Are Casual Dress Codes Here to Stay?

Woman working on laptop smiling in "casual" clothing

As more millennials and even Gen Z join the workforce, it seems the number of companies allowing casual attire at the office is also increasing. This trend originally stemming from Silicon Valley has managed to work its way into many companies, including IBM, General Electric, and even JPMorgan Chase. The real question is, are casual dress codes here to stay?

One can only speculate, but my (educated) guess would be yes, at least in some capacity. As an alum of the Fashion Institute of Technology, I’d like to think I have some knowledge of fashion trends. I remember when sneakers were first paired with elegant fashion pieces on the runway. After that, sneakers were paired with dresses and suits on the daily. It seems that casual dress codes are following suit (no pun intended).

A lot of companies allow not only jeans and sneakers, but also athleisure clothing like leggings and baseball caps. Even employees who interact with clients are allowed to dress like this every day. Why are companies allowing this to happen? Well, it could be the fact that 61% of employees feel more productive when they’re dressed in more casual clothing.

There’s even some research behind this trend. Mike Slepian, an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School, explains that casual dress allows employees to think more concretely, accomplishing more goals and completing more tasks than if dressed in formal business attire. He notes that it also promotes a sense of boosted morale and camaraderie.

With an increase in productivity and morale, one would think casual dress codes are here to stay. With that in mind, here’s some tips to mastering the look:

  1. Don’t assume! Don’t assume the dress code’s casual – especially on an interview. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.
  2. The office is not the park. Even if the AC barely works and it’s always 80 degrees inside, resist the urge to wear those ripped denim shorts.
  3. When in doubt, don’t wear it! If you’re on the fence about that Nirvana concert tee that’s filled with holes, it’s better saved for weekends.

Only time will tell if business dress codes will revert back to being more formal. If productivity is up and employees dress appropriately, however, I don’t see this trend going anywhere. And, I for one, am happy about that!

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