Trends In Business Wear  

Watch out, “Casual Friday!” “Dress-Up Thursday” is coming to town and he means business! Now that the corporate casual scene has completely enveloped the American tailored clothing market, a backlash is in the making. With billions of dollars in retail sales at stake and a continuing degeneration in corporate American values at risk, this is no longer a subject to be joked about.

"... a casual business environment is a dangerous recipe."

In an effort “to bring sartorial splendor, productivity and decorum back to the office.” A group of American clothiers banded together to roll out a “Dress-Up Thursday” campaign. I recently attended the New York Clothing Tailors & Designers Association AGM with CTDA President Anthony Gilberto. The dinner provided a forum for a number of speakers to discuss the concept of “Dress-Up Thursday.” Their mission statement: “to assist America in re-conceptualizing the importance of appropriate business attire in the workplace and its attendant benefits.” At a glance, this might seem like a dogmatic non-acceptance of the realities of our modern casual environment, but this group has produced some interesting arguments to support their philosophy.

We live in the communications age where the market is booming and people can make a great living from a business run from a remote satellite station somewhere near Napa Valley. It is hard to see why people need to conduct business dressed up in a suit and tie any more. According to Anthony Gilberto, businessmen are looking for sports coasts, separates and business casual solutions like never before. Many of Gilberto’s customers have sons making six-figure incomes who have never worn a suit to work in their life. I concluded that this might just be the way of the future. Gilberto suggests that there are several flaws to this way of thinking and more than enough reasons to consider a casual business environment a dangerous recipe.

Dr. Jeffrey L. Magee, a research psychologist has surveyed over 500 firms. The conclusion from his studies was that, “continually relaxed dress leads to relaxed manners, relaxed morals and replaced productivity.” His specific findings revealed that casual dress policies resulted in:

* A decrease in productivity and overall quality of work.
* An increase in litigation.
* A decrease in commitment and company loyalty.
* An increase in tardiness.
* A decrease in ethical behavior.

Further to this, Jackson-Lewis, one of America’s largest law firms specializing in employment issues, recently surveyed 1,000 clients who had adopted casual dress policies (The Wall Street Journal, February 15). This survey discovered that:

* 44% of respondents noted an increase in absenteeism and tardiness.
* 30% noted an increase in flirtatious behavior.

The fact remains that casual business dress results in casual business. In a booming economy, this is no big deal. But given a more competitive environment when the sale of two comparatively homogeneous products comes down to the sales presentation, who will get the business? My bet is it won’t be the sales representative who’s dressed for a day on the golf course!

Casual dressing, when not implemented correctly, results in a workplace environment neither promoting nor encouraging more productivity. Casual dressing has been responsible for an ambiguous “sloppy casual” or “weekend casual” which has seen “Executives” rambling into work wearing jeans, sweatshirts, sneakers and t-shirts.

I really have to agree with Anthony Gilberto: this is not the way of the future. Let’s get back to business!

by Luke Mayes, House of Dormeuil.


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