The workplace has changed, and dress codes are increasingly open to interpretation by employers. In the fluctuating expectations of the modern working environment, is the traditional approach to ‘suiting and booting’ still relevant? It seems everywhere you look, hoodied billionaires are directing companies with their trainers up on the Chesterfield. The imagery of capitalist power has shifted from the Yuppie in shirtsleeves to a new typology of the scruffy success story.
Sociological studies are bucking trends and demonstrating that a comfortable approach can create confident and productive staff. In work, the boundaries of formalism and identity are also changing. Although enacted at the discretion of individual companies, it is safe to say that there is a trend towards reputable businesses creating a more colloquial office dress code. Gone are the days when factory hands wore overalls, and the tailored trousers of the office simply signified middle-class cultural capital. Now it’s different, and it works both ways.
Have you noticed that every factory farmed telesales job this side of the Channel expects its spotty-faced progeny to sport shiny suits whilst performing the mindless repetition of cold-calling? The gravity conveyed by a two piece suit is rendered almost ironic when worn by a teenage delinquent flogging windows from five to nine each evening. The veneer of respectability translated by a formal dress code can be seen as distracting employees from the realities of their role, creating a sense of power where very little (in terms of longevity, capital reward and career progression) can be found. Some of the lowest paid and quickly turned-over roles insist on strict office dress, and all the while social media whizz-kids can be found doing lucrative deals in their hi-top Adidas Classics
This relaxation of corporate and private sector dress codes is subjective however, and is less likely to be applied in the public sector, where uniform and dress are more intrinsically linked to identity and an enforcement of performance effectiveness. It would be difficult to imagine a policeman, soldier, doctor or a nurse enacting their role in t shirts, without all of the constructions of power, authority, trust and effects that are encoded within the very uniform itself.
It looks like the effect dress code has on the working environment depends very much on who that environment caters for. Dressing up or down projects a powerful image of the organisation or profession one represents, and its employees and clients alike can press meanings, or not, onto the dress code of a company. So whether cool and cultured or powerfully commanding, your dress code at work says a lot about you.
Thanks to the defiantly scruffy Chris at 8Ball.co.uk for providing this article