Getting dressed down at work

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

That old adage seems to have gone a bit out of fashion in today’s business world.

Ah, yes, the perplexing realm of “business casual” – that vague, baffling, undefinable, enigmatic phrase that falls somewhere between the three-piece suit and sweatpants. There’s no denying that office dress codes have relaxed in recent years, but who do we have to thank – or blame, depending on your point of view – for that?

The answer: Who knows?

Some say it demonstrates the muscle that laid-back Silicon Valley is able to flex on the business world. Others claim business casual can be traced to office management as a way to lure and retain millennials as employees. Still, there are those who believe it signals a fundamental shift in American-minded business attitudes, a shift from prim aesthetics to results-oriented comfortability.

A 2017 survey by OfficeTeam, a division of the human resources consulting firm Robert Half International Inc., revealed employees hoping to move up the ranks at work should dress the part. 86% of workers and 80% of managers said clothing choices affect a person’s chances of earning a promotion. The survey also said:

  • Professionals spend an average of 11 minutes a day choosing office attire
  • Items more acceptable to wear to work now versus to 5 years ago: Jeans, tennis shoes and leggings
  • Items less acceptable versus 5 years ago: Tank tops, “cold shoulder tops” and shorts
  • 67% of professionals keep a separate work wardrobe
  • 44% of managers have talked to an employee and inappropriate attire; 32% have sent staff home based on what they were wearing

So, where does the line on modern business attire get drawn? Or, is it an inconsistent line in the sand that can be easily wiped away, relocated and redrawn with the times? It really all boils down to the standards of the individual business.

Just to be on the safe side, it’s probably a wise choice to leave that ratty, old, Iron Maiden concert tee from that totally radical ’84 tour in the closet, at least for the time being.


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