How Workwear Is Shaping The Way We Work

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What do you wear to work?

The answer to this question probably depends on what you do. Some people work in a uniform, some work in tailored suits and others happily chill out in their pajamas while working from home! Deciding what to wear is largely down to company culture and you should always make a point of checking what everyone else is wearing before you show up for your first day!

But workwear is slowly changing. While some high profile jobs still require formal wear, many office jobs have relaxed their policy and many people now wear hoodies to work in places where jackets were once the more casual item of clothing!

Formal Clothing Provides Gravitas

Studies have shown that there is a connection between power and formal dressing. We automatically feel more powerful and more authoritative when we wear formal clothing such as tailored suits and expensive outfits. This, in turn, promotes a sense of self-confidence and autonomy that generally increases the quality and efficiency of work produced.

The effects of formal clothing are perhaps best seen in lawyers. When representing a client, a lawyer has to conform to the practices of the court but appear confident, powerful and persuasive too. One of the main tasks a lawyer has to fulfill is persuading people that their side of the argument is the most reasonable. Can you imagine a person in a hoodie being more persuasive than a person in an expensive suit? No, because we are conditioned to believe that the person in the suit must be better trained, more knowledgeable and more persuasive.

However, getting the right formal clothing is essential. The wrong cut, ill-fitting clothes or a poor color choice can all make a huge difference to perception. In fact, going to a company like to ensure the perfect fitting is a very good idea. A badly fitted suit doesn’t just look sloppy, it suggests that the person wearing it has no idea of social etiquette, doesn’t have the money to spend on a properly fitted suit and, however unfairly, isn’t as good at their job.

First impressions count for a lot and while many jobs are relaxing their dress codes, there is still a lot to be said for the way formal clothing shapes worker’s ethos and commitment to their job. This is probably not the time to experiment with unlikely men’s fashions!

Relaxed Clothing Encourages Creativity

There is a strong argument that the more comfortable and relaxed you are, the more creative you are likely to be. This is because when you are feeling chilled out, your brain is more likely to drift and come across a more interesting solution than the obvious answers that crop when you are stressed.

Relaxing the dress code is now more and more popular amongst creatives as a result. Creative offices are usually more relaxed in general with games, comfy sofas and lots of bright colors to stimulate creativity. However, this relaxed dress code can present its own issues. What happens when “relaxed” quietly morphs into scruffy?

Working out what is appropriate to wear when there isn’t a dress code is equally daunting. In fact, the worry about what to wear when there are no rules is probably more anxiety-inducing than a strict code! The rule here is actually really easy: just dress as though you are going to a casual restaurant. Jeans, a nice top or casual shirt and some comfortable clean shoes is about as basic as it gets. Chuck in some accessories and make sure you give everything a quick tickle with an iron and you are good to go.

Sexist Dress Codes Should Be a Thing of the Past By Now

Sexist dress codes have been in the media a lot recently, most recently with the #KuToo petition demanding that women shouldn’t be forced to wear high heels at work in Japan. It’s surprising that this sort of petition is still necessary in 2019 but lots of companies still insist on particular requirements and some airlines still specify the shade of lipstick their hostesses have to wear!

Sexist dress codes like these show that despite the progress many companies have made in relaxing the rules, there are still some that go too far. However, it does make you wonder whether if these companies were to relax their unreasonable demand, whether their employees’ work would improve.

A simple way to work out whether a dress code is sexist is to ask one question: is the company expecting something from one gender that it doesn’t expect from the other? So, can guys wear skirts? Would you specify a shade of lipstick for men? Would you ask women to wear a tie? If the answer is no, you should revisit your dress code.

Finding the Balance

There are lots of different dress codes to choose from and ultimately, the dress code that is right for one company might be all wrong for another, even when those companies seem to do the same things. In the end, if a company regards its employees as part of the brand, they will probably regard the dress code as part of the brand too.

The most important thing is what whichever dress code a company chooses to impose, they don’t go too far in implementing unreasonable demands. While many presume that the dress code affects work product, large tech companies like Google go against all that with their entirely absent dress code and relaxed approach in general. Given Google’s success, this might indicate that if you remove the issue entirely and trust people to make sensible decisions, you don’t need to waste any more time on the subject.

So what does this mean for the way that you dress for work? Well, the best advice anyone can give is that you choose something that makes you look good, feel good and fills you with confidence. This might be a suit and tie for one person or a hoodie for another but whatever it is, make sure that you do check in with your HR department before you rock up in something completely at odds with everyone else!

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