new logo embroidered would be a solid F— Off from me.

    7. Temperance*

      The difference is that these shirts can’t be worn -anywhere- else. If she gets a new job, she’s not going to wear an Acme, Inc. embroidered shirt to work, whereas a general business wardrobe can be repurposed.

    8. Esmae*

      Aside from not being able to wear these shirts if she ever changes jobs, it sounds like the logo and company name change fairly frequently, requiring all-new shirts.

    9. AnotherLibrarian*

      If my company wants me to wear their logo on my clothing every day, then they are going to pay for it, because it is not clothing I can use outside that job and that logo cycle. It’s more like an office supply than a piece of clothing. When I buy nice work clothing, I’m making an investment in myself and my wardrobe. I have work pieces that I’ve literally owned for ten years and worn through three jobs. Tailored wool suits can last a lifetime if you take good care of them. The initial investment was well worth the pay off. A logo covered shirt is not going serve me for a decade.

  35. Phil*

    Having to pay for company branded clothing is ILLEGAL here is the Great State Of California. If clothing required on the job has a logo the company must pay for it.

    1. Mannequin*

      Yep, my husband’s company supplies him with work branded uniform tees on a regular basis, and has also periodically gives out hats, beanies, hoodies, work jackets, and so on. They reimburse up to $X for work boots.

  36. Alex*

    Because I’m an asshole, I’d be tempted to print out a bunch of stickers with the company logo on them and just slap one on my outfit each day.

    1. Alice Watson*

      I was just going to suggest the same thing…great malicious compliance idea. I really do wonder what would happen, after all the spirit of the policy is being followed so why not.

  37. Critical Rolls*

    For those who are reading this as classist, a different take: I read this as Bob “appeasing the hourly workforce” in the tradition of pizza lunches — empty gestures from clueless higher-ups. The allowance sounds completely insufficient for people doing physical labor, and they probably have the same issues with size and uniforms being rendered unwearable by logo changes.

    1. pancakes*

      Yes, it seems abundantly clear to me that that’s what she meant. I don’t know how quite so many people landed someplace else.

      1. Myrin*

        Probably because there’s an unpleasant tendency in many readers of this site to want to read OPs in the worst possible way; this is certainly not the first time it happened. (Also, this letter specifically is very long and starts out with the part people object to. If the sizing, cost, and sexism/fatphobia had come first, I suspect the tune would’ve been different for many.)

        1. pancakes*

          That’s probably some of it, yes. I think part of it is also that some words and phrases are hot button words for people, to the point that it’s almost like other text and context goes blurry in relation.

    2. lazuli*

      Yes, it sounds like Bob is doing some weird performative thing that doesn’t actually help the people he claims to support, and also makes things worse for other people while complicating their ability to advocate for change.

    3. Making up names is hard*

      Yeah the only reason the folks doing manual labor might not care as much as that they might feel the graphic goofy free shirts are fine for their work, precisely because they do get sweaty, dirty, etc. Otherwise, have two shirts seems completely ridiculous.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        Yeah, my husband works in manufacturing, and I know he’d be perfectly happy to have free crappy tshirts to work in, because FREE! (Where he works, people wear whatever they want, paid for from their own pockets.)

        But that’s because he doesn’t NEED to look “polished” or “professional,” and it’s not expected of him.

    4. Batgirl*

      Yeah, it wasn’t difficult inference for me either given the massive cues that she was complaining about her boss’s faux bonhomie. Some people can’t resist an overly literal reading if it gives them a chance to be outraged in virtuous fashion though.

  38. djc*

    Before I got into the details of the letter, I thought maybe the OP worked at Honda. Everyone there – from the assembly line to corporate wears the same uniform – white pants and some type of white long sleeved shirt/jacket thing. I’ve been to the credit union and the employees there wear the same uniform.

    1. Anna*

      I would absolutely quit my job over having to wear white pants every day. A uniform is fine, but white pants are a deal breaker.

      1. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

        Yeah, that’s basically ‘say you don’t want to hire people who menstruate without *saying* you don’t want to hire people who menstruate.’

      2. BubbleTea*

        I had a job where bodily fluids, including blood, were an inevitable daily occurrence and we were required to wear white tunics (I was not a butcher). It was ridiculous.

  39. Sad Desk Salad*

    If all you need is the logo somewhere on your outfit, I think the often-proposed patch/pin suggestion is a great one. Bonus, it keeps your fast fashion out of landfills. Just because you donate your old logo-ed clothing doesn’t mean it goes on bodies. Poorer people than you don’t want your old-logo clothing any more than you do.

  40. Just Your Everyday Crone*

    I can understand why it’s uncomfortable to be dressed casually when people around you are dressed less casually.* When I’m in meetings with people wearing suits, I want to be wearing a suit. I would feel a modicum less confident if I’m dressed in a way that diverges from how other people are dressed. Clothes sometimes affect how people perceive you, as unfair and ridiculous as that is IMO. So I can also understand a larger woman (as I am myself) being uncomfortable with dressing in a way that looks sloppy, because it activates some of the stereotypes about fat people (“lazy slob” is often used as a synonym for fat people, eg).

    *Although I was once in a meeting where the standard was business formal and someone came in without a tie or suit coat on in an obvious attempt at a power move.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      And the opposite can be true. I work in a place where sometimes I dress causally intentionally, because I am meeting with an organization where wearing a tailored suit would come off a grossly out of touch. The point is, people need the freedom in many fields to dress in a way that allows them to do their job better and fitting in culturally can be a huge part of that.

  41. Purple Cat*

    I’ll try to avoid the classism that Alison says she doesn’t see, but ooh boy.
    “Executives” won’t look down on you for following the protocol at your plant, and for the love of God in 2022 can we please get away from “clothes = professionalism”.
    So, on to the legitimate complaints in your letter – cost and size availability. THIS you can absolutely push back on. Break it down to what is and isn’t available and how difficult it is to comply. If you choose, however, to insist on over-dressing for the company and paying for it yourself – that’s on you. Pick your hill to die on and I don’t think “I insist on appearing visibly different from our hourly workers” is really it.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      “Executives” won’t look down on you for following the protocol at your plant

      OP doesn’t say executives will, but their customers might.

      for the love of God in 2022 can we please get away from “clothes = professionalism”.

