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Power/dressing: regulation of employee appearance

Karl E. Klare, Northeastern University School of Law

Article comments

Published in New England Law Review, Vol. 26, pp. 1395-1508, 1991-1992.

Abstract

This article is about the role of law in regulating personal appearance, particularly at work. With some exceptions, the law authorizes employers to determine the kinds of clothing people must, may, or may not wear on the job; which hair styles and other appearance practices are permitted and which are forbidden in the workplace; and whether to impose appearance or attractiveness standards as a condition of employment. This article concerns not only the content but the meaning of these legal rules: how they affect the people against whom they are enforced; what assumptions, fantasies, and prejudices they express; and which values are served and which are demeaned by the complex of social practices comprising appearance regulation. Finally, the article makes a proposal as to what we should do about these rules: they should be almost entirely abandoned and replaced wiht rules designed to promote personal autonomy and cultural diversity.

Suggested Citation

New England Law Review, Vol. 26, pp. 1395-1508, 1991-1992