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SOC 3400 Unit 7 Assignment 1 Breaking a Norm

Norms are crucial in society, serving as unwritten rules and shared beliefs that help maintain order and harmony. Social consensus establishes and upholds them, guiding individuals’ behavior and shaping cultural expectations. While the origins and motivations behind norms may vary, their importance is widely recognized. Deviating from these norms often invites disapproval and criticism from the larger social group.

To gain a deeper understanding of social norms, it is necessary to challenge them occasionally. Individuals can experience how society perceives and responds to such deviations by intentionally breaking a norm. In this context, I decided to disrupt the workplace dress code norm. 

SOC 3400 Unit 7 Assignment 1 Breaking a Norm

Typically, office workers are expected to adhere to a professional and conservative dress style. Women are generally encouraged to wear modest attire, such as knee-length skirts or pants, paired with respectable shirts, sweaters, or blazers. Conversely, men are expected to wear slacks and dress shirts, with or without a tie. However, I deliberately chose to defy this norm by arriving at work in revealing clothing.

On the day of my experiment, I wore a short and provocative dress that showcased more skin than the traditional workplace attire. I paired it with a loud, form-fitting blue jacket to further accentuate my unconventional appearance. I donned towering three-inch high-heeled shoes to complete the look and styled my hair in a messy bun. As I entered the office building and walked down the hallway toward my workspace, I could not help but notice the curious glances from my colleagues.

SOC 3400 Unit 7 Assignment 1 Breaking a Norm

Two women who were passing by stared at me with disapproving expressions. One even gave me a judgmental look while the other waited for me to pass before whispering to her companion. Continuing my journey, I encountered two middle-aged men dressed in traditional office attire. They were wearing light blue dress shirts, ties, and black slacks. As I cautiously walked past them, I carefully observed their reactions. Their expressions ranged from disapproval to subtle curiosity, signaling their assessment of my attire.

It became apparent that my outfit was considered inappropriate for the workplace. Upon reaching my desk, a coworker could not resist commenting, “Does your husband know you came to work dressed like that?” Her remark was met with laughter from others nearby. 

Throughout the day, I received similar adverse reactions from other individuals in the office building. Some discreetly glanced at me, quickly averting their eyes when our gazes met. A friend of mine even jokingly asked where I was heading after work, suggesting that my attire was more suited for a different setting.

SOC 3400 Unit 7 Assignment 1 Breaking a Norm

This experience proved to be both unsettling and enlightening. While there were no official repercussions for violating the dress code, I could not help but notice the whispers, the turning of heads, and the disapproving and even scornful looks I received. Although I was not directly confronted or reprimanded, the expressions, murmurs, and nonverbal cues made it clear that my clothing and appearance were viewed as disrespectful and attention-seeking.

It underscored the existence of unspoken social norms in the workplace, which dictate what is considered appropriate or inappropriate. By defying these norms, I inadvertently positioned myself as an outsider, subject to judgment and labeling by society.

In conclusion, norms are fundamental to societal functioning and are upheld through social consensus. Challenging these norms can provide valuable insights into their significance and the consequences of deviating from them. By intentionally breaking the workplace dress code norm, I experienced firsthand the disapproving reactions and subtle ostracism that can accompany such deviations. This experiment shed light on the unwritten expectations surrounding attire in the workplace and the potential consequences of violating these norms. SOC 3400 Unit 7 Assignment 1 Breaking a Norm


Inderbitzin, M. L., Bates, K. A., & Gainey, R. R. (2013). Deviance and social control: A sociological perspective. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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