For years, “business professional” has been the standard dress code in the workplace. For both men and women, suits were a must, neutral colors were ideal and closed-toe shoes were mandatory. However, it seems the times are changing. These strict rules that were hard to bend are slowly but surely being erased from the work environment altogether.
Taking a look at the current direction “business casual” is heading, underdressing may soon be considered a less severe faux pas than over-dressing. Major companies that previously had their employees following rigid dress code policies such as JP Morgan Chase & Co. have joined the likes of Google and Facebook, Inc. in contributing to the rise of business casual. This allows their employees to show up with slacks on instead of suits and blouses instead of blazers.
As this casual dress code strategy is getting adopted more often, the question of what exactly constitutes business casual arises. The definition of business casual is varied and ultimately is decided by each company’s own standards. In general, business casual is a style of clothing worn in the workplace that is meant to exude professionalism without being as formal as traditional business wear. Some pieces that would fall into this category are blouses, polos, sweaters, slacks, below-the-knee dresses or skirts paired with loafers or pumps.
There are many proven benefits to relaxed dress codes that have enticed more big companies to jump on board. Smaller companies in tech, the arts and other creative industries give their employees the chance to work in a more casual setting with their freedom to be more laid-back in their clothing choices. From the employee’s point of view, steering away from the inflexibility of business professional is seen as a perk that shouldn’t be ignored. Professional business suits tend to cost more than business-casual pieces, so employees would be saving big while having the freedom to dress more casually.
Interestingly, dressing in business casual attire also has a connection to one’s morale. Implementing business professional dress in the workplace can start to feel stifling for the employees due to the lack of variation in their wardrobes. Business casual attire makes employees feel comfortable and unrestricted, prompting them to do well and achieve more throughout the work day. A workspace that fosters creativity is proven to boost a company’s overall performance significantly, so companies should take note.
The popularity of business casual soaring not only for taking the needs of the employees into consideration, but it also takes into consideration how the customers view the company. Due to oversaturation in the job market, companies pitching similar products have no other choice but to consider their approachability so they can attract more business. Having something to set a company apart, like a business casual dress code, could be what determines the success of smaller companies looking for their place in the job market.
Fashion is truly one way for people to express themselves, and because of this, it shouldn’t be an option — it should be guaranteed. Now that the concept of business casual is picking up momentum, it looks like casual Fridays will soon be extended to seven days a week.
Sherah Ndjongo is a staff writer. Email her at email@example.com.