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Updated on October 13, 2009


Probably you’ve spent your entire teenage years and high school days wearing baggy jeans, T-shirts , boots or canvasses(for the guys), body hugging jeans, skimpy tops, skirts and trousers, very tight fitting blouses(for the ladies),  wearing multi-colored or bright colored suits, keeping an afro hair, a beard or huge moustache. And then suddenly you write a test, pass the test, scale through a set of interviews and because you are smart (you probably didn’t know before), you join the league of tens of thousands of working class individuals known as ‘bankers’ forced to wear a jacket and trousers or skirt (for the ladies) Mondays to Fridays from 7am in the morning to who knows when.  You certainly realize that you got a lot of work to do since you are not used to it. A small part of your cerebrum is wondering why you are forced to look this way when deep inside you; you know you are nothing close to what the look represents. So why are you made to dress this way?  First impression counts. A professional who doesn’t take the time to maintain a professional appearance presents the image of not being able to perform adequately on the job. Unfortunately a lot of professionals have never been taught appropriate professional appearance and demeanor. Anyone who aspires to top management knows that personal appearance counts. If you look and behave like a highly trained and well groomed professional, you will win the respect and honor of your valued customers. The bank’s objective in establishing a formal work dress code is to enable the employees to project the professional image that is in keeping with the needs of the customers to trust the employees. Because the banking industry requires the appearance of trusted business professionals, and clients or customers are served on a daily basis, the use of suits is necessary for all employees. The bank staff must project the image of a trustworthy, knowledgeable business professional for the customers who seek our guidance, input and professional services.

In the banking world, the standard of dressing for men is a suit or jacket and for the ladies a suit or jacket also, pants or a skirt, or a dress paired with appropriate accessories. Clothing that reveals too much cleavage, your back, your chest, your feet, your stomach or your underwear is not appropriate for your kind of work.  For the ladies, skirts that are split at or below the knee are acceptable. Dress and skirt length should be at a length at which you can sit comfortably in public. Short, tight skirts that ride halfway up the thigh are inappropriate for work. All clothes should be pressed and never wrinkled. Torn, dirty or frayed clothing is unacceptable. All seams must be finished.  For suits or jackets, there are some important elements to note firstly when you purchase a suit and lastly, when you are dressed up and about to leave home for the office. Your suit jacket should fit well and give you a full range of motion both buttoned and unbuttoned. You should be able to fit one finger between the collar of your shirt and your neck but no more than that. The shirt cuffs should not ride up when you stretch your arms. If you are wearing a button-cuff shirt, the cuffs should break exactly at the wrists. An ill-fitting suit can be a disaster. If you are a shorter person, stick to single breasted jackets. Double breasted jackets would make you appear smaller. Always button all the buttons on your dress shirt. If you are wearing a button cuff shirt, remember to button those buttons and even the small one on the placket.  For a two button jacket, button the top button only. For a three button jacket, button the middle button and the top button if you want to. One might just decide to button only the middle button. If you decide not to button any of the buttons on your jacket at all, it is also acceptable. Being too formal can be interpreted as ‘pretentious’ and ‘out of touch’ by your customers.  However it is advisable that you never button the bottom- most button on your jacket unless at a funeral.  In a sitting position, it is better to unbutton your jacket so that it falls to both sides of the chair rather than tightly across your body. Some people have their suits dry cleaned after each wearing. From personal experience, I can say this is the best way to ruin your suit.  For the ties, a colored tie is less conventional but can add a lot to your image. If you are wearing a colored tie, you should wear one that would not take away the focus from your overall suit. Most importantly, your tie should be conservative. I believe a plain tie or one with subtle stripes is ideal for a banker. For your shoes, always choose comfortable yet stylish shoes. The whole idea is to make sure they match the rest of the suit and don’t cause any unwanted pain during the day or night (If you work late). The shoes should always match the belt color and should be polished to a high shine. Always wear shoes that are darker than your suit. Light colored shoes and socks tend to draw more attention to the foot. The shoe should complement your overall appearance and not dominate it.  I believe low cut lace less shoes with a fine leather grain capable of being polished to a mirror finish is perfect for any professional.  Open toe shoes are inappropriate for both sexes.  Ostentatious jewellery, multiple ear rings on each ear and multiple chain necklaces are not advisable. Jewellery should be worn in good taste with limited visible body piercing. Excessive makeup is unprofessional. Be easy on the makeup. Makeup should be decent and conservative.

Finally you have to be well groomed. Perform all the small hygiene tasks that are usually not done every day. Since your face is the first thing people notice when they meet you, make sure it is in top shape. If you have a beard or moustache, make sure it is well defined and keep unwanted hairs shaven off. A fresh hair cut could go a long way in establishing a professional demeanor. Always leave the home with two hankies. You never know. Remove earwax, clip your nails and get rid of any nasal or ear hair. Apply your favorite deodorant in reasonable quantities on your armpit, wrists and neck. Some of these dressing tips are not limited to the banking industry only. They should be applied in every corporate environment.

Sometime ago, a Nigerian senator came up with a bill on indecent dressing. The bill generated a lot of excitement among the senators. One senator reportedly drew the attention of his colleagues to how some banks have unleashed their female staff on members of the National assembly. These girls according to him are busy collecting the phone numbers of lawmakers and harassing them with provocative dresses while asking for deposits. He wanted the banks to stop using the girls as bait. Well, I know most banks in Nigeria conform to generally accepted professional dressing standards even with the female folks. Except maybe they change their outfits when they leave the office. Who knows?  If an employee’s clothing fails to meet these standards, the employee may be sent home to change clothes and may receive a verbal warning for a first offense. Progressive disciplinary actions would be applied if dress code violations continue. Professional dress code standards are alive and well in major financial institutions in the country and shops, boutiques and salesmen are living up to expectation. What more do you need?



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