Not really. Or I should say, not anymore.
“Each generation seems to have a different idea of what is acceptable in
the workplace, and in this situation I was highly offended,” says Cohen, who
works at a marketing firm in Philadelphia. “I was actually not allowed to attend
a meeting because my attire was deemed ‘inappropriate.’ People my age are taught
to express themselves, and saying something negative about someone’s fashion is
saying something negative about them.”
“The pendulum has swung,” says CEO Jonathan Bloom. “We went through a
too-casual period. … In the aftermath of the dot-com bubble, we tightened things
up a little. When we were very casual, the quality of the work wasn’t as
Others are getting strict. In Auburn, N.Y., the city manager made
headlines in April when he banned most city employees from wearing jeans on
Fridays, a day that had long been reserved for casual attire. His office did not
return calls seeking comment.
but I don’t envision that happening anytime soon at my company. Our people have grown accustomed to casual attire, and I don’t imagine they’ll give it up without a fight. I see more of IBM’s attitude in our business.
Some companies, such as IBM, have thrown out dress codes altogether. Once
known as a traditional company of button-down shirts, cuff links and
suits, today it’s a much more anything-goes approach.
“As society has changed, so has IBM,” says Donna Riley, a human resources
vice president at IBM. “We do have a Birkenstock crowd in some of our locations.
Many years ago, it was a suit and tie for men and skirt, dress and stockings for
women. (Today’s policy) says we trust our employees to use good judgment.”
In an IBM research lab in San Jose, Calif., Dan Gruhl, 35, a researcher who
works in text analytics, typically shows up in flip-flops and shorts. He owns
only two button-down shirts.
“Having a relaxed environment encourages you to think more openly,” Gruhl says. “Dress is part of a much larger culture.
It really encourages camaraderie.”
Most of our staff are in their 20’s and 30’s, and most expect to be able to dress casually in the workplace. We don’t work face-to-face with clients or meet the public, and most of the rest of the workers in our building are engineering and production types who more often than not come to work looking like they just rolled out of bed (cargo shorts, t-shirt, rubber flip-flops). We tried to revamp the dress code a few years ago to accommodate a more casual standard, but eventually had to abandon it altogether. We do however, have lines that are sometimes crossed, and we’ve occasionally had to ask people to go home and change. (I had to explain to one young woman why a tight tank top with the word “BOOTYLICIOUS” emblazoned across the chest in glitter script was not appropriate office attire.)
Our HR folks have even encouraged Management to dress down a bit in order to project a more”approachable” image to the staff. So I’ve dialed it down from pants suits through the “coordinated separates” and now often wear jeans (but nice jeans) on days other than Fridays.
But I remain dependent on The Jacket. Even jeans and a plain t-shirt will look pulled-together with a good jacket. I probably splurge a bit more on jackets now than any other article of clothing**, because of the power they have to make or break an outfit. Now with the weather too warm for all but the lightest jackets, I’m often feeling sartorially incomplete, and have on occasion resorted to wearing a blouse jacket-style over a t-shirt or shell. There’s only so far into the casual ocean this femme will wade at the office.
*not to say that I didn’t find some fabulous fun, quirky, unique items in my thrift store heyday. But a vintage bowling shirt didn’t meet the benchmarks for “business attire” back then.
**except for handbags and shoes, of course. A great pair of shoes and a dynamite bag will make whatever your wearing look more stylish.
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