Jeremy Bullmore: Suits you

Can creative staff dress too casually?

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
I work in a large advertising company in the West End of London, where I manage a team of about 20 creatives.  The problem is that their idea of 'business casual' and mine are somewhat different. I've tentatively addressed the problem with them before, but I'd only been at the company for nine months, so didn't want to go throwing my weight around when I was still a newbie. But now, given all the glorious weather we've been having, it's only a matter of time before the tatty denim shorts and flip-flops rear their ugly heads again. How do I break it to them that they're not acceptable work attire?

A: The reason your company is in business is because your clients want to buy what your company makes. What your company makes are ideas and words and pictures and pieces of persuasion that your clients don't have the internal resources to produce for themselves. Without your creatives, you'd have nothing to sell.

So, as the manager of these creatives, your role is to make their job as productive and rewarding as possible. By that I don't mean you should meekly accede to every petulant demand they might make. I mean you should try to understand what it's like to be expected 'to be creative', and on a daily basis at that, with deadlines to meet and dozens of people invited to pass judgement on your fragile work.

I know that what they produce isn't high art - and nor should it be. But you can't crank out ideas of any kind to order without some degree of anguish and self-doubt. You may think all that a bit pretentious - but next time you hand your creatives a new brief, take it home with you yourself and see what you've made of it by Monday morning. You'll find it a salutary experiment.

What they wear is important. It's a bit like a football strip. It gives them security and identity. If you instruct them to smarten up, on the grounds that what they're wearing is 'not acceptable work attire', they'll know for certain that you simply don't get it. And you won't be doing what your company pays you to do.

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