      When society does, sure, but until then I see no reason why the OP can’t be concerned about how she is presenting herself to customers in a customer-facing role.

      Pick your hill to die on and I don’t think “I insist on appearing visibly different from our hourly workers” is really it.

      That’s an incredibly uncharitable (and inaccurate) read on what the OP said.

    2. NeedRain47*

      I didn’t read it as “I insist on appearing visibly different from hourly workers.” I read it as “it is ridiculous to not be allowed to dress nicely in situations where dressing nicely would normally be called for.” Which it is. Clothes shouldn’t equal professionalism, but they are currently a consideration, and it’s not wrong to take that into account. Things like appearing in a customer meeting in jeans and a tshirt can affect peoples’ professional reputation. An outside party doesn’t know that OP is dressed that way b/c of a restrictive dress code, but will quite possibly notice the out of sync attire.
      I also think it can lead to *feeling* unequal. If I had to have a meeting with folks in suits and I was dressed in what I wear to Target on saturday, I would be uncomfortable as heck. Maybe it’s not a hill to die on, but just b/c it’s not borderline illegal doesn’t make it okay, or classist.

    3. Yorick*

      I think it’s better to consider the real world when we give advice. Do you honestly think a customer is going to see the same level of professionalism if you’re wearing a goofy company-branded t-shirt as they would if you were wearing a suit? This also goes for poorly-fitting polo shirts versus more formal business wear.

      Best case scenario is that customers are going to realize this is a rule and think less of the company as a whole. But some customers may have been to other branches to meet with someone who was dressed better and in that case they will absolutely not think that. Whether they think less of the company or the employee, the company may lose business because of Bob’s policy.

    4. Susie Q*

      “clothes = professionalism”

      This will never every go away. Clothes and your appearance will always greatly impact people’s opinions of you.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        And we should take OP at her word about how much that perception matters in her position.

      2. pancakes*

        Maybe if we develop exoskeletons of some sort, but until then, yeah, that’s not going away anytime soon, for reasons much larger than this one letter writer’s phrasing.

      3. AnotherLibrarian*

        Yes, exactly this. Sometimes dressing the part is wearing a hoody to a meeting, so you fit in with the radical hippies who you need to sign some paperwork and if you wore a suit, you’d be “the Man!” and other times, it’s putting on a suit, because you need to appear polished for a meeting with coal executives. The point is, clothing is sending a message and how you dress at work does matter. I think we should trust that the Letter Writer knows when she says it matters at her position.

    5. Spreadsheets and Books*

      >Pick your hill to die on and I don’t think “I insist on appearing visibly different from our hourly workers” is really it.

      You seem to be missing the end of that thought. Based on a more charitable and less critical reading of the OP, she doesn’t want to appear different from hourly plant workers not because she thinks she’s superior to them as a person, but rather because *she has a different job with a different function, and dressing in more traditional office attire is better suited for her position.* Particularly because managers in other locations don’t have to follow this inane rule.

      OP all by her lonesome isn’t going to change the societal perception that wearing a suit is more professional than wearing jeans and a rumpled tee shirt.

    6. Jessi the first*

      “and for the love of God in 2022 can we please get away from “clothes = professionalism”.”

      OP can’t fix that for you – she has to live in this society as it is, and as it is currently, people DO judge your professionalism in part by how one dresses. It is completely unrealistic to think OP can ignore this reality without facing consequences.

      OP has a customer-facing role. I do not at all believe it is classist to recognize that this makes a difference. Nor is it classist to recognize that businesses have a hierarchy. I find it obnoxious to pretend that “we’re all equal, see? Same shirts! (but if you need more than we reimburse you for, sucks for you, just don’t eat that week!)” is not classist, but “we are not equal in the business hierarchy here and so we have different clothing /presentation considerations” is.

      1. kupo!*

        Especially when fat people are unfairly judged as being sloppy just based on the size of our bodies.

    7. Nameless in Customer Service*

      I tend to be a fairly left wing commenter who points out bigotry others refuse to see, but I honestly don’t think LW is being classist here. I don’t see her point as being that she deserves “better” clothes for being a “better person” but that her role needs a different kind of clothing than other roles in the company.

      My interpretation may be influenced by also being a large size woman who has to deal with what “properly dressed” means for women vs men and larger sizes vs standard sizes. I would love to get away from clothes = professionalism and I hate the “that’s the way the world is, don’t bother trying to change it” argument, but I don’t see a practical way of changing that particular attitude until those of us negatively affected by the “clothes=”professionalism” attitude have accrued significant power by gaining opportunities that could well be denied us by people who think we “look sloppy”.

    8. Raboot*

      > “I insist on appearing visibly different from our hourly workers”

      There’s a huge difference between “I refuse to look like them” (your ungenerous take) and “I don’t want to compromise my needs solely BECAUSE someone wants me to look like them”. OP is clearly saying the latter. The problem isn’t matching the factory workers, it’s being forced to match them at the expense of very real needs.

      Office workers who meet with clients have no actual business need to match the factory workers’ dress code.

    9. Eyes Kiwami*

      Clothes are absolutely part of professionalism. It’s why you don’t go to court in food-stained pajamas, you don’t go to a wedding in a plumber’s jumpsuit, and you don’t show up for factory work in a 3 piece suit.

    10. Batgirl*

      “can we please get away from “clothes = professionalism” …. I mean, I could see someone using this line to argue for a MORE flexible dress code, but I don’t see how something this dismissive can make OP any happier with a narrow, inflexible, expensive and sexist one. Clothing options are like money, it’s something that is of no importance to people when they have enough.

  42. Tobias Funke*

    OP, please fight hard on the sexism and sizeism. I truly truly truly hate having to be the rabblerouser who points out that I need a 4x and other folks will need that size and larger, but we gotta do what we gotta do to survive in a terrible society.

    OP, please let the other stuff go. One of the most common refrains here is you get to decide what you’re willing to accept and what’s a dealbreaker for you. Nobody gets to decide what your dealbreakers are nor do other folks have to agree or have the same dealbreakers. But it seems generally unhelpful for you, a person who clearly values autonomy and control over your own body and how you dress your body, to die on this hill. I am not saying get out yesterday – clearly you would have done that if you wanted to – but maybe it’s worth it to explore other situations. The policy is out of your control but how you respond to it is entirely within your control.

