The 12 years I spent studying in school, albeit in changing sizes, I wore the same blue skirt and striped shirt uniform combo. When in school, I often dreamt of the days when I could wear whatever I wanted, and now that I am in college, I find myself occasionally yearning for a uniform. Of course, those days are few and far between and come around only when my laundry is long overdue. Although I enjoy the freedom to throw an outfit together and call it my own creation, I wonder if the same freedom would translate well in the workplace. Following Mark Zuckerberg’s iconic hoodie and flip-flop ensemble, a lot of companies are allowing a more relaxing dress code at work.
Older employees are certainly not happy with the latest development. According to said older employees, the slacker work clothes represent disrespect for the work environment. In my opinion, if we were to stop a suited businessperson walking down Wall Street and give them the option to come to work dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, they would gladly accept — unless maybe they are Barney Stinson. While at first thought, I would gladly advocate for casual wear to become the norm in the workplace, perhaps this is not such a good idea. At least not for certain fields and industries. The episode “Casual Friday” of “The Office” clearly attests to that.
A study conducted by Karen Pine, a psychology professor at the University of Hertfordshire, found a relation between the casualness of your clothing and your level of alertness. Basically, if you wear the same casual clothes that you wear at home at work, your mindset will be more relaxed and less focused. We generally associate casual clothes with having fun and therefore our mind adopts the attributes of the attire. As human beings, we are quick to make rash judgments, and this is exactly why employees working in retail are forced to wear a typical uniform, so as to not unintentionally offend a customer. On the other hand, a relaxed attire would be more acceptable if you work as a computer engineer at Google and are typically engaged in working behind a desk.
Ultimately, these systems at the workplace have been put in place (and have been in place) for a reason. As uncomfortable or uptight traditional business clothing might be, it reminds us to be attentive to our surroundings and essentially be in a frame of mind that is ready to get work done and not slack off. Wall Street has its strict uniform in place because, quite honestly, it would be bizarre to see people going to Goldman Sachs wearing cargo shorts. In a place where meetings with potential investors occur round the clock, it is a better idea to remain dressed impeccably. Whether you like it or not, what you wear represents who you are. As a message to myself, I better enjoy my days in college and the freedom to dress without a rigid dress code in place because as a finance major, I highly doubt my ripped jeans are going to be taken seriously or even tolerated.