I don’t have any distinct style, never have. I wear what’s on sale, and it’s usually black.
One thing I am known for, though, is my shoes. I don’t like to wear socks, so I’m the person who will still wear an open toe the middle of November, and I hold out until there is too much snow underfoot to get away with it.
It is always around this time of year that I break out the sandals (truth be told, it was weeks ago). I just got the season’s first pedicure, and I don’t intend to put on another pair of socks until sometime after Remembrance Day.
I’m not the only one celebrating the nicer weather. Everywhere you go people are dressing down for the summer, even at work. I’ve noticed it quite a bit over the past few weeks. And though most companies have a dress code, or at least dress code expectations, people tend to test the boundaries of business casual.
I don’t think with the sweltering heat of summer that most employers would complain about shorter sleeves or maybe even slightly shorter pants, and the trend seems to point toward the weakening of formal dress codes in the workplace. If I’m wrong, then it’s the weakening of enforcement of dress codes, at least.
Once upon a time, every man wore a suit (and hat, and overcoat) to work. Even tradesmen and labourers wore button-down shirts, in many cases. And women typically wore dresses and heels. Even when I started working more than 20 years ago, there was an unwritten rule that “street clothes” were not acceptable to wear to the office.
In recent years, I’ve noticed that workplaces have become much more casual. Ties have become the exception instead of the rule, and I haven’t seen a pair of pantyhose in a long, long time.
The movement toward business-casual is, in my opinion, caused in part by the influx of millennials in the workforce who prefer to dress down. They’ve seen Mark Zuckerberg in his T-shirts and jeans and Steve Jobs in a pair of sneakers, and they believe that as long as you’re doing your job right, what you wear does has little bearing on your level of success.
I’m not sure that when office dress codes become more relaxed that work ethic would weaken any, as some experts suggest, but it’s a concern for employers. Will an employee in a polo shirt be less likely to close a big deal than one in a power suit? They might be just as capable, but optics matter when it comes to public confidence and securing and maintaining clients.
I tend to believe the type of work environment would determine those outcomes. A simple blouse and capri pants would probably be fine if you’re going to work at a travel agency, but you might feel a bit underdressed if you wore the same outfit in an executive environment where people are more formal.
The people who study these types of things (whoever they might be) agree that, in the right environment, the trend toward business casual wear can boost morale, and even increase creativity by allowing workers to feel comfortable and happy. In others, supervisors say that business casual can easily be abused and lead to sloppiness, laziness and a decrease in professionalism.
According to an American human resources firm (the only organization I could find with current statistics about dressing down at work), about 65 per cent of businesses nationwide allowed “Casual Friday,” while 36 per cent allowed casual dress every day, a significant increase from two years earlier.
Even the most traditional industries like banking and other executive fields are shifting toward more casual dress. Many companies are hoping that the transition into business casual will create a workplace culture that attracts young workers, trying to shake the stuffy perception and demonstrate an awareness of the job market and the importance of employees being relaxed and happy. After all, when morale is high, it affects productivity.
Dress affects external perception, and dressing unprofessionally can cost a business money, no doubt about it. It’s important for employees to follow any rules that are in place with respect to dress code. But as long as employees exercise common sense, make appropriate wardrobe choices, and are made aware of the consequences of non-compliance, I don’t see anything wrong with having everyone be more comfortable.