Oli Foster / 16th April 2018

Underdress for success, the office dress code is relaxing

There was a time that if you didn’t show up for work in a full three-piece suit, with all the extras, you were sorely underdressed and in for a disciplining. But those days are, for the most part, long gone, and now we are seeing more and more companies lean towards a relaxed office dress code.

How people dress, even in everyday life, is far more relaxed than it used to be. So why should office wear be so vastly different?

But why the change?

As with a lot of workplace trends, especially changes that seem to hint at de-formalising corporate culture, people are naming (or blaming) two main groups as the cause.

The youth are at it again

Firstly, the younger generations. Millennials and Generation X now make up the largest part of the workforce, and so their views and habits are becoming more widely accepted and incorporated. This has happened with generation after generation, but the push is a little harder with these generations.

Their priorities are less about duty and security, and more about comfort and enjoyment. This is why they are less likely to follow defined career paths.

It’s also why they don’t all want to be stuck in “formal” suits at work.

Most people spend the majority of their waking hours at work, so they want to be enjoying what they do. They want to be feeling confident and comfortable in their clothing. This is where the traditional office dress codes are being challenged.

While some senior managers are resentful of this shift towards more casual office dress codes, there is another group that is forcing some traditional corporate businesses to rethink their rules.

The Silicon Valley influence

As with a lot of changes nowadays, the tech revolution is thought to be speeding up what would otherwise have been a more prolonged adjustment. The emergence of casual corporate culture in a lot of tech firms, most famously in Silicon Valley, is really setting a new standard across the board.

Now, obviously, not every office is going to be a stereotypical Silicon Valley, flip flops and vests, ultra-casual style workplace. Just as you wouldn’t expect beanbags in a bank, you wouldn’t expect every office dress code to look like no-uniform day at school. The important thing is defining what sort of dress code will work in your office.

A number of multinational corporations have embraced the new norm, as it were, in their office dress codes. Some of these have been fairly controversial, like Wall Street giants JPMorgan Chase. But their choice to ‘go with the flow’ in this area proves that the days of strict rules and formal attire are over.

Dress for the job you want

With the changes in business practices themselves, towards a more personal, cooperative corporate world, it makes sense that office dress codes would change concurrently.

Many entrepreneurs, industry influencers and global leaders are embracing a style that would previously have been thought unthinkable. Most people will still dress up for a client meeting or important business event. But their day-to-day wear is often far more personable, comfortable, and expressive of self.

So perhaps you’re not quite at a jeans and t-shirts stage in your office dress code evolution. That doesn’t mean that allowances can’t be made for comfort, personal style, and progress in general. It’s all about balance, and a little bit about accessorising as well.