Julie Tucker
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Should you wear a suit to the office?

Business leaders say the Covid pandemic may have finished off formal dress codes in the office for good. We’ve been drifting away from corporate wear for years, according to research, with international brands such as Google and Apple having a more relaxed dress code.

Working from home has meant office workers can wear pretty much what they please. Unless they have a video conference with colleagues or clients, jogging pants and t-shirts have become the norm for many of us.

Casual workwear

The trend for casual attire is something a lot of people have got used to. Around three in ten Brits surveyed by recruiting company Ranstrad say they would like to see formal office dress codes ditched altogether when everyone is back at the office.

In a poll of job seekers, 48% say they are happy with “smart casual” workwear, while 28% don’t want to be governed by dress codes. However, 24% are tired of wearing casual loungewear and want to get “suited and booted” again, even putting on a full suit for video calls.

Of the people who would like to see dress codes scrapped, the majority say they favour “relaxed” workwear, but 8% want to see an “anything goes” approach, with even shorts and flip-flops being acceptable.

Dressing for success?

While some people can’t see a problem with completely casual work attire, the benefits of wearing a suit to the office can’t be ignored. Many business leaders still recognise the value of dressing for success. They feel wearing a suit represents the business appropriately, empowering employees and, well, simply looking smart!

In the 21st century, many businesses have opted for a “smart casual” look. The question is, have casual dress codes gone too far? A survey published in The Independent revealed only one in ten employees regularly wear a suit to work.

A poll of 2,000 UK workers found today’s office employees were more likely to be wearing jeans or chinos, long-sleeved button shirts or polo shirts and smart trainers or loafers, some with a jacket or blazer. Of the employees who said they dressed casually for work, 70% revealed it was because they felt more comfortable.

Around 20% said casual clothing made them feel they were expressing their personality and therefore they performed better. More than 50% of employees said it was “more affordable” to wear casual work clothes, as suits had to be dry-cleaned, whereas ordinary clothing could be thrown in the washing machine at night.

Many office employees feel the business suit has had its day, with 43% saying a colleague wearing a suit every day “sticks out like a sore thumb” amid the “casual but smart” workforce.

Has the suit had its day?

Suits have been classed as a sign of success and power in the workplace since the 19th century. Even after World War II and into the 1950s, city streets and public transport would be filled with smartly-dressed workers in suits.

Now, initiatives such as “Casual Friday” have further reduced suit-wearing. Casual Friday permits employees to relax their formal dress code at the end of the week. The trend began in Hawaii in the mid-20th century, when it was known as “Aloha Friday”. Over the years, it spread throughout the US and Europe.

Despite the arguments that many employees are more comfortable in casual clothes and feel they perform better as a result, is there still a case for wearing suits to work? Some advocates say suits should still be worn in meetings because they look smart and professional.

There’s another argument that they should be worn in certain sectors such as the legal profession, or the financial sector. After all, your bank manager is responsible for handling large sums of your hard-earned cash, so how would you feel if you walked into the office and found staff wearing jeans, t-shirts and trainers?

Power dressing

According to scientific research, wearing a suit can make employees feel more “powerful, engaged and likely to succeed”. Studies into how wearing different clothing makes us feel claim dressing smartly for work can make employees “more decisive and focused”.

Adam Glinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School, who has carried out much research into the power of clothing in enhancing performance, calls the theory the “enclothed cognition” effect. He has found clothing can influence our performance because when we feel confident that we look the part, we will perform better at a specific task.

With the modern trend for flexible workspaces, such as coworking spaces, workers are permitted to wear what they like. This doesn’t necessarily mean everyone dresses down, however.

Making your own decisions

A dress code is a set of rules regarding the physical appearance of a person according to a particular situation. It can differ according to the sector or duties of the individual. When you consider our work culture today, it is constantly changing – and with it our dress codes.

A restrictive dress code can stifle people’s enthusiasm and creativity, so this is why coworking spaces don’t comply. However, just because there isn’t a formal dress code doesn’t mean people won’t wear suits. One of the benefits of a flexible workspace is the freedom to wear what you choose.

However, if you’re hosting an important meeting for clients or sponsors, you’re likely to want to wear a suit, feeling confident you look the part.

For information on the best coworking spaces in the UK, contact Headspace Group today.


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