  43. Meow*

    Uniforms are a nightmare for plus sized folks. I worked in one hourly office job that required uniforms and the plus size options only went to 1X (maybe a size 14/16 equivalent) and that didn’t fit me. I had to end up wearing mens polos in order to comply with the uniform expectation. We had another woman on our team who was larger than I was and she was unable to fit into the men’s polos also (I think they only went to 2X) so she had to purchase polos and have them embroidered. For both of us this felt very embarrassing because it was obvious we were not wearing the women’s polos because the shape of the shirt and the color choices were different. People did make comments or ask questions all the time about it (not in a rude way, just wondering why I wasn’t wearing the normal thing) and having my outfits constantly scrutinized was so embarrassing for me because it also felt like scrutiny of my body. Also, I don’t know if the LW feels this way but many, many plus size people have been told throughout their lives they look sloppy, they’re a slob or they’re not put together enough – even when wearing nice clothes – and for me, having to wear a men’s polo that didn’t fit my body right strongly reinforced that internalized fatphobia and I felt ashamed and uncomfortable a lot of the time. I just wanted to share this perspective a bit because I wonder if that’s driving some of the feelings here.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      I worked at a country club restaurant/snack bar for about a year (worst job ever for many reasons) and about 6-7 months in they got a new manager who decided everyone should wear polo shirts with the club name on it. The issue is that I’m a mid-sized woman, so I couldn’t fit into the ones they got for women (which I think stopped at 10) but I was positively SWIMMING in the ones they got for men. They just had me wear the men’s shirt, and I looked absolutely ridiculous (I’m short too so it was basically down to my knees). I hated it.

      1. kicking_k*

        Been there, done that. I’ve worked in a couple of restaurants where they had a lot of short-term seasonal staff so they only bought men’s XXL shirts to give as loaners, on the grounds that most employees would fit into them more or less. These were button-downs in one case, so the sleeves were way too long for most women… And I can imagine it would be humiliating to have to ask for a bigger shirt when ordering new ones wasn’t a frequent occurrence.

    2. LW*

      LW here: yes, yes, yes!!! All this!!! I have to be very selective about clothing styles in order to avoid looking sloppy and to try to minimize my problem areas. I also happen to be short, so men’s shirts of any size are way too long on me in every direction, thus increasing the sloppiness. The women’s shirts, that look less sloppy, are typically a much slimmer fit, so they cling to my belly and I just generally feel self-conscious all day. And you hit the nail on the head about having my clothing scrutinized – it is so incredibly triggering to know that people are monitoring and taking note of my clothing, especially when I feel so unattractive in it. Thank you for understanding exactly what I’m saying.

  44. She of Many Hats*

    And include the overall higher than stipend cost and low quality of the provided uniforms such that line workers must replace them more frequently at their own expense.

  45. Uniform Unicorn*

    I have never had to wear uniforms, so I not sure how I feel about them, but there are certainly more serious issues to worry about.

      1. NeedRain47*

        Go get a polyester shirt that’s extremely ill fitting and is tight/loose in the wrong places. Make sure it’s ugly. Overpay for it. Wear it five days a week for ten hours each time. See how you feel then.

        People are allowed to be concerned with their own problems, even if its not the biggest problem in the universe. They’re also able to have more than one concern at a time. Its not necessary for you to be dismissive just because it’s not a problem you’ve had.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Not just one! Multiple! And then the logo changes again so you have to get a whole new set! Also, meet with customers or executives (in suits) while wearing this (or a flimsy shirt with a cartoon character on it).

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter and isn’t impacting the OP. Don’t be rude.

    1. Yorick*

      A uniform policy that’s harder for women or fat people to comply with unless they spend a ton of their own money is plenty serious.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      I mean I think having to spend hundreds of dollars of your own money to wear something that makes you feel like crap, and makes you look unprofessional while dealing with customers and executives is a pretty serious issue.

    3. SnappinTerrapin*

      This letter raises several issues more serious than the abstract question whether some type of uniform is appropriate.

      Even if you start with a baseline assumption that wearing uniforms is a good business decision, LW has raised some valid concerns about the uniform policy in her workplace. A good idea, implemented badly, looks an awful lot like a bad idea to the folks who live with the consequences.

  46. Anony*

    I worked at a company with very similar policies, almost everyone had to wear branded shirts daily. I do not think you will get far with removing that requirement. Side note- I noticed you’re assuming that the “hourly workforce” doesn’t care if you wear branded clothes too; I like the suggestion upthread about a survey about uniforms because you don’t really know if that’s true. I actually learned to appreciate some of the pro-uniform arguments while at the company (worth noting it wasn’t in the US), although I still prefer wearing my own clothes in my current role, and it’s possible that others at your plant do like the uniform.

    Instead of trying to eliminate the requirement, I would focus on making the options better for you and everyone. As Alison says, push back in writing on the fewer options for women and in larger sizes. Inform them in writing of the expenses you are incurring and that you want the company to cover those costs for you and your team. I wouldn’t push back on the “rumpled t-shirts” because no one is forcing you to wear them, it’s just one option, but I think you’re well within your right to propose another, more formal style as an option for you and other managers. At my former job we did end up getting approval for a nicer brand of polo shirt and it made a big difference in comfort all around.

    1. Yorick*

      The t-shirts are cheaper (and sometimes free), so one can buy several t-shirts instead of only 2 collared shirts. It sounds like if you want enough clothes to wear to work, you have to go for the t-shirts.

      1. Anony*

        That’s exactly what she could push back on and request a bigger budget for more and better quality shirts. All I’m saying is I wouldn’t push back on anyone wearing the t-shirts, since it could be more convenient for them.

  47. Emboot*

    Some insight to help offer better options for company shirts (which is only part of this issue). As someone who used to work in promotional products (we did lots of corporate shirts) – there are lots of options for plus sized women’s shirts from a company called SanMar that go up to 4X – and not just tshirts either. They are one of the biggest suppliers in the industry too so most places should have access to them.
    I encourage anyone whose company is offering only expensive or limited options to find a printer that can better source options and and help plan orders to lower pricing. There are ways to make this more accessible without a ton of effort.
    I wonder if they would accept a nice company logo magnetic “name tag” that you could add to any blouse so your shirt is branded?
    I bring these points up in case it may help others too!

