Riding the Wave of Changing Dress Codes
Fashion trends change so quickly, it can be a tough task keeping up with them. Runway trends are short-lived but make a comeback every few years. Something that's "in" today could easily be "out" tomorrow in the fashion world.
However, business attire has remained fairly steady for decades — or at least, it has until now. Briefcases are being replaced by custom backpacks and suits are being switched out for casual attire like printed t-shirts. This powerful shift in styles has led people to question how this shift began or what started it all. No matter what people are saying, one thing remains the same — either you can ride the wave, or you can wipe out.
Where Is This Coming From?
This shift in corporate culture can be attributed to the impact and influence that millennials have on corporate culture, as they continue to take on high positions within companies. This change could also be a direct result of Silicon Valley's culture affecting the rest of the business world as much as the technology. Another factor is our interconnected world and how that has led to us develop more informal relationships. These casual relationships are reflected in our comfortable and fuss-free clothing.
The safest answer might be that it's a combination of all these things. Corporate attire has always been something of a monolith, and no one factor could easily shift things away from how they've always been.
Why We Need to Adapt to This Change
An important aspect of running a business is listening to people, especially your employees. It's well-known that employees prefer casual wear to formal wear, and one of the best ways for businesses to stay competitive is by attracting top talent. If a company wants to bring in millennials, who currently make up more than 60% of the workforce, it is essential to learn how to make working for your business appeal to millennials.
Being able to dress the way you want is seen as a "work perk" and millennials are known to prefer this type of freedom. Balancing a casual workplace with your business' corporate image is a lot easier to implement and adapt to than companies might think. In fact, a custom uniform can help make up some of that difference between rigid company culture and casual corporate wear. It might even be a better choice than a personalized business card.
How Do Custom Uniforms Work?
When someone — especially a millennial — hears the word "uniform," their automatic assumption might be something along the line of khakis and unattractive logos. That's a fashion image they would probably like to avoid. However, customized t-shirts can give you a better chance to strike that balance.
Allowing your employees to wear your company's custom-made clothing, including apparel made for special events, will provide the impression of freedom to be a little more casual. Custom work wear also gives you the opportunity to outline what kinds of outfits are acceptable. A well-designed t-shirt might not be standard business fare, but it goes a long way toward offering casual options while also maintaining professionalism.
So What Are My Options?
Consider trying embroidered apparel! Embroidery still carries a certain weight of refinement to it, and if you're trying to balance out comfortable function with corporate fashion, a few options are available for you. An Icelandic artist, James Merry, incorporated plants and animals into embroidered sportswear logos. You don't need to go as far as he did, but even something like having an alternative version of your logo — perhaps nature-inspired or based on a relevant industry-theme — will give your employees a creative alternative to the classic work polo.
You can also easily create your own t-shirt that fits the business casual bill by going artsy or abstract. Printed t-shirts give you much more freedom of design, a wider variety of colour options, and the chance to show off your style. You can easily transform a simple logo into something cool and complex with the addition of patterns and backgrounds. For example, try turning an intricate logo into a minimalist version of itself for a neat, clean look. If you focus on the goal of making sure that everyone is wearing some recognizable version of your logo, then do your best to offer those different versions in forms that you already approve of.
Is This Really That Important?
Forbes seems to think so! Sarah Landrum writes about how to make millennials happy at work for Forbes, the LA Times carried that article about changing dress codes in 2016, and more CEOs are realizing that they should be concerned with employee mental health or working to promote a healthier lifestyle within their companies.
More companies are beginning to realize that it's important to actively care about their employee's overall mental health and well-being. The simple act of providing employees with the freedom to choose their clothing while at work is becoming increasingly common in the workplace and has led to many employees viewing this as a right rather than a privilege. Working to stay ahead of changing corporate culture can be difficult, but the impact on the company's corporate culture on incoming workers, and even improving the morale for your current employees — is definitely worthwhile.
So, go ahead and customize your clothes, give your employees a chance to try out Casual Mondays, and consider relaxing into a t-shirt yourself. Your dry cleaner might not thank you, but your future workforce definitely will.