United’s defense of refusing to board certain passengers who are not properly clothed is just the latest in a series of dress-code dust-ups. Professor Scafidi’s new Think Tank column for WWD explains the changing legal and social environment for attempts to regulate attire.
Today, law is leading the charge against compulsory conformity in workplace dress, at least in key jurisdictions — but even many fashion companies remain unaware of the new rules. Gender-specific dress codes, for example, are prohibited in New York City. A company could theoretically require dresses and heels for female employees, but it would have to do the same for male employees.
Mandatory uniforms are permissible, but only if there are no restrictions on which items are worn by men and which by women. After a discussion of this policy at the annual Fashion Law Institute symposium last year, over 20 well-known fashion brands reported that they had changed their dress codes, and others continue to follow suit.