Dress codes disputed as high heels row grows

Foot fault: On average, high heels start causing pain after one hour and six minutes.

A receptionist has been sent home for refusing to wear high heels at work. British people are dressing more casually at work than they used to. Do we need rules about what to wear?

What’s happening

Receptionist Nicola Thorp arrived at work with a pair of flat black shoes. The agency she worked for said female receptionists had to wear high heels. She refused and the agency sent her home without pay. She has started a petition to change the law and more than 100,000 people have signed it.

Find out more

British people dress more informally at work than they used to. In 2014, nearly three-quarters of professionals told a survey that a ‘smart casual’ look was allowed in their job.

People who worked in technology and the media were relaxed but employees in banks, estate agents and law firms dressed formally. In 2011, one bank wrote a 44-page dress code.

Humans have worn clothes for around 170,000 years. Until about 40,000 years ago, clothes just kept people warm. But since then people have often worn clothes which showed their social class.

Now, employers in the UK are allowed to sack staff who do not follow ‘reasonable’ dress codes. Some British school uniforms are nearly 500 years old. And we wear different clothes to different social events.

Some say…

We need rules about what to wear. They make everyone feel welcome because people are dressed similarly. They allow us to focus on more important things than our choice of clothes. Dressing like other people is a way of showing we are happy to fit into a community or a job. And uniforms can help the public — for example, if you are a police officer.

Others think…

We do not need these rules. They make people unequal, because some people wear more expensive uniforms than others. We should be free to dress as we want and trust each other to wear sensible clothes. Dress codes can be unhealthy and force people — especially women — to wear clothes like high heels, which make us dislike our bodies.

You Decide

  1. Do you agree that we need rules over what we should wear?


  1. Think of five jobs in which people dress differently. Draw a picture of each and use labels to explain it.

Some People Say...

“The clothes we wear remind people who we are.”

What do you think?

Word Watch

In a relaxed way.
Someone who works on the front desk of an office to meet people when they arrive.
People who work in skilled jobs.
People who work for - are employed by - companies or other bodies (like schools).
Social class
Grouping of people in society according to status, power and wealth.
Companies, people or other bodies (like schools) who provide jobs hiring employees to work for them.


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