  48. Meep*

    All I can think of while reading this and the comments is Dr. Suess’ Sneetches.

    As a woman in a male dominate-field, I am used to ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ when it comes to wearing clothing. If I look too feminine by wearing a dress or skirt, it shoots my credibility. If I don’t look polished and don’t wear mascara, it shoots my credibility. And here we are with a (presumed) man being whiny that he cannot wear a button-down shirt.

    The privilege. I swear.

    1. Yorick*

      Maybe read the whole post before commenting? OP says she’s a woman and describes why the uniforms that are available are problematic.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      OP is a woman. A plus-sized woman. I don’t think she’s the one with “privilege”.

    3. Anna*

      You’re complaining about privilege while presuming, despite explicit text in the OP stating to the contrary, that a person who works in a manufacturing setting must be a man. The problem you’re describing is literally part of the same problem she’s asking about, with the added problems that come with working at a place where the uniforms for women are too small for her body. I’d think about examining your own internalized sexism on that one…

  49. benny*

    I dunno, this seems like a great dress code to me? And pretty normal with production environment norms.

    Well, teasing it out, it seems like maybe OP has mis-diagnosed what’s actually bothering her?

    Like if the dress code is “you can wear whatever you want as long as it has the company logo on it” then that’s really inclusive as far as gender and weight concerns, right. Like styles of cut and everything, it’s a free-for-all, the open-endedness of it is pretty inclusive.

    BUT! When the company buys in shirts, choices are too limited and none fit OP.

    So it seems like the real problem is the procurement decisions around sourcing branded clothing, NOT the dress code as such. There aren’t that many shirts provided by the company, and when they are, they don’t really fit all the employees. So OP is feeling frustrated because the company-provided apparel doesn’t fit DESPITE the dress code being so open. The laxness around cut and pattern on clothing just makes it worse, not better, that the company won’t (not can’t, won’t) source clothing that fits all employees.

    Are the cartoon shirts coming from a local silkscreening shop or something? Who does procurement? Maybe change loop on ordering, send around survey for sizes, then send order to shop, “this many this size, that many that size”, like that.

    Conversely, maybe go direct to Lands End, or Dickies, or Carhartt. Lots of clothing brands have a business account setup where you can order in bulk quantity and have logos added. Heck buying in industrial clothing and adding logos is its own kind of business; Red Kap comes to mind, go from XS – 4XL for women’s sizes. (Although it’s one of those companies where it’s like “and! You can have it in any of these four shades of blue, that you want.”)

    Finally, rather than getting shirts embroidered, what about getting logo patches in bulk? Just checking Imprint.com they’re like $3 each for 2″x2″ with less than 7 colors for any style (sew-on, iron-on, peel-and-stick, velcro; costs look similar) ($4/ea at 4″x4″). Well, that has a 50 piece minimum, would work spring for that? Just buy 5 or 10 patches for everybody, per-unit prices would look even better… it’s $535 for 500 4″x4″ patches. Then you can buy whatever shirt/blouse you want no problem and add the company patch.

    So if OP wants to dress more formally than required than dress code and the logo thing makes that harder, I think that’s solvable, but will require more Accountant Brain about like, setting up a business account with your preferred shirt/blouse company to have them logo-ize them for an ordered set of clothes, or something.

    But it really seems like what’s actually really bothering OP isn’t “our dress code is too lax” but “our dress code is too lax and STILL company shirts don’t fit”. Like “dress code is too lax” seems like it kind annoys OP, but that just makes the “and cheap T-shirts still don’t fit” worse because that should be easy.

    1. Yorick*

      I agree with a lot of what you’ve said. Except OP is definitely not mad that the dress code is too lax. OP is mad because the dress code is restrictive in that you have to wear something with a logo (but you’re right that the real issue is the company doesn’t provide a sufficient variety of branded items).

    2. SomebodyElse*

      The logo embroidered patch with the peel and stick could be used with the magnet type blank nametag. Which is where I was going in my comment above. Then the OP could dress how she wants and still remain compliant.

      Of course I’ve been known to adhere to the letter of law vs. the spirit by physically carrying my ID badge vs. wearing it for 2 years at one point. My security guy tried to catch me not having it and finally had to concede that A. I was a pain in the butt and B. I had complied with company policy and C. He was disappointed he could never catch me without it.

  50. Here we go again*

    Another point, If it’s a factory setting, and they are only buying male t-shirts and requiring female staff to wear baggy shirts made for men around equipment it can be major safety hazard. Getting a loose shirt caught in moving equipment can be fatal. Buying shirts that fit all employees is going to be better for everyone.

    1. LMB*

      It’s also just extremely uncomfortable and limits your range of motion. I threw on one of my husband’s tshirts the other day and after an hour I couldn’t stand it–I couldn’t even sit and type comfortably. The sleeves on men’s shirts just get all twisted and bunched–they are too long and get pulled forward if you have breasts!

      1. BroadShoulders*

        That’s not “all men’s shirts are uncomfortable for all women to wear”, that’s “I put on a shirt that wasn’t in my size range and it was uncomfortable for me”. I wear men’s t-shirts all the time and prefer them, strongly, over women’s t-shirts.

        1. Anna*

          Shockingly, different people have different bodies. You may prefer men’s cut t-shirts, while other people (of various genders) may prefer women’s cut t-shirts. This specific sub-thread is about women who are forced to wear clothes that are too big for them because the available sizes, which don’t fit OP because the largest size is too small, might also not fit some other women if the smallest size is too large. If the company is going to require a specific uniform that can’t be satisfied with clothing available in stores in a variety of shapes, sizes, and price ranges, then the company has a responsibility to provide that clothing to employees in sizes and shapes to fit everyone.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            And also they should be willing to replace their employees current clothing compliment every time the logo changes. And doing so shouldn’t be taking away from the employees’ compensation by requiring employees to pay for it. The entire situation as outlined in the letter is… it could just be incompetence on Bob’s part, and gods know that there’s plenty of well-meaning but incompetent managers out there, but it feels like Bob’s trying to pull something somehow (maybe a family member owns the uniform company he’s using? he’s trying to skirt around paying for uniforms by calling it a dress code? I don’t know, something’s just pinging me big time on this).

