March 21, 2017|

To Suit or Not to Suit – ECHOtape digs in to the Dress Code Debate

  • echotape-do-dress-codes-really-matter | via TAPED, the ECHOtape blog
workplace dress code

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For many years, ECHOtape’s dress code has been Business Casual with the requisite Jean Friday. As a manufacturing company with warehouse and production space,  ties and high heels pose a significant safety hazard.  But recently, my daughter switched jobs and it has me thinking about office dress codes.

For the past few years, she’s worked in a millennial-centric workplace. Mostly jean casual, but with a hipster flair, trendy shoes or pink braid extensions. But then she got a job with Morgan Stanley, where the mantra seems to be, “You are only as good as your tailor.” Bye-bye denim. Hello, pencil skirt and peep toe pumps.  She loves the job, hates the dress code.

Which makes me wonder… what is the norm?

To Suit or Not to Suit?

Turns out, “business casual” is a fairly recent phenomenon.  In 1992, Levi Strauss famously mailed 25,000 copies of “A Guide to Casual Businesswear” to HR departments across the United States, a tactical effort designed to offset declining jean sales by boldly promoting their Dockers brand. Clearly, it worked. By the end of 1990s, khakis, button downs and polo shirts had replaced the Mad Men-style suit and tie.

It wasn’t until 2012, when Mark Zuckerberg famously wore a hoodie to announce Facebook’s IPO, that companies began reconsider company dress codes. Should they loosen dress code rules, tighten them back up or do away with them entirely?

It’s become a spirited debate.  Consider Google’s hilarious four-word dress code —You Must Wear Clothes — and the aforementioned uber-casual tech CEOs style.  These proponents of casual dress claim that formal attire stifles creativity; letting employees express their personal style is good for morale and boosts productivity.

By contrast, others insist that formal dress codes are necessary for high productivity and could enhance cognitive processing. For many companies, especially in law or finance, dressing up sends a message that the company is serious about their work—and customers respond to that.

While I’m not a big fan of hoodies in the workplace, I do think that what employees wear to work is part of a company’s culture. As such, it’s important to put aside personal preferences of the President or CEO and make the decision based on what’s best for your company’s productivity, culture and values.

What do you think? Does dress code effect work performance? 

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