Personal Style in the Workplace (and Outside): The Zendaya Coleman Controversy

Personal Style in the Workplace (and Outside): The Zendaya Coleman Controversy



Personal Style in the Workplace (and Outside): The Zendaya Coleman Controversy

The Zendaya-Guiliana Oscars 2015 Controversy has brought a lot of issues to the forefront – most of them not so good. How does one try to hold on to personal identity without fear of ridicule both at the workplace and outside? Certain styles are not seen as “beautiful” or even “professional”. Most women who “dare” to celebrate their cultural identities are subject to ridicule and jokes. However, these styles are in essence a part of one’s culture and are as natural as they can get. Women of all colours and creeds are often told to celebrate natural beauty both at glamorous events and at the workplace. So how is it that we are constantly being sent mixed-messages? I decided to look at this controversy in light of recent developments re dress code in the workplace.

Most HR experts agree – When it comes to personal style in the workplace, there are no hard and fast rules. What is suitable changes with where you work and what you do. Dress codes have most certainly relaxed over time, particularly since the introduction of ‘jeans Fridays’ and the “dot-com era” casual attire.

Maintaining a personal identity at work is crucial to help employees stay true to their identities. Maintaining your own sense of identity helps you stay grounded, and reminds you that you are more than your job. Studies have shown that when we look good on the outside, we feel good on the inside, and what’s important to recognize is that everyone has their own unique feelings about what makes them look and feel their best.

Six Flags theme parks also recently came under fire last month after job applicant MarKeese Warner, an engineering student at Pennsylvania State University, claimed she was denied a summer job because of her dreadlocks hairstyle. Warner started a petition to protest what she claimed were Six Flags’ discriminatory policies against people with dreadlocks.

A Six Flags spokeswoman confirmed that the company does not permit employees to wear dreadlocks. “We maintain a grooming code for employees that includes standard uniforms and no visible tattoos, beards, dreadlocks or extreme hairstyles (such as drastic variations in color or partially shaven heads),” said Nancy Krejsa, senior vice president of investor relations and corporate communications.

Many companies have formal dress code policies, including UBS which has a 44-page document with specific stipulations that disallow women from wearing more than seven pieces of jewelry and men from wearing cufflinks.

Bobak Ferdowsi is an American systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Ferdowsi launched into Internet superstardom last week for helping guide the rover Curiosity in its journey to the surface of Mars. Even more interesting was his red and black Mohawk. President Obama even acknowledged Ferdowsi, now commonly referred to as the “Mohawk Guy,” in a congratulatory call to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Monday. “It does sound like NASA has come a long way from the white-shirt, black dark-rimmed glasses and the pocket protectors,” Obama told the Mars Curiosity team. “You guys are a little cooler than you used to be.”


Source: “Bobak Ferdowsi during MSL landing (201208050020HQ)” by NASA/Bill Ingalls –

No matter if you’re an entrepreneur, doctor, teacher, lawyer, etc and your personal style is traditional, modern, or trendy, rest assured, you can maintain a professional look while letting your personal style shine. While professional dress codes and personal styles vary, here are just a few overall ways to achieve the winning professional / personal style combination:

The Blouse Effect– Business suites nowadays are a bit boring. One way to let a little of your personality be seen, is to wear a blouse that represents you. Pick a blouse in your favorite color or pattern or print and pair it with a traditional suit for a professional / personal style balanced look.

Ditch the Blazer- If your dress code allows it, leave the blazer at home and instead, pair your button down shirt with a colorful cardigan, wrap sweater or crew neck sweater.

You can pair a grey skirt and white button down with a cobalt blue (or any color of your choice) cardigan. How about forgetting the button down and blazer all together- wear a turtleneck with dress pants for an updated professional look.

Accessorize– Accessories are key to any outfit. Whether you’re trying to figure what to wear to work, or to a summer barbecue, it’s always a good idea to add an accessory. You don’t have to go over the top with accessories, something as easy as adding a watch, or simple earrings can allow you to bring out your personal style.

Take the classic black dress, add a belt, watch and refined bangles, and you have a transformed look. Don’t forget to add the classic, yet powerful, trench coat for a look that will command attention.

Update the Basics– Depending on your personal style and workplace rules, one way to update the basics would be to switch out the traditional cut pant suit for one with a slimmer silhouette. Also, have a little fun and really bring out your personal style by mixing and matching your basic pieces. A cardigan paired with navy pants is a fun twist on a traditional look. The black and white trend continues this year, so let your trendy side come out at work by wearing black pants and perhaps a trendy jacket.

What is your personal style? How do you let it shine through at work?

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