The 1970's highly conservative, IBM-like suit and tie dress codes died in the 80's when "Casual Fridays" became a corporate 'benefit.' In the 90's, Casual Fridays became Casual Every days. Now it seems the pendulum of appropriate professional appearance may be swinging back toward conservatism and money appears to be the motivating factor.
It may seem that liberal dress codes are best tolerated when National unemployment rates are dramatically low. During the height of the Dot.Com era, information technology professionals were amongst the most highly sought workers in this country. I often referred to IT employees as the "Golden Collar" workers because it seemed their career streets were paved in gold. These talented computer experts were the royalty amongst us. New college grads with little or no workplace experience could readily assume a starting salary of $50,000 per year or more, even in the Midwest. They could ask for, and extort the most fanciful of benefits (including such perks as company-paid dog walking services, flex time that allowed for work hours at all hours and absolutely no dress codes. Body piercing seemed a norm). However, these "Golden Collar" workers rarely wore any type of collar to work.
But since the events of September 11, 2001, Americans seem to now have a tremendous desire to represent themselves to the world, their children and their employers, as educated, poised and prepared. The economy has shifted so quickly that even IT computer professionals are being laid off in huge numbers. It has left many of them and their families stunned by the razor sharp swiftness by which their futures, and fortunes, have changed. Unemployment is easing upward and I am recognizing a familiar trend - the suit is not just for the interview anymore.
Many companies are citing studies ( 2001, Jeffrey Magee International, Tulsa OK www.jeffreymagee.com - conducted research on the impact of casual dress in the workplace with 8,000 individuals and 200 Fortune 500 firms, leading businesses and associations; 2000, Jackson-Lewis Labor Law , White Plains, NY- polled 1000 managers) which concluded that casual dress is not having a desirable impact upon positive business branding. Additionally, these studies supported the correlation of casual dress to a statistically significant increase in tardiness, absenteeism and sexual harassment law suits. Managing these issues certainly involve costs, including financial costs. Many companies reverting to a "suits only" dress code are seeing a positive impact with increased revenue generation, thus using a dress code as a marketing device. That means more money to both corporation and employee. This is especially true in the sales of high-dollar, executive level products and services.
OK, so money may be a motivating factor forcing corporations to reevaluate their casual dress codes. Allow me to suggest that money may also motivate you to do the same. Consider the following:
Top Ten Reasons to Wear A Suit:
10. Think of your suits as another tool in your career tool box. It's similar to a stage actor having to wear his 'costume' when performing in a play set in the 1800's. While not his personal choice for everyday wear, at work he is passionate about convincing his audiences (customers) that he is that character and worthy of an award. If he gets an award, he can get a raise and maybe another acting job. All of this equates to money.
9. Less clothing choices saves time in the morning. No more questioning whether a certain pair of jeans, hot pink spandex leggings or sneakers is appropriate. Time is money.
8 . Professional clothes don't need nearly as much ironing and cleaning as casual clothes. (Generally all suits contain wool, which requires little, if no, ironing).
7. Professional clothes can be cheaper than jeans, logo tee shirts and the current trends in sneakers. (Recently, I saw a wide range of jeans for over $100 per pair, Nike sneakers at $99 and up, and plain tee shirts with names like Tommy, Ralph and other sport figure names for $60+ each!!). A well-cut classic suit, with stylish yet, comfortable shoes and a cotton dress shirt can be less expensive than the jeans outfit. And especially if you shop at the new, up-scale consignment clothiers, that specialize in suits and other formal wear.
6. Suits make you LOOK important, so people think you ARE important.
5. Important people get better treatment (as you rightfully deserve of course!). Plus, people seem to listen more attentively to you.
4. You will get better service EVERYWHERE you go! (You'll get used to this very quickly!)
3. If you look GOOD, you feel GOOD. It increases self esteem- i.e. ego booster (Oh, yes- and that feels great! Can't argue with that one). And many studies indicate that people are more productive, and respectful to one another when dressed in suits.
2. Your career and professional goals will be taken much more seriously. And you'll move up more quickly!
#1. And if you move up more quickly (or at least keep your job) you will make more money! Now that's a real benefit!