Today saw a report by MPs about discrimination in workplace dress codes. It cites the case of a woman who was sent home for refusing to wear high heel shoes. It got us thinking.

Dress codes differ between companies and industries, but perhaps the difference is no more stark than between the creative industry and those who work for in-house marketing departments.

Agencies that work within the creative industry, whether that be the traditional advertising agency or newer digital agencies tend to have relaxed dress codes. Most operate a “come as you are” policy. Take a stroll near the Custard Factory in Birmingham at a lunch time and you will struggle to see a suit, but you can’t keep count of the hipsters!

The city’s multicultural nature and access to universities gives creative employers a steady flow of young talent. Ask a millennial graduate one of the things that is important to them and the pull of not having to conform to a dress code is appealing. The argument goes that this is a creative industry, so people need to be uninhibited and free to express themselves and therefore the results for clients will be better.

So if this is a legitimate argument, why are over 90{1597936798b62daa3890d68a9cc8469a6ca8b1d53d28c0d57f6fa4a333280cfa} of in-house marketers forced to conform to a corporate dress code. Whilst it may not be suit and tie, there are normally rules that would prohibit you from turning up in rolled up jeans, a pair of Converse and your favourite t-shirt from 5 years ago. Even those places that offer a “dress down Friday” normally put rules around what is acceptable casual dress.

Of course the role of the in-house marketer is very different to that of someone working in a creative industry, and in many ways to fit in as part of the team it is understandable why companies don’t want their marketing people sat in the corner wearing flip flops whilst other employees are forced to wear brogues. Yet in many instances the in-house marketing departments are also working with creative agencies and inputting on the creative process. So is their dress code stunting creativity?

One head of marketing we spoke to summed it up brilliantly “We all sit in the office in our suits, but if we go to our digital agency then we dress down in jeans and t-shirts. If the digital agency come to us we remove the jackets and ties and the people from the agency wear a casual shirt and a jacket. It’s a game of dress chess.” Our understanding is that this is experienced by many in-house marketers.

In fact though, could the converse be true? Is it the creative agencies who are missing out? A study performed at Columbia University and California State University Northridge, found that dressing formally may actually encourage creative thinking. The paper asserts that part of this effect can be derived from people feeling more powerful, competent, and confident when they are formally dressed.

However whilst this would seem to suggest that those in advertising should be donning bowler hat and pin stripe suits, there is an important consideration. Many creatives get up very early and spend a long time getting ready for work. One successful digital creative we registered suggested “it takes me a long time and is very expensive to look this scruffy and carefree.” For them, this is their uniform and therefore they experience the same feelings as those who dress up to work.

Any relationship between dressing casually/formally and behaving in a creative way does not diminish someone’s imagination. Is it not the case that you adapt to your surroundings and as long as you feel like the person you are, then there is nothing to stop you being confident, creative and commercial?

So ultimately is the clothing issue just a red herring? What is surely important is the quality of work undertaken, not the clothes worn to do it. And whilst clothing is notable, what you are wearing is only a small part of someone’s ability to be successful.