When employees start arguing with one another about appropriate office wear, it can explode into accusations of harassment and bad feelings. Take a post at Reddit where a woman wearing a top with "thin straps" had a man come up to her and tell her to cover up--but he's barefoot. She responds that she'll cover up her shoulders if he starts wearing shoes in the office. "If I have to watch his hairy toes at work, he can deal with the sight of my shoulders," writes Reddit User Longjumping_Draw_864.

Are you in agreement that, while wandering the workplace, everyone should have shoes on their feet? What about on an airplane?

An anonymous Delta Flight attendant told The New York Times that she has passengers boarding with no shoes on. Better to be walking around with no shoes, though, than the author's experience of finding a woman's foot next to his ear on a flight into Paris.

If this discussion sufficiently grosses you out, it's time to admit something: You secretly love dress codes. 

What is a dress code?

A well-written dress code is actually a gift. It gives everyone a clear understanding of what to expect. Knowing the expectations should make everyone feel comfortable. 

In the case of the bare shoulders and naked toes, this conversation didn't need to happen. A clearly written dress code that specifies whether employees should cover their shoulders or whether they should wear shoes stops the conflict.

Dress codes make people feel comfortable--they know what to expect. Think of how relieved job candidates are when you tell them the company dress code before they come in for an interview. Dress codes aren't just about shoes and shoulders; they are about ensuring everyone is on the same page.

Dress codes are not inherently sexist.

"Dress codes are a stand-in for all the ways girls feel objectified, sexualized, unheard, treated as second-class citizens by adults in authority," writes Lyn Mikel Brown at rethinking schools. Dress codes can be that way, but they don't have to be.

It may feel like dress codes affect women more than men, but that is because women make different clothing choices than men. While working in an office environment, I never saw a man in a tank top, but plenty of women chose to violate the dress code by wearing them. While working in a warehouse environment, everyone wore shorts in the summer, but the only super short shorts came on a woman.

It can feel like women are getting the short end of the stick, but if the dress code is applied equally to all, it's not sexist. 

If your policy is that everyone needs to keep their shoulders covered, then everyone does. If your policy is that tank tops are acceptable, don't complain when an employee wears one. Don't have a policy prohibiting too tight outfits and then enforce it only on overweight women.

A policy prohibiting underwear showing limits errant bra straps and dropped jeans that show off Fruit of the Looms. Just enforce it equally. 

Remember, the goal is to make everyone comfortable because they know how to dress appropriately for the event.

How you dress sends a message.

Even the loudest opponents of dress code are not likely to show up to a wedding wearing a bridal gown--unless they are, in fact, the bride. Miss Manners points out:

Why do even the most outlandish celebrities dress soberly when they are on trial? Because their expensive lawyers explain that the judge will interpret serious dress as respect for the law, and that juries would feel that someone who defies dress codes might also be capable also of defying the law.

As a business owner, you can choose the dress code that reflects what you want for your business. That may be super casual, or it could be full suits. It could be casual when you don't meet with clients and business attire when you do. It's fine.

But whatever you choose sends a message. The ultimate dress code is, of course, uniforms. Uniforms help people identify employees in public spaces. It can also reduce stress on employees who don't have to worry about having an appropriate business outfit: they wear the company-branded polo shirt, and all is well.

Dress codes make things easier.

The easiest time to develop a dress code is before you have employees. You may assume that everyone will dress appropriately, but it can be awkward the first time someone shows up in a bathrobe. Spelling it out beforehand is a kindness. To you, your customers, and your employees.