As business students at Bryant, we are taught the first week of freshman year that we should dress for success in the workplace. While most first year students are at Bed Bath & Beyond buying bedding, we are at Macy’s buying suits and collared shirts. It seems that at least once a month we break out our blazers for yet another presentation or interview and as one could probably imagine, by the time we hit senior year we have more business formal attire than casual wear hanging in our closets. So why, I ask you, are businesses deciding to change from the professional look of business casual to allowing their employees to wear jeans and t-shirts in the workplace? Personally, I am not a fan of this strategy and find that it is more confusing than functional.
This summer, I interned at a firm and coincidentally, the month before I started my internship, they changed to a “smart casual” wardrobe. What does “smart casual” mean? Well, after this summer I can tell you that it would take me way more than 800 words to explain what this outrageous idea actually is. The company explained this idea as “dressing for your day.” That means, if you are traveling to a client, you have to dress according to the clients dress code, and if you are working from the office, you can basically wear anything you want except for yoga pants and gym clothes. However, there are a lot of exceptions that go along with this idea and after being told the motto, “if you have second thoughts about what you’re wearing you, probably shouldn’t wear it,” on the first day of my internship, it left myself and many of the other interns wanting to dress in business attire just so we wouldn’t get in trouble.
Dressing casually in the workplace is not a new idea. Technology powerhouses like Google and Apple dreamed up this plan years ago and many other innovative companies have followed suit. Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see the CEO of a company in jeans and sandals or a Partner of a large firm showing up in clothing far from the normal shirt and tie. Accounting companies such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and Grant Thornton are the newest entrants in the game of casual wear, and soon enough, we will be seeing every corporation adopting this culture.
This new ideology is bad for three important reasons. First, dressing for success is a proven scientific fact. As stated in an article titled 10 Reasons to Dress for Success, “Scientists from Columbia University and Cal State Northridge found that wearing formal clothes can free people from concrete thinking while boosting their ability to think more practically,” (Devine). Second, dressing in formal clothes promotes respect that you have for yourself, it boosts your confidence, especially when in a meeting, and it will keep you productive. I think we can all attest to the fact that when we put on our comfy clothes or dress in our favorite pair of jeans, it is in fact the time when we are in our laziest state. I believe that if you put enough effort into getting your dream job in the business world, you can put effort into your appearance every morning by showering and putting on a dress or business pants. Lastly, thinking from the perspective of a business student, with the consumption of business attire declining day by day, stores like Macy’s and Lord & Taylor will have to get rid of their formal attire lines altogether. The fact is that people are not buying suits like they used to anymore and that is scary for stores who specialize in those items.
I challenge you during your next job or internship to see what the company’s dress code is. It is likely that it will be some alternative to business casual and that jeans are acceptable. However, I ask that you continue to dress in business attire for the important reasons that I listed. Remember what I always say, “Look good, to feel good.”