"Nobody believes me when I tell them what my boss wanted me to wear to work."

If you haven’t heard an exchange of “worst boss” stories between colleagues, then you’ve never stayed at work drinks long enough.

It’s almost a right of passage to be employed by somebody who makes your skin crawl, so it is with absolute pleasure I share my own tale.

During my university years I worked at a luxury retail brand that prided itself on its presentation of staff and products.

I loved it. I was paid well to talk nonsense (seriously, no, seriously) and genuinely help people purchase something that made them happy.

The company was all about presenting a united front and so our appearances had been regulated from toe-to-tip. I often had to stifle a snort every time I heard a customer remark, “Gosh. You all look so alike.”


One day our boss decided the robot-levels of uniformity on the shop floor simply weren’t enough, so he introduced the “rule of five”.

The rule of five meant female members of staff were only allowed on the shop floor if they were wearing five items of make-up or more.

Ideally: eyeliner, foundation, nail polish, mascara and lipstick.

Male staff could waltz around bare-faced so long as a comb had at some point graced their hair that day, but we weren’t offered such a luxury.

If you know me, which you may not, I was about as likely to ride a unicorn to work as I was to wear the required amount of products.


I told my manager I had never worn make-up and he told me I had until the end of the week to start. Oh. How little I cared. I’m not sure I laughed in his face during the closed-door meeting but I did make a strong yet polite refusal.

A week passed and I watched the women around me become even more doll-like in appearance.

I was taken into the office again and told I needed to comply. I went home that evening and drafted a beautiful letter to human resources explaining why they needed to back down.

I entered the office the next day and told my manager I would send the email that afternoon.

It was then made very clear that I and the rest of the female staff would not be required to comply to the new rule.

I don’t think that manager lasted six months before he moved on to what I can only imagine is a “better fit”.


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