In Manhattan Beach, Calif., a relaxed, coastal dress code reigns—even at the tony Martin’s Jewelry. “It’s denim and diamonds and flip-flops,” says president Alex Weil of his staff’s work wear.
Forget pantyhose and French cuffs, once de rigueur for jewelry salespeople. As casual Friday steadily seeps into every other weekday, the dress codes in many independent jewelry stores have gone from starched to, well, slacker.
Of course, Weil’s shop inhabits one of the country’s great bastions of informality, Southern California. And geography, more than the caliber of the merchandise or a shop’s swanky decor, dictates the degree of employee dressiness.
“The world is, in general, a more casual place,” says Performance Concepts president-CEO Kate Peterson. “Look at the customers. It used to be that you would dress up to buy jewelry. Stores are reflecting that.”
And as members of Generation X have moved into management positions in jewelry businesses, sartorial standards have become even more lax.
“We’re very casual here,” says Robin Smith, owner of Meridian Jewelers in Aspen, Colo., which stocks Rolex and H.Stern, among other high-end brands. “I’m fine with jeans and boots and bare legs—we don’t wear suits.” Smith calls her staff stylish, and says being in their own clothes helps them make sales: “People want to look like them.”
Not everyone is a fan of dressing down—Ex-Sell-Ence president Shane Decker, for one. “Retailers call me all the time and complain that their staff looks sloppy,” he says. “I’m kind of old-fashioned. I like suits with really shiny shoes on guys and women in suits or slacks with a nice blouse.” Decker’s dress-code rule of thumb is simple: “If bankers get dressed up in your town, you should get dressed up. If they’re more casual, you can be, too.”
It’s a straightforward formula for an era when dress codes have more wiggle room than a dance floor. And one that Jeffrey Roseman, owner of David Harvey Jewelers in Darien and Norwalk, Conn., surely would endorse.
“We’re more influenced by New York and its business attire,” says Roseman, who personally favors Brooks Brothers suits. “Men wear suits or jackets and always ties and slacks. Ladies wear dresses or skirt suits—never pants.”
While retailers cite region as the biggest influence on employee attire, company culture also figures into the equation. At downtown New York City’s Doyle & Doyle, a hip mecca for estate and antique jewelry, owner Pamela Doyle encourages employees to dress “professionally but fashionably.” That means anything goes, from half-shaved heads to glittery platform boots, save looks that are overtly sexy.
“We want our sales staff to be able to express themselves,” says Doyle. “When you feel good about yourself, you feel confident, and that helps you sell.”
In designer Efva Attling’s New York City store, every female staffer dons a nontraditional uniform: a lavender silk dress with a sash. “Customers get the same experience every time they come in,” says manager Emelie Ehn. “The dresses make you look cute and friendly, too. Plus, we don’t ever have to think about what we’re going to wear.” And when it comes to attire, a thought-free solution may be the best gift you could give your staff—and yourself.