In defence of the work wardrobe

What do you wear to work, do you have any choice in the matter? Katie Beech, e-commerce administrator at Tibard, explores the workwear wardrobe.

If you’re on a construction site, it might be a hard hat, and if it’s in a laboratory, it could be safety goggles and gloves. Sometimes our career defines our work.

But, if you’re not in a specialised field with a mandatory dress code, then the scope of workwear widens.

For those in general business and more specifically, the office environment the idea of a professional work wardrobe might soon be a thing of the past.

But what is office wear? It’s a subjective decision that can often be influenced by age, gender, sector and personality. Still, we all tend to agree on a business-casual baseline, e.g. shirts, blouses, skirts and trousers. Sometimes people view this as a suit and tie and more increasingly we defined acceptable office wear like jeans and a T shirt.

40 hours a week

What we wear for those 40 hours a week we sit at our desks is a part of our daily lives and can affect other areas as well.

A lot of the time office clothes trends follow the old adage ‘dress for success’, but with changing attitudes towards what we define as successful and cultural shifts, it also means what’s acceptable to wear in the office changes as well.

Sam Walton

Up until about 25 years ago, the image of success hadn’t really changed since the 1950s. To highlight this look at John Kluge, Sam Walton or Daniel Ludwig all of whom were named ‘The Richest Man in the World’ during the 70s and 80s. These were all traditional businessmen who made their money in products or franchises. In any picture, you see these men in a collared shirt, jacket and tie, and subsequently, this became the logical uniform for businesses around the country.

However, towards the dawn of the 21st century, the face of success began to look very different. The rise of the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs who rarely if ever seen in a suit and tie meant we slowly started to move away from traditional views of what a successful person dresses.

Mark Zuckerberg

This trend has only grown in recent years. Take a look at Mark Zuckerberg, a billionaire with an ever-increasing fortune. He built Facebook from the ground up without ever wearing a tie.

Of course, this moved slowly, but increasingly companies will put a ‘relaxed dress code’ as a perk on a job advertisement.

And that’s a good thing, right? On Monday mornings when you’re still bleary-eyed and missing the weekend wrapping yourself up in your favourite hoodie makes the ride into work just a little less tiresome. Worrying about uncomfortable skirts and if our shoes are formal enough helps free up our minds to focus on the important stuff.

But dressing in the same stuff you wear in your ‘off-hours’ bleeds into a completely separate issue; work/ life balance.

Work/ life balance

According to a survey by the global consulting firm, Korn Ferry, 50% of us are more stressed at work than we were five years ago despite this causal dress code becoming increasingly commonplace. It’s understandable on many levels, with a constant connection to our work lives through smartphones we check our work emails on instinct. And the expectation to go above and beyond our contracted hours those jeans you pull out to go to the pub in also become those jeans you’re into work those extra hours to meet your deadline.

We often define what clothes mean like how 20 years ago, we described success as a suit and tie, but we also determine what clothes mean on a personal basis. Wearing the same things you’re wearing while stressed at work is going to have you in that same mind-set on your off days. Cast your mind back to when you were a child, one of the best parts of the day was changing out of your school uniform into your everyday clothes.

But if success now looks like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg then surely we should all be seeking to adopt their casual sartorial choices?

We seem to be missing the central competent to the new ‘dress for success’, and that’s consistency. Steve Jobs wore his signature black turtleneck every day for work, and Mark Zuckerberg wears his grey hoodies and T shirts without fail, and thusly they became as crucial to their work as a hard hat is to a construction worker. Their work wardrobe is a defined part of their life; it’s a way to psychologically get themselves into the zone and spend less time worrying about what they’re wearing.

So, try a work wardrobe, something that’s strictly for your Monday to Friday. That doesn’t mean you should roll up to work every day in a suit or tie or a black turtleneck. It just means a defined set of clothes to give yourself a physical barrier between work and home you’ll be able to invest fully in both.

Check Also

No job too big or too small!

Created out of a desire to do things better, P&P editor Melanie Attlesey speaks to …

Dorset entrepreneur swaps wetsuits for sweatshirts with help from Roland

Rosie Lees took over The Embroidery Barn in 2018 with no experience of producing promotional …