From the title, you may be wondering what I mean by professional work attire ‘loosening its tie’- let me explain. ‘Loosening the tie’ refers to a workplace easing restrictive or uncomfortable clothing that may fall under the ‘business professional’ dress code. I won’t argue that business professional work attire isn’t necessary at all. Every workplace is different and is entitled to have expectations for work attire. The purpose of this blog is to reflect on how it effects the employees and the potential changes a business could make to their dress code.
Loosening the tie
I like a tie as much as the next person, but do I see a benefit in knotting a piece of fabric around your neck nine hours a day, five days a week? Not really. Can you achieve a professional business look without it, or at least only wear it for certain occasions? For sure!
The purpose of wearing the ‘tie’ (metaphorically speaking) is for a great first impression- whether in an interview or liaising with clients. But do you need to wear a three-piece suit or six-inch heels to give this professional impression? Or would a sleek pair of pants and an ironed blouse do the trick? ‘Loosening the tie’ doesn’t mean throwing away business professional attire altogether. It just means relaxing the amount of effort put into it. Can we find a happy medium between the stiff and polished professional look and the comfortable, smart casual look? I think so.
Exchange the high-heeled shoes for mobility
Should comfort come before conformity? We want to be mobile and walk up a hill without pain in our feet or to sit down without fabric digging into our skin. It’s surprising how much comfort affects productivity.
Studies focused on this topic discovered that your work attire can impact how you act and feel. A survey conducted by Stormline concluded that many people feel more productive when they are comfortable and are more confident in their appearance without a strict dress code.
I talked to Ellen Kerr, the Business Development Manager here at Myrecruitment+, about her feelings towards intelligent casual work attire instead of professional business attire. She had this to say,
“I feel more comfortable whilst working if I am wearing smart casual attire. It helps me feel more relaxed during the working day, which in turn helps me focus more fully on the tasks ahead.”
A company’s values affects the employee experience, therefore, ensuring your employees have comfort over conformity could ensure a relaxed and productive environment, whilst still maintaining a great impression on clients.
Here is a relevant scenario:
Imagine Jackie, a sales executive at a large software company. From the early morning to the late afternoon, she is expected to wear a pencil skirt or pants-suit with polished black high-heeled shoes and her hair tied up. She has to walk from the train station up a small hill to get to her office. By the time she gets there, her feet are already aching. Jackie is not scheduled to meet any clients face-to-face, yet she’s dressed like she’s on the cover of Forbes magazine.
As the day goes on, Jackie finds herself constantly fidgeting due to the restrictive slender pants and blister-inducing shoes. All she wants to do is change into some comfortable pants and slippers. Her clothes have become a distraction. Being comfortable physically will translate mentally.
Why not wear comfortable shoes that don’t make your feet feel on fire? Why not wear smart-casual jeans that you can sit down in for hours?
Business professional attire for special occasions
Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for the business professional attire for those high-stake reasons. As I mentioned before, liaising with a client, attending a conference, or other business events require these superior polished looks. In these times we are representing our company, and we aim to impress. But behind closed doors, we impress with our minds and work ethic, not with unbreathable suits that make you want to jump into an ice bath to cool down.
However, there are specific workplaces that interact with their clientele every day. Therefore, polished and professional attire does make a lot of sense for them. So this blog does not apply to everyone. But if you do look at your own company or the company you work for, you may see my point on relaxing the work attire.
I spoke to Jeannine Winiata, the Sales Manager here at Myrecruitment+, about her thoughts on this topic. She had this to say,
“In my current role, we are fairly casual in the way we dress. I love wearing casual clothes to the office; I feel comfortable and relaxed. I don’t need to overthink about what to wear in the mornings. And we sell our services online, so it suits our environment. I’ve worked in a previous role where I was provided with a very expensive designer uniform. Yes, I loved feeling expensive and dressed up, but I wasn’t so comfortable, and my feet used to hurt from the high heels. However, it suited the environment.”
Loosen the tie, but steer clear of the sweatpants
We’ve got to make sure there is a balance and we don’t go to the extreme opposite side of the spectrum. We don’t want to turn up to work in sweats, ugg boots and a baggy shirt. We want to wear breathable pants with a sophisticated top and flexible shoes.
I find there is an interesting comparison between work attire and school uniforms. School uniforms are intended to teach children the value of wearing appropriate con-formative attire. When I was in high school, girls were required to wear skirts, button shirts and leather shoes. Pretty standard, right? However, many girls had a problem having to wear a skirt. For one, they were uncomfortable and freezing in winter. Secondly, we wanted to be able to wear pants as they were more mobile. Luckily the school heard our concerns and changed their attire expectations. Why did they do this? They noticed the girls were reluctant to participate in sports and avoided attending school on cold days. The uniform was distracting them and effecting their productivity.
Whenever I am walking to work, I always see the high-end professionals walking down the street. The women in sleek dresses or tight pencil skirts with slim high-heeled shoes and a blazer. At times I’ve seen them wince is discomfort from their strict apparel and pointy shoes. The men are dressed in sophisticated suits, with vibrant ties and and tight leather shoes. On a warm day, I cannot imagine the misery they must feel when walking to their office. Often, I see these men fidgeting with their ties or wearing a comfortable pair of shoes, clearly intended to be exchanged with the leathers when he enters the office.
I dug a little further into this topic. I found an interesting statistic reviewed by Brainerd Dispatch, “A survey of 200 human resources directors at Fortune 500 companies conducted by the Lands’ End clothing company found that workers at eight out of ten firms had adopted more casual dress habits over the past five years.”
After looking at this information, it is clear that smart-casual attire is becoming a more common dress code in this day and age. I find it more versatile and mobile, and you get to express your style (appropriately, of course). So why not give it a try? I can tell you now, that wearing comfy clothes is a game changer.