  51. anon4eva*

    OP- it’s not really a fix for getting out of the dress code, but to get around it, could you get a vest made with the employer logo on it and just wear that? You wouldn’t have to think about wardrobe as much and it may help highlight the futility of whatever optics your manager thinks they’re making.
    I also think it’s completely out of touch that Bob cares more about something as abstract as perceived income inequality, rather than a tangible employment issue he could tackle like sexism, weightism, etc. coming from an actual employee. He’s a terrible person as well as an inept manager.

  52. LMB*

    I absolutely hate this entire situation. HATE it. But I want to add that I wouldn’t assume that Bob is inventing the problem of not wanting the plant workers to complain. I once worked for an organization with union employees and management employees in the same small building, and I don’t recall dress code being an issue but every other little inconsequential thing was. It didn’t matter if it literally prevented you from doing your job or it led to the company wasting money, as long as it prevented people from complaining (and believe me, complain they did at every tiny opportunity). The argument that different people have different jobs and thus the parameters of those jobs should reflect that was completely useless.

    1. Yorick*

      I’ve seen people who work at correctional facilities complain because administrative employees who worked off-site were allowed to wear open-toed shoes. The closed-toe requirement is about safety, and there’s no safety issue for off-site workers!

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Usually when this happens it’s a reflection of bigger frustrations being cast on something that feels more tangible. Like Alison points out, employees probably care more about their pay than they care about uniform parity. But uniforms are easier for everyone to focus on.

      1. LMB*

        In the specific case of my example pay really didn’t even seem to be the issue as most of the people complaining made a lot more than the people they were complaining about, so I wouldn’t even assume it’s about that. But in this case I wonder if the plant workers are concerned that somehow management employees wouldn’t have to continue paying out of pocket for branded clothing and they would, and that’s what it’s really all about. As the LW and Alison point out though, this isn’t a management-specific issue and it a solution is needed for everyone.

  53. whistle*

    OP, this doesn’t solve your overall concerns, but if you do continue to embroider the company logo on your own clothes, check with your local libraries to see if any of them have embroidery machines. Mine do, and you can use the equipment for free and you just pay for the thread used.

  54. SongbirdT*

    Hi, OP! 100% agree that this policy ain’t great, and I am also not a fan of mandatory tees that aren’t designed for curvy femme bodies.

    Alison addresses your primary points very well (obviously), but if you’re interested in some “live with it” thoughts on how to make it work in the meantime, here are a couple:

    – The “Shacket”: you can sometimes make button downs that are just a smidge too tight work as an over-piece with a solid sleeveless blouse and leaving it unbuttoned. This one works best as biz casual and the sleeves rolled up on me.

    – T-shirt as a blouse: I’ve had to do this one a bunch when a company tee is required for an event but I need to be professional for customers. I wear my suit or blazer + slacks as I normally would, but swap out a blouse for the company tee. To make it look crisp, I’ll steam it rather than iron so I don’t mess up the imprint, then mess around with a French tuck in the front. I’ll keep the same accessories I’d otherwise wear, too. It works surprisingly well, and I tried it after seeing my company execs (women and men) do the same.

    Hope these ideas help, and good luck with getting some positive changes!

    1. LMB*

      These suggestions may work for the OP but the broader issue concerns all the women and people with non-conforming bodies. Honestly I am more concerned about the OP’s team member who works on the floor than I am about the OP.

  55. Sizing is my nightmare*

    OMG I hate uniform shirts so much. I have large breasts and finding *normal* clothes is a nightmare for me. Any time my work has a “we’re all going to wear the same thing! Just tell us your size!” event, it’s always horrible, because my size is *very* brand dependent, and I don’t know until I try it on, and the sizes are often unisex, and unisex often really means “mens.” I hope you can solve this problem, OP- and that *everyone* can choose to wear what they want, but if they absolutely insist on making everyone wear uniforms that they vastly increase sizing and choices.

    1. SongbirdT*

      +1 to sizes being brand dependent! Sometimes a 2x works fine! And sometimes a 2x is the same measurement as a men’s medium.

      +1 to unisex = men’s. So annoying.

      I’ve also found that it’s fairly fabric dependent too. I can give a men’s cut shirt some of my own curves if it’s a softer, drapey fabric. But if it’s a thicker, stiffer fabric I just look like a lumpy box in an ill-fitting shirt.

      1. Sizing is my nightmare*

        Fabric TOTALLY makes a difference! It can be hard to know these things until they arrive too, or at least when I’ve worked at places that would order shirts for the team.

        I used to work in a conservative industry (banking) that required button up blouses and it was horrible- AND this was when I got to choose my own clothes and was not plus size at that point. I’d find a blouse that would button over my abundant endowments, then have a tailor take in the shoulders, arms, and front. SO STRESSFUL and also expensive. I was an admin assistant, and I had to spend so much money to go earn slightly over minimum wage. I did not stay there very long. I’m not sure I could have afforded to- the wardrobe alone! The amount of pantyhose I ruined on the DAILY probably could have funded a small condo down payment.

    2. LMB*

      Yup. I relate to this OP so much. Clothing has been the bane of my existence my whole life. Even when I was thin I was short, curvy, and muscular–a horrible combination for fitting into clothes. Now I need a very large plus size and I totally relate to the fear that if I gain 5 pounds I may not be able to find anything to wear. Trying to explain that to a thin male is next to impossible.

    3. Construction newbie*

      I too absolutely hate that companies brand the men’s clothing as “unisex”. It’s not.

  56. Ms. Clark*

    The reasoning behind this policy is ridiculous. I work as an hourly employees at a restaurant and we have a uniform that we are required to wear. I couldn’t care less that my managers wear professional dress clothes. All that means is that they outrank me in the company hierarchy. That does not in any way mean that they are better humans than I am.

    If our district manager suddenly decided that all managers in the restaurant had to dress like the hourly employees in order to make us feel that we are all important, I would find that to be very offensive and off putting. The restaurant that I work for shows me that I’m important by giving me a decent compensation package for what I do and by having a pleasant working environment.

    1. Nameless in Customer Service*

      I approve of the restaurant you work at and hope to eat there someday.

