By Esmée Hardwick-Slack
Workplace fashion has rapidly evolved through the years. It could be argued that dressing for the office in the 1940s and 50’s was a lot more formal in comparison to what people may choose to wear to work in 2019. Professor Karen Pine, Psychologist at Hertfordshire University has suggested that: “Over the last three decades, we have experienced a big movement in the workplace, where traditions and protocols have fallen enormously. The biggest changes have included the decline of the hierarchy, the boss being less of an authoritarian figure and more of a coach, all colleagues being called by their first name and the biggest change, the transition from a formal dress code to a casual one.”
So does what you wear to work really matter? Some argue that allowing casual work wear in the office will lead towards an informal work ethic. After all, impressions are formed within a few seconds of meeting, and the appropriate clothing must for a part of that. However, companies such as Google are said to encourage informal office spaces and have zero dress code for employees and interviews, and are still one of the biggest tech companies in the word.
There have been numerous studies into how clothing can affect our work ethic. One study actually coined the term the “red sneakers effect”, in which people who float the workplace dress code are actually seen has more competent at their jobs. The study focused on two male college professors, who both worked at prestigious universities with formal dress codes. One clean shaven and dressed in a suit, the other with a bear and a t-shirt. The study asked college students to rate each man’s skills as a teacher and researcher, with the results suggesting the casually dressed professor was more competent and possessed a higher professional status due to the nonconformist attitude that the less formal attire signified. However, the study also emphasized the importance of intention – if you’re wearing informal clothes because you’re lazy, that doesn’t exactly help boost your respect around the office. But, if you make the conscious decision to break the status quo every once in a while because it’s important to you, people notice and admire it.
Investment Company Goldman Sachs reinforces this idea of making a conscious choice when it comes to dress code. The company allows more flexibility over work attire, but asks employees to “exercise good judgement” in deciding how to dress.
Justin Urquhart Stewart, founder of investment firm 7IM has said on the subject: “You’re looking after people’s money, so you should behave and dress respectfully. I would not expect to hand over my pension to someone in jeans, loafers and a football shirt. It may be old-fashioned but I think it would be dangerous for a business to do that. The underlying elements is, people will behave as they dress. If people dress in a smart respectable way, that’s how they tend to behave. If you let people dress sloppily, that’s how your brand will be perceived.”
It is clearly a subjective issue, depending on age, the company itself, its target clientele and the thoughts and feelings of the company’s director. What are your thoughts on relaxed work dress code? Is it an opportunity for employees to show off a bit of personality? Or will it give out the wrong impression about your business? Let us know in the comments.