Riding the Wave of Changing Dress Codes
Fashion trends change at rates more unreliable than the turn of the seasons. What's hot on the runway can be completely out a month later before suddenly making a comeback in five years.
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 printed t-shirts. This powerful shift in styles has caused some finger pointing as to the source. 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?
A lot of people assume that the shift in corporate culture is coming from millennials. After all, as millennials come of age to take over higher positions in companies, the impact they have on those companies grows. Some feel that this shift is a direct result of Silicon Valley's culture affecting the rest of the business world as much as the technology. Others believe that as our world grows increasingly more interconnected, people become much more casual with one another, and this new trend of comfortable clothing is a result of that casualness.
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 Should We Go With It?
One of the most important parts of being a successful business is learning to listen to people. It's a hard fact that employees prefer casual wear for business jobs, 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 percent of the workforce, it needs to learn how to appeal to millennials.
Perks are a huge part of this, and being able to dress the way they want is a perk that many millennials enjoy having. Also, it's a lot easier than companies might think to balance a more casual workplace with the corporate image they want to project. 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 Would That 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 find that balance.
Something as simple as allowing your employees to wear your company's custom-made clothing, including apparel made for special events, will feel like a lot more 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 appeasing to be a little more professional.
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 to 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 at their companies.
True, making employees happy has always been something good companies are concerned about, but the truly great companies are realizing that it's just as important to actively care about an employee's overall well-being. Even something as simple as allowing a little more freedom from the corporate dress code is becoming increasingly common in the workplace, which means that many employees will start viewing it less as a privilege and more as a right. Working to stay ahead of changing corporate culture can be difficult, but the results — such as first pick of top candidates, a good impression of the company's culture on incoming workers, and even improving morale for current employees — are 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.