  57. wine dude*

    My employees get a regular allowance to purchase items with the company logo on them, including clothing. Being a retail biz it’s good advertising.
    By requiring logo wear AND not providing a way to acquire it without spending their own money is effectively reducing their compensation. I’d push back hard on that.
    (But if I was in this situation I would be that guy printing out the logo on a piece of paper and safety-pinning it to my shirt – especially over an old logo when the logo changes.)

    1. LMB*

      A clothing allowance is much better than no allowance, obviously. I think a big problem with this though is that for a lot people–and I think women more than men–sizes can change frequently. Women can gain and lose weight extremely easily as a result of natural hormonal changes, and clothing that is sized “for women” has a lot less room between sizes than men’s clothing does. Gaining 10 lbs can really mean a whole new wardrobe. When you add in things like pregnancy, menopause, even just small injuries than can prevent you from getting as much exercise…well clothing can become a huge problem. And men tend to gain and lose weight in a more concentrated area around the middle, whereas women’s bodies can change significantly anywhere and everywhere.

      1. wine dude*

        Very good point. That’s one reason I make it a regular (monthly) allowance. It’s enough to buy more than one.
        Perhaps pointing that there are companies that do what I do (plus your points) will help OP.

    2. Jake*

      We get an allowance for company branded clothing, and we are not required to wear it, nor are we a retail business. Really, its just one of those nice little perks.

    3. jennifer lovett*

      and NFN but donating TWO bags of crappy logo’d clothes that nobody will wear is such an environmental crush. UGH

    4. LittleMarshmallow*

      Figure out how to use your stipend to have a little name tag with the company logo or even just a button or patch with it and then pin it to whatever you want to wear that day! Bam! All your clothes are now company branded clothes.

      Oh… other side story… our plant “recommended” one year that we all wear these bright orange t-shirts on Tuesday (they had some safety slogan). Sooo my rebellious butt would wear that shirt weekly… but never on Tuesday. I still have and wear that shirt at my new location but never on Tuesday! Don’t tell me what do to do!

  58. Bagpuss*

    Would it be possible to suggest other branded options?
    Maybe name badges with the company logo on and a more general dress code (eg black or khaki pants/skirt, white or red shirt, with name badge, or company brand shirt or polo)
    That might meet the ‘everyone has the same rules’ requirement while allowing more flexibility for those in customer facing roles.

    1. LMB*

      There needs to be more flexibility for people in non-customer facing roles too. I’m still concerned about the other “woman of size” who works on the floor :(.

  59. Jessica Fletcher*

    I wonder if you could pressure Bob by wearing the cartoon shirts for executive visits, and explaining that this is the company provided uniform and you’re no longer spending your own money to monogram nicer shirts. That might create pressure from higher ups that Bob does respect.

  60. Sequoia*

    It isn’t perfect for a lot of reasons, but my employer let’s us store our preferred t-shirt size and cut in a database that folks can access when they order logo wear. When I’ve been involved in ordering logo wear we us that data to ensure the item we’re ordering comes in everyone’s preferred size. We usually end up doing jackets which I find annoying as an employee because I have a lot of them and I won’t wear them outside work, but it is way easier to throw a jacket over my own business clothes when the need for logo wear arises.

  61. Pickled Beets*

    Quite curious whether you could get a custom pin with the logo and name to suffice and make the cost lower than purchasing lots of clothing. Etsy/3-D printing makes this pin idea way more feasible than it used to be. That would make it one time payment and serve the same purpose. Also, a blazer tossed over anything really goes a long way.

  62. Scout*

    My most recent job provided embroidered patches of the logo, that we could sew or iron onto any piece that we want. Could be a cheap option to provide a lot more flexibility.

  63. LW*

    Attempt #3 to post this as a new comment – I’m really struggling with the layout of the comments section for some reason!

    LW here, chiming in again: I really, really appreciate all the feedback and comments! Sometimes my negative feelings about this policy are so strong that I wonder if I’m going overboard. Your shared experiences are very validating.

    I just want to add, too, that I wrote this letter on a particularly bad day, after another failed discussion with management about the policy, and I was angry. I regret my angry tone and ranting, and I didn’t present my concerns in the clearest terms because I was upset. I promise I’m a really good person. :) I’m not a snob or classist, and I don’t want to dress “better” so I can lord over anyone. My snark about perceived inequality was a jab at our plant manager’s belief that different shirts would make our production workers feel “less than”. My frustration comes from being unable to dress appropriately for my job responsibilities because I’m being forced to dress identically to people with a totally different job. And, yes, it’s frustrating to feel like I’m not trusted to select appropriate clothing on my own at this point in my career. I guess the bottom line is that if I want to wear clothing that matches my perception of what a professional manager should wear, while still adhering to the policy, the cost has to come out of my own pocket 100%. The sizing, selection and quality issues are where the policy really hurts the most – and where, honestly, I can throw more money at the issue because of my pay level, but people at lower pay levels cannot. Talk about inequality! The execution of the the policy is canceling out the intended benefit of making people feel like equals. It’s actually doing the opposite.

    And for what it’s worth, I like a good T-shirt, I wear them all the time on my own time, but the ones provided at work are really poor quality. The brand being purchased stretches out of shape and wrinkles severely within about an hour of wear. It almost makes me feel irresponsible to wear them in the office, if that makes sense. It feels like I’m not respecting my leadership role enough to look the part, because my clothes are misshapen and rumpled before the workday even starts.

    Anyway, lots of great advice here, and much appreciation to those who saw through my anger and understood where I was coming from! I’ll give it some more thought and keep pushing!

    1. Siege*

      I really hope you keep pushing and get somewhere, because it really is an equity issue. Is Bob the kind of person who will hear if you’re raising a concern on behalf of someone else rather than yourself? My boss can be that way and it’s usually easier to frame things as “I need X by Y so Lydia has time to do the wrangle analysis” rather than “I need X by Y so I can meet the deadline you gave me.”

      If not, I hope Bob steps on a Lego.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      I just want to say, I don’t think you need to apologize for being angry. This is a frustrating situation, and I know how it feels to be forced to wear something that you not only feel unattractive in, but also under-dressed in considering your position! Having to pay to do so on top of that is just salt in the wound. I really hope we have a good update from you soon!

