Workwear: what to wear?

What is acceptable to wear for work? For the last decade or so, it’s been a topic for hot debate and it seems that the boundaries are forever changing.

There used to be a time when, without a doubt, a man would wear a suit jacket, shirt and tie in the office and a woman would wear the female equivalent. Uniforms for people who worked in customer service would always be smartly pressed, clean and well fitted too.

But, with the advent of the trendier places to work such as Google, with its employee friendly practices, free food and take your dog to work policies, has also come a noticeable relax with regard to dress codes in many an industry.

For those who work in dangerous jobs in construction, manufacturing, and engineering, for example, safety clothing is a must. But, when it comes to the safer, more creative industries, such as marketing and advertising, it seems that the rules of dress are fading.

Now, there are two sides of the fence you could take on this. Arguably, the more comfortable you feel at work, the more productive you are likely to be. Therefore, dressing down is the way forward, right? After all, there’s nothing worse than spending long periods of time feeling uncomfortable and it’s certainly not going to allow you full concentration on the task at hand.

Well yes, that’s true, in some respects, but who says smart clothing can’t be comfortable if chosen right? And, would dressing too casually make a good first impression on a new client, for example?

When your role is an outward facing one, what sort of a company image do you want to portray to potential customers? There are no two ways about it, the human race is most definitely influenced by aesthetics, so, if someone is coming to you for a service, will they assume that if you’re dressed casually, you might take a similarly casual approach to your work?

The “professional” environment is certainly changing, but, I think one thing remains the same. That if you look professional, you’ll feel professional and therefore more confident and able to do the job. This confidence will shine through to prospective clients who will be reassured by your overall demeanour.

Having said that, is there still the need to be quite as stiffly suited and booted as you might have been 50 years ago? Is it acceptable to ditch the tie, for example? Will this make you appear more approachable and human?

Although our clients are still very much professionally dressed, in the recruitment industry I have noticed that some are becoming a little more relaxed and directors don’t wear ties (this was unheard of 5 years ago!).

I have even seen some turn up for meetings in chino type trousers, shirt, and blazer… is this where things are going? Having seen similar posts from other recruitment companies recently, it’s got me thinking.

And, personally, I am yet to be convinced. After all, surely, when it comes to fashion, there’s a time and a place for everything? Would you wear a suit to the beach, for example? If so, why would flip flops and shorts be ok at work?

I wouldn’t have even entertained the thought two years ago, but I do find myself seeing it more and more in the work place. Meetings are different too, but in some ways, people might appreciate that this fosters a more relaxed atmosphere and therefore positive relationship with clients.

What do you think? Is there a happy medium maybe? What is acceptable and what isn’t?