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<< Back Posted on 26th July 2019

By Lilli Spires


Bore da. Bit hot, isn’t it? I’m normally not one to complain about the precious moments of sun Wales receives but when you’re running a bit low on business wear, and you only own black trousers anyway, it does get a bit tasking. That’s definitely one of the problems I’ve come across that I didn’t expect when I entered the working world- what on earth am I supposed to wear?

I’ve struggled to find the correct balance of appropriate and comfortable, but the fact that I’m not in a customer-facing role does make things a little easier. Many companies, not just mine, have taken a slightly more relaxed approach to business wear for their office staff, many adopting a more personalised, business-casual attire. Workwear has become an indicator of company culture, beyond its direct meaning as a hint at the formality of the business, but an indication of its objectives, principles and attitudes. And, more and more, young interns are using these indicators to decide what kind of company they would be willing to work for in the future.

Many businesses one might consider progressive are those that do not initiate strict dress codes. This may be to do with the way much of the technology industry has incorporated casual attire, embracing the infamous ‘power vest’, which has become so popular with Stateside software companies that Patagonia have had to change their policy regarding bulk shipments. In order to emulate the progressive ethos of Silicon Valley, many companies are looking to do the same thing, and dress down their employees in favour of comfort and employee morale. JP Morgan Chase, for example, in 2016 announced it would start allowing ‘business casual’ attire for employees (although employees were encouraged to dress appropriately for the client). It’s also reflective of the type of employee they’re trying to attract; millennials and Generation Z are now aged between 17 and 38, and with baby boomers beginning to retire in droves, the skills gap needs filling.

Millennials tend not to want to work for a company that is vague about salary and promotional opportunities, or does not invest in the latest technology. Moreover, they will not be loyal to a company that is not loyal back- a study conducted by Deloitte found that 43 per cent of millennials plan to leave their current jobs within two years and only 28 per cent have plans to stay beyond five years. Salary does, as in all cases, improve commitment, but does not guarantee it- work-life balance is very important, with a third of all respondents to one study stating it was the most important factor to consider when applying for work. To many young people entering the workforce for the first time, a casual dress code indicates that the company has a positive workplace attitude, better benefits and work-life balance, and just a better ethos overall. Whether or not dress code does indicate any of these things is another matter – but a progressive dress code does seem to fit in with the progressive, sincere and adaptable company ethos many millennials are searching for.

Now, don’t get me wrong- If I had to wear formal business wear to work, I would, and I wouldn’t complain. I like dressing smartly. It makes me feel prepared for the day. But there’s also something liberating about being able to wear stretchy trousers so I can actually enjoy the works meal out, or wear sandals during this blistering heatwave we’re currently being hit with. There will always, of course be a difference between what is appropriate to wear to work and what is not. But there’s a level of adaptability that a company with a relaxed dress code has that other companies do not- an adaption to the fluid lives we lead, and the understanding that work may not be the only thing you do that day, rather than the expectation that it is. And, in the end, I think that’s only increased my sense of loyalty, if only for a short while.