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Annie Hayes

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Pin stripes fade as business suit is hung up

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The business suit is on its way out with just over half of employers adopting a more casual attire.

According to a survey by executive leadership and development consultancy The Aziz Corporation, 51% of bosses now allow staff to wear smart casual dress for every day office life, but still require employees to don a suit for business meetings.

Fewer than one in four offices now require staff to wear suits at all times, representing a considerable slide from over a third in 2004. A further 12% have gone a step further and allow their staff to wear smart casual for business meetings as well.

The smart dress code can cause some problems, however. Flip-flops were deemed unacceptable by 84% of respondents. Visible tattoos are thought acceptable by only 45%, while facial piercings other than earrings are deemed acceptable by 40%. In addition, 88% consider shorts to be inappropriate office wear, whilst ties with jokey motifs are acceptable for just 47%.

In a further sign that the suit is out of fashion, an overwhelming majority (90%) of office workers believe that simply wearing a suit does not automatically make you look smart.

Professor Khalid Aziz, chairman of The Aziz Corporation, said: “Enforcing a suits-only dress code is seen as outdated and perhaps a little insular in an increasingly international workplace, an image which savvy modern companies want to steer clear of. Suits are best saved for business meetings where a very formal appearance is desirable.”

Dress codes appear to follow the economic outlook with almost half seriously considering dressing more smartly than usual if they felt their job was at risk due to financial conditions.

Attitudes also vary between the sexes when it comes to gender dress codes, with 34% of men seeing short skirts as appropriate compared to just 16% of women. Female bosses are less tolerant of low-cut tops as they age, with only a third of those over the age of 50 prepared to put up with displays of cleavage at work, whilst middle-aged men (40 to 49) are not concerned.

Sector also plays its part – almost half of those in financial services are still required to wear a suit at all times. The media business is resolutely informal, with one in four being allowed to wear casual clothing to work and to business meetings (compared with an industry-wide average of just over one in 10).

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Annie Hayes

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