When I express my contempt for wearing business clothes, I am often met with disagreement. People have told me that they quite like wearing button downs and slacks and lookin' dapper every day. To that, I say, "Great!" If you like business clothes, by all means, go ahead and wear what you want. But don't force such an antiquated work norm on me and everyone, regardless of whether we like it.
We're starting to see a lot of trendy startups abandon a handful of norms such as business attire, but most existing companies are still in the past when it comes to clothing. That is, many office spaces generally mandate business attire ranging from casual to formal (with intermittent exceptions like Halloween or Casual Friday). I find this custom both irritating and superfluous.
Of course, reasonable dress codes are highly important. I'm not saying we should just let people come to work in offensive clothing or obviously inappropriate outfits. There's a huge middle ground between that and traditional work clothes. I'm saying that it's unfortunate that many workers are prohibited from wearing what they would normally wear on a daily basis. For example, why are simple sneakers and tee shirts looked down upon in the office?
What I want to know is, does it really matter what we wear when we work?
I would argue that any mature person would be able to perform their job tasks regardless of their clothing. Yet, we are led to believe that business attire is important because it reminds employees that they are in a formal setting, establishing a sense of professionalism in the workplace. We're told that wearing different clothes to work helps distinguish professional matters from personal ones. I'm sorry, but I thought adults had the ability to know how to act in different environments without having to look down and see what type of pants they're wearing.
You may be wondering why I so strongly dislike business attire in the first place. There are several reasons. Business clothes can be expensive. They can be extremely uncomfortable and therefore distracting at work. Business clothes can require time-consuming maintenance, like dry cleaning and constant ironing. Lastly, they can be immensely impractical. Do you know how hard it is to find women's trousers or slacks with usable pockets? Or reasonably-priced "work shoes" that are both stylish and comfortable?
But the issue goes beyond the clothes themselves. It's the fact that we simply ignore the rule "don't judge a book by its cover" when it comes to professionals. It's the fact that it's not enough to simply judge a worker by the quality of their work.
It's the fact that, in a place where productivity is the main goal, formality is prioritized over comfort.
If the whole idea of business attire was suddenly abolished, would work performance and productivity drastically drop? Uh, no. You cannot argue that the reasons for business attire are not fundamentally superficial. And if there are people like me, who would much prefer to just wear my regular, comfortable (and unoffensive) clothes and shoes to work, then I think it's time we reevaluate the need for business attire in the modern workplace.