    3. Michelle*

      Hi LW, I’ve been there before- big girl where nothing available fit the way I wanted, and I refused to wear a T-Shirt or a men’s white dress shirt to a conference. One thing that helps me was to get a button or pin made with the company logo. I got them with a pin or magnet faster so that it could ‘go on’ any kind of garment and I don’t have to bother with embroidery or adding the logo directly. Perhaps that would fit the intent of the dress code for you?

  64. LittleMarshmallow*

    I have “thoughts”. I spent 10 years in a manufacturing plant in a variety of roles including supervisor then moved to a quasi-manufacturing location physically close to corporate offices… the dynamic is weird at both. I too am a plus sized female so I feel LWs pain about the crappy options for women and especially for plus women in the industrial uniform world. I’ve participated in uniform trials for women at work (to very little avail, all the options sucked). I’m luckily allowed to wear my own pants as long as they meet our safety guidelines and I’ve just accepted that a mens 2x (while technically too big on me) is my best option for comfort and functionality (I’m a busty lady and the smaller ones fit waist but don’t let me work the snaps). My company provides uniform shirts and at the site I used to work at they did pants too. So the dumb stipend thing doesn’t affect me. We are also allowed to wear ratty tshirts except for certain tasks if we prefer (and I do prefer), but we generally have to provide them. They can say whatever as long as it’s work appropriate. I wore one that that says “schnitzel happens”today… no one cared.

    I will say… keep fighting the fight for “dress for your day” policies, but be careful about how your are perceived if you insist on over dressing when it’s not needed. Being near corporate we get visitors all the time and I will personally give a heavy eye roll to someone that comes to the plant in office center attire and fight us on appropriate attire for being in the manufacturing and lab areas. It’s always in this sort of “Im too important to follow the rules” way… so yeah, just be careful with comments that you should dress better because they report to you. Focus on “I need to dress a certain way because my job requires it” (and if your job doesn’t require it – then maybe you don’t need to dress that way).

    Also, side note about supervisors in the plant I came from… those that dressed more like the operators were almost always more liked/ respected by pretty much everyone. I don’t think it was what your managers say where it “makes them more comfortable if you look like them”. More that those that dressed like an operator tended to be more willing to get their hands dirty and go help or learn in the plant rather than standing in the control room nicely dressed with a clipboard and never knowing what was going on or helping. That tendency I think lead to a general perception that if a supervisor wore dressier clothes they weren’t very good at their job.

    But seriously, if you have the energy to do it… fight for uniform equality!

  65. Saradactyl*

    I’m Autistic and have major, major sensory issues around clothes, especially certain textures and anything tight. I am also Agender/Autigender, so I am someone who is under the umbrella term of Transgender. I cannot wear a bra due to both sensory issues and gender/body dysphoria issues. I’m also plus-sized. To get around this, I wear layered oversized clothes that do not show my body’s shape much. Most people of my general build wear around a 2x, but I wear a 5x or 6x in order to allow for my sensory issues and concealing a gendered body.
    I am also rather petty and enjoy malicious compliance.
    If I were part of this ridiculous company, I would take/cut the logo off of old, ruined ‘approved’ shirts and just lightly stitch it onto whatever shirt I bought to replace it, including a square of whatever fabric it came from if it was embroidered and not just an iron-on patch. The employer can then cope with me wearing a black t-shirt with a pink square of fabric and the logo stitched to it. Later, I can gently snip the stitches and my shirt is back to normal.
    I did something like this with my winter coat. I work Security, and we can’t wear our uniforms or anything with our workplace’s logo or the word ‘Security’ on it when we enter stores on our way to/from work or on trains/buses. I live far from my workplace and often stop on my way home to do errands. The intense, cold winters in my area mean we can’t just leave our coats in our cars, and winter coats are bulky, so I didn’t want to be bringing a second, non-logoed coat with me. Some of us rely on public transport too, making this requirement even more difficult.
    I used small metal snaps, stitching one side of the snap to each corner of the iron-on logo and ‘Security’ badges and the other side to the corresponding place on the coat, and whenever I need to stop somewhere, I just unsnap these from the coat and put them back on later. My head office thought it was brilliant and had me teach coworkers how to do it.
    But yeah, no one should have to be putting up with this kind of uniform silliness. Especially when the only offerings are putting far more pressure on people with female bodies and larger-sized bodies. If you have the spoons, fight it as hard as you can!

    1. pancakes*

      The snaps are a really clever solution! Great idea. And yes, carrying a second coat with you every day would be ridiculous. Any place that gets cold in winter, that’s going to be very bulky.

      Etsy can be a good place to find supplies like snaps and little magnets in small quantities. I buy things like that sometimes for my little DIY projects.

  66. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

    Let me +1 the “push back as a group” option, and say that whatever strategy you adopt, LW, this should definitely be part of it.

    At my former job (in the same industry I’m in now) the owner of the company got it into his head one day that a company uniform in the form of branded polo shirts seemed like a good idea. It was a small company (less than 20 employees) with absolutely no customer-facing exposure outside of the occasional external client meeting where business casual would have been far more appropriate.

    The immediate not very thinly-disguised grumbling from nearly everyone on staff (including “We’re [teapot reconfiguration specialists], not fry cooks!”* said by yours truly within earshot of Mr. Bright Ideas) ensured that nothing ever came of the plan.

    * Let me state for the record that I _have_ been a fry cook, and the uniforms we were provided with were entirely appropriate for the job. It’s hard work that carries no small amount of risk—boiling oils and fats, anyone?—and is by no means a menial job deserving of scorn and contempt. My objection was to the expectation that a teapot reconfiguration specialist dress for a fry cook’s job for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

  67. Sarah*

    Honestly, why do even the floor workers need a logo on their clothes? Why can’t they just use their own tshirts?

  68. Medusa*

    I would realllly like an update on this. Also, the LOW sounds like someone I’d want be friend with.

  69. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

    My previous comment seems to have disappeared after submission, but I would like to +1 on the “push back as a group” option and say it should be part of your overall strategy. It helped us at my former job, which was a small company with almost no client-facing responsibilities outside of occasional external meetings where business casual would have been the expected norm. There was no need for a uniform whatsoever, and the immediate audible grumblings from the staff in response to the owner floating the idea ended all discussion within an hour.

    Best of luck convincing Bob of the error of his ways!

