Are the days of a suit and tie numbered?
The sun is shining and whilst as Brits we shouldn’t be grumbling, the “it’s so hot”s have begun already. Whilst we all love a bit of sun when we have the freedom to don shorts and sunnies, our work attire doesn’t always lend itself to the sweltering hot box we call the office. For men working in the city, this rings particularly true and whilst a large majority of tech and media offices have moved away from rigid dress codes, there’s still a large majority of us strapping the tie on every day.
As offices have moved away from traditional meeting methods and social events, why is it that with our clothes, the rules have remained the same?
Take a stroll down Silicon Valley, the home of Google and Facebook HQ’s and there’s a stark difference to the London tube in the morning. In fact you’ll be hard pushed to find a single suit amongst the t-shirts, jeans and occasional pair of flip flops. Leading the way for almost every workplace change we’ve seen, the valley are pioneers of employee engagement. They claim that the positive emotional effects of abandoning a uniform policy can outweigh any initial growing pains, and now it’s become the norm there’s no awkwardness when it comes to deciding what smart-casual actually means, when conducting out-of-office meetings.
This change in policy could have a deeper meaning however, with The Journal of Consumer Research, claiming that casual attire can often be used as a power move. Stating that “wealthy people sometimes dress very badly to demonstrate superiority”, they hit upon a more corporate reason for the change than just employee wellbeing.
Whilst this probably isn’t the main motivational factor behind the policy change, Google, Amazon and Apple have taken this one step further by actually banning their employees from wearing a necktie at work, with the traditional garment seen as going against their brand image. The ruling does seem a little far, however with studies showing that suits can make employees feel ‘dehumanised’ and ‘homogenous’, it may become a more common occurrence.
Despite the negative press strict uniform policies can garner, there are positives to more corporate garments. Seen recently, when the women at Stylist Magazine swapped out their jeans for power suits, and largely reported feeling more ready for work, suits and other formal workwear have been suggested to have a psychological effect on our motivation. Adding an ease to the morning, which the matching problems and extra decisions of casual attire does not, a suit can, for some of us, feel like a safety blanket we’re unwilling to get rid of.
With a third of Brits already stating they no longer wear a suit to work, this isn’t a conversation that is going to go away, and although the suit has been around longer than any of the companies championing its demise, It may have finally had its day. Moving forward then, the best policy might be no policy at all; leaving the choice to your employees to decide which days warrant a tie and which are okay for chinos. After all, if you don’t trust them to dress themselves, why did you hire them at all?