No need to watch for a long time people coming out of offices to see that the “Business Casualwear” culture has become evident in our work places. Even if in some professions such as the institutional investors, assurance-bank, business & merchant banks, real-estate, legal and auditing firms, they have preserved a very business oriented dress code. The suit has the psychological & symbolic meaning of a uniform which provides indications on the corporation you belong to.
In the past years, psychological studies have found that there is a link between sloppy attire and productivity. Conclusions have shown that we tend to adopt the characteristics of the clothing we wear *. In other words, sloppy dress leads to sloppy work. When dressed-down, productivity decreases, coffee-breaks turn into day- breaks; protracted conversations are carried on in corridors and meeting rooms. Tardiness and absenteeism increase and on “Casual Friday” employees leave at 3 pm.
This “casual” movement began in the United States in the 1960s, the idea was to erase the distinctions of class regardless of ranks, salary or position in the company while at the same time company, was developing a spirit of « team work » and « employee empowerment * .
For Judith Rasband, Director of Conselle Institute of Image Management, “the business casual” trend is not a fashion trend, but the mirror of social, economic, political, technological and cultural changes” which in today’s turbulent time is an indicator of the decline of our values.
Do you trust the nonchalant and sloppy allure of a colleague who is supposed to handle touchy & important files? Of course nobody wants to be judged on appearance, instead, we all want be recognized for our performance, skills and professionalism.
“However, the way you look affects, the way you think, the way you feel, the way you speak, the way you act, and then…the way others react or respond to you.”, states Rasband. I am not saying that we should go back to the old times as in the TV series « Mad Men » or « The Suit » even if personally I prefer this style. So my advice? Adopt a dress-code appropriate to your company or the industry in which you work.
The good news, fortunately for you, is that the winter sales begin in a few weeks! Go and shop for basics and begin to build your professional wardrobe: A tailored suit or if you want to look more authoritative. Look for an unmatched suit preferably charcoal, navy blue or black to look a bit more approachable. Have solid colored shirts (white, light blue, etc.), and replace your sneaker shoes with dress shoes.
Being appropriately and professionally dressed doesn’t mean you must break your piggy bank and buy luxury brand clothes. There are a lot of affordable ready-to-wear brands which will offer you a wide range of styles, fabric, and colors.
So on your marks get set, go!
* Dr Karen Pine, professeur en psychologie à l’Université de Hertfordshire. GB
*(p. 18). Kaplan-Leiserson E