  70. E*

    I hope you can get the policy changed, and it does seem completely unreasonable.
    If not, maybe you can do something like a lightweight vest or scarf with the company logo over your dressy clothes. Something you can maybe wear multiple days without washing, doesn’t need to be as size-sensitive, and take off easily for a client meeting off-site or whatnot?

  71. Sleepless in Cincinnati*

    Just wanted to add my sympathies to the OP. I’ve never been in a place that required a uniform, but I have worked in offices where jeans and a shirt/sweatshirt were the norm. And I experienced a lot of negativity for coming into the office in a dress daily. People treating me with disdain like I’m a snob for wanting to wear clothes that fit my body. What some people don’t realize is we don’t all have pants-bodies. Some women have small waists and wide hips/thighs, which makes it difficult to buy jeans or slacks off the rack. Dresses are just easier. These kind of dress codes (official or unofficial) do put a larger burden on certain bodies. And it’s so difficult when you’re one of the few women in office and the men don’t understand that you can’t just buy cheapie jeans that fit. Anyway, my sympathies and best of luck.

  72. Orora*

    “We’re allowed to purchase our own shirts and have them embroidered with the logo, ”

    This makes absolutely no sense. If the point is for “everyone to be equal”, how is it equal if a manager goes to buy a well-fitting shirt that looks nothing like what everyone else is wearing, but has a company logo on it? A line employee may not have the money to do that. “Hey, here’s my Gucci shirt that I paid to get a company logo on, and it’s totally equivalent to your cheap Wal-Mart t-shirt! Samesies!” How is that solidarity or equality?

  73. Dawn*

    Silliest thing I’ve maybe seen in my working life was an IT manager (with a huge stick up his butt) who was basically told he was not personable enough and so he came in on Casual Fridays wearing jeans with the full dress top – formal shirt and jacket.

    I’m not entirely sure to this day who he was aiming that little bit of visual commentary at but it looked utterly ridiculous.

  74. Nina*

    I work for a company where about a third of the staff are in office jobs, a third in manufacturing (like in a factory) and a third mainly outdoors. The dress code is ‘no nudity, no obscenity’. The company keeps a uniform appearance by providing the clothes they actually want employees to wear (in sizes up to a real 6X and down to XXS, with limited but equal options for male and female bodies, and formality from ‘cargo shorts and tshirt’ to ‘nice polo and slacks’) and replacing any branded clothing you trash at work at no cost and no questions asked.
    Surprisingly enough, most of the staff wear company clothes most of the time, from the CEO down to the apprentices.

    I don’t know if this helps OP but I’m fair raging about her workplace making staff pay for branded clothes.

  75. Calamity Janine*

    yknow there is quite a lot of good advice in here (including my favourite solution of malicious compliance via embroidered patch brooch). allow me to give some of the direct opposite: Bad Advice You Absolutely Should Not Do!

    1. is there any sort of company picnic? assuming yes, or another social-ish work gathering, get ready to bring your own table and become a problem

    2. arrive to gathering with table and supplies. come wielding not just several sewing kits with thread to best match the latest few rounds of crappy t-shirts (AND some basic printed out how-to-sew-and-mend-holes pamphlets), but an attitude that this is a gracious service you are providing for the benefit of employees. you’re helping everyone make their work resources last, after all! and why, now at the company picnic, it’s a perfect time to sit in the shade and maybe patch some holes in those shirts!

    3. pull out phase two of supplies – your nuclear weapon. puff paint. not only do they still make it, it’s having a veritable renaissance thanks to nostalgic 90s kids. present it with an absolute straight face as a necessary part of patching up old uniform shirts to be worn longer. any place the print has started to fade or flaked away? well you know the cure! it is Freehanding In The Details With Puff Paint! because that totally lets everyone know about the quality of products and professionalism of staff here

    4. if it’s a company picnic often attended by families, pick up a few blank t-shirts and invite kids to come make a shirt for their parent(s) to wear. don’t worry! you printed out templates! they’ll all be properly branded! (in neon orange puff paint)

    5. finally, come wearing the coup de grace: an old company t-shirt you have gone fully buckwild “pinterest t-shirt transformation” on. just pick the wildest one, or one that most does something unfortunate to the chosen cheesy logo print. not that you should show up in a bikini top somehow made from a t-shirt but definitely run into the “summer looks most ideal for 16 year olds, people who go to Coachella, or 16 year olds at Coachella” side of the possible fashion lifehacks. did you not do the greatest job? does it fit somehow even worse? GREAT! print out some fun instructions off pinterest so anyone interested can take a pamphlet too!

    if the company picnic is not for only your plant, but also includes those who do not suffer under Bob’s delusions of a uniform policy… even better! cheerfully explain to all those who come up to be confused that this is something you’re doing to help employees best adhere to Bob’s dress code (and Bob’s choice in uniform t-shirt quality). because you were looking over your budget and decided to count up how much you’ve paid for embroidery services on shirts that don’t fall apart on the third wash, and gosh golly goodness! it sure was a lot! and as a caring manager, you know that if it’s a stressful line item in your budget, just think about how much more stressful it must be to your workers who have less salary and more hard wear on their clothes…

    a wide-eyed expression of perfect innocence will help sell this whole deal.

    Bob will surely notice and get angry. but then just lay all the problems at his feet and ask what else he would have you do about all these problems? maybe you two should run it up the flagpole, solicit input from the other plants about their solutions to these problems…?

    (the actual input you are looking for is, of course, them looking at the problem and going “Bob you soggy ham sandwich did you even think about any of this”.)

    by the time it hits that point, well, a solution will be within sight!

    …probably because you will have been fired.

    that is why this is bad advice that should not be followed and is offered for entertainment purposes only. but, yknow, have a little daydream and a good giggle over this, it’s what it’s here for

  76. What a way to make a living*

    Yeah, your point was clear, it just doesn’t really seem to apply to what the LW is describing as her issue.

  77. Nina_Bee*

    Is there a possibility of creating an embroidered sort of brooch, that you can pin onto clothing in a discreet way that still looks like it’s embroidered? That way you could just buy any clothing and pin it for the day. I’m thinking of those patches people stick to jackets or jeans, but making it attachable rather than sewn/stuck on? Just an idea (if it’s feasible in your situation)

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