My Manager Said I Didn’t Dress Well Enough For My Minimum Wage Job

He suggested buying khaki pants and button-down shirts I couldn’t afford.

woman in apron looking flustered Luis Molinero | Shutterstock

I was working my shift at the convenience store when my assistant manager pulled me aside.

He told me I needed to dress more professionally if I wanted to keep my job.

I was stunned. I had been working there for weeks and had never been told that my clothes were inappropriate.

I asked him what he meant by "more professional" and he just shrugged and said that I needed to wear nicer clothes.


It was humiliating and frustrating, and it made me realize just how unfair the standards are for people who work minimum-wage jobs.

We’re expected to dress like we’re making a lot of money, even though most of us can barely afford rent.

I admit I didn’t dress very well when I worked part-time at the convenience store. To be honest, I didn’t think the job required it.

I was neat and clean; I just wasn’t particularly well-dressed. For example, I typically wore a long sweatshirt over flowered leggings with sneakers. I thought I dressed just fine.

Then one day, I learned the area manager disagreed.


The assistant manager, who was two years younger than me, pulled me aside and let me know what a great job I was doing. He said everything about my performance was great, except for my clothes.

"The area manager wanted me to let you know your workplace attire isn’t appropriate. He said you should go out and buy some new clothes, maybe a few pairs of khaki pants and some button-down shirts," he said.

I was making minimum wage. If I had enough money to buy an entirely new wardrobe, then I wouldn’t be working there at all.

I felt my face flush with heat from the embarrassment and shame of being told my clothes weren’t good enough for a job where I sold cigarettes and lottery tickets and stocked crates filled with gallon jugs of milk in the walk-in cooler that threw out my back regularly.


Was I not dressed well enough to mop the floor at the end of the night?

I asked him to elaborate more on his comment and he told me that the way I dress for work (jeans, sneakers, t-shirts, etc.) wasn’t appropriate for the job.

I felt that was sexist and unfair. We had several male employees who dressed similarly to me, minus the flowered leggings, but no one ever commented on their attire negatively, so why should they be able to get away with it but not me?

I felt like the assistant manager crossed a line when he told me directly that my clothing was the reason upper management was unhappy with me. However, I have to acknowledge that he was just following directions. So I couldn’t blame him entirely.


In the end, I dressed slightly better, using items from my own personal wardrobe. I didn’t buy the khaki pants and button-down shirts suggested by the assistant manager, but I stopped wearing sweatshirts over flowered leggings.

I didn’t have the money to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe, so I ended up quitting that job within a month.

Tracey Folly is a writer who has been contributing lifestyle and relationship content to the Internet since 2009.