Much too often, what we wear is viewed as a reflection of our character, and to that end, a reflection of how other people perceive us. It is essentially you, defined by your dress code. Coming from a startup where ‘Casual’ is clearly stated as the company’s dress code, everyday is dress down Friday.
You may be wondering why we advocate this when there is already one day in the week—Friday—to wear casual clothing. For some people, that one day of casual wear, instead of being a happy occasion, is fraught with perils. In a personal article, this writer equates casual Friday to judgement day. She no longer cares to dress down on Friday because it is just too much work to figure out what is appropriate.
Since having a single day of casual wear ends up causing the employees to get a dressing down instead, some companies have turned to make it an everyday affair. At Micepad, we have a casual dress code that allows us to wear anything we want so long as it is decent and presentable. We are not alone in that aspect. This phenomenon seems prevalent to startups, especially those in the IT sector. They either started the company with a casual dress code (like us) or have made the move to switch from business formal to casual wear in the office. One such example is Infosys, who recently made the change, giving their employees the choice of what to wear to the office.
Imagine graduating from high school, taking a look at your wardrobe and you realise, you don’t have to buy office wear at all! You get to wear comfortable clothing over suits, ties and all that formal shenanigans.
The best part? Nobody judges what you are wearing. And even if they do, they have no right to do so because in the name of ‘Casual’, pretty much anything goes.
By turning it around and making it dress down Friday every day, it feels like TGIF every day. Imagine feeling all that TGIF vibes tingling every morning as you get ready for work. A little deceptive, a little optimistic, but it raises your happy meter all the same.
The attire has moved to become a be-all and end-all situation. When in fact, sometimes in a show of individuality, we overanalyse what we wear in order to bring out aspects of ourselves that we want to show the world. This, in turn, ends up portraying ourselves as how we want people to perceive us, instead of how showing them who we really are. Perhaps the act of deciding what to wear has begun to hold too much sway, so much so that we no longer perceive true character in the same way.
What, then, is the point? Wouldn’t uniforms or a simple dress code be better? It takes our mind off deciding these seemingly impactful decisions. Proponents of school uniforms cite benefits of taking the decision of what to wear out off little children so that they don’t need to think and can focus on their studies instead.
Top leaders have been found to wear the same “uniform” everyday to save time thinking about what to wear. And this one, seemingly trivial, thing to think of can be what makes all the difference in the world. Prominent examples include Michael Kors, Kanye West, Apple Founder and ex-CEO Steve Jobs and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.
Maybe standardising uniforms for everyone is being dictatorial and overly pragmatic. To some, the act of being able to wear what they want gives them emotional satisfaction that is so much more valuable than the monetary value of increased productivity.
Not forgetting those on the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, such as First Lady Michelle Obama and Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton. They take stock in what they wear and the value it creates, from spurning the “Duchess Effect” to creating small businesses such as What Kate Wore.
The Duchess practices fashion diplomacy by coordinating her outfit according to the country in question, like wearing homegrown brand, Raoul, when she visited Singapore as part of the Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. Michelle Obama has been seen to go even further to use what she wears as a political statement for what she believes in. For example, her decision not to wear a veil in her visit to Saudi Arabia. The benefits of the dressing well in daily life and the political sphere is clear. But in the workplace, there seems to be an uncompromisable tradeoff between individuality and productivity.
Maybe the solution is to find out what works for you—a dress code that makes you productive and gives you emotional satisfaction—and stick to it. Both Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg made the decision to wear their uniform everyday so that they can focus on their work.
This decision may not work so well on the company as a whole. Before deciding to wear his trademark mock turtleneck uniform, Jobs wanted to get Apple employees to wear uniforms, much to their chagrin. What Jobs failed to realise is that while the uniform that he chose for them, incidentally the same uniform that he currently wears everyday, might boost productivity, it comes at the expense of his employees’ emotional satisfaction and creativity.
Look what good this came out to: Apple Inc is currently ranked as the world’s best global brand. While he thrives by wearing a uniform, his employees fare better by going along with the casual dress code. Hence, this shows that for a company dress code, it is really a case of to each their own.
By implementing a casual dress code, you are allowing your employees to wear whatever they like according to what they want and how it helps them to be more productive.
Give them the choice to wear what brings out the best in them with dress down Friday, everyday.
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