Go to contents

Dress codes reflect differences in corporate culture

Posted July. 03, 2012 22:59,   


Korean companies began to ease their office dress codes from the mid-2000s. Under the slogan “creative management,” Samsung Group declared a business casual code in 2008, after which other conglomerates followed suit.

Business casual, however, is not identical in companies. Each corporation has a different dress code and the variables in corporate culture are reflected in their employees’ attire.

“Corporate culture is made over a long period of time and embedded in each employee like DNA,” Jin Hyeon, a researcher at Samsung Economic Research Institute, said. “The difference stems from the shared values of their employees and how they wear clothes.”

Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics are in the same industry but prefer different brands and style in their dress codes. Samsung since 2008 had recommended a jacket with a collar and suit pants and banned T-shirts, cotton pants, running shoes and blue jeans, but this changed with the introduction of smartphones in Korea and the growing importance of software. A Samsung source said, “Certain departments implicitly allow blue jeans and running shoes, which are not permitted in principle.”

LG allowed business casual from 1998, a decade ahead of Samsung. LG`s standard attire is short-sleeve shirts and cotton pants for men and “casual wear that does not undermine dignity” for women. Sleeveless shirts, tight shirts and short pants are not allowed. Staff at LG headquarters, who often have outside business meetings except for engineers, must also wear suits. This seems to reflect LG’s corporate culture of stressing harmony more than uniqueness.

Lotte Group and Shinsegae Group have contrasts in fashion that reflect their rivalry in the retail industry. The former values formality while the latter likes casual like in IT companies.

Lotte temporarily allowed business casual in 2010 in allowing no ties in summer and winter. In May this year, it suddenly allowed no ties year-round. The group`s dress code says business casual should be focused more on business than casual. Blue jeans are not allowed and male staff at headquarters wear short-sleeve white shirts and suit pants. Employees at stores who deal with customers must wear suits. Lotte`s dress code reflects the philosophy of group founder Shin Kyuk-ho, who values substance over showmanship.

kimhs@donga.com baltika7@donga.com