Is it the end of power dressing?

Just one in ten British workers wears a suit to work. ‘Dress for Success’ no longer exists in the modern workplace as comfort prevails over power dressing, British workers report Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs have been the key influencers to change the work dress code from formal to casual.

Just one in ten British workers wears a suit to work. ‘Dress for Success’ no longer exists in the modern workplace as comfort prevails over power dressing, British workers report Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs have been the key influencers to change the work dress code from formal to casual. Contributor Shakila Ahmed – Travelodge.

Since the 19th century, the staple lounge suit has been classed by workers as the dress code for success and power. However in today’s modern world just one in ten employees actually wears a suit to work, according to a new study out today by Travelodge. Gone is the era of ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’ and city streets and public transport was awash with smartly dressed workers in power suits. In today’s modern world, over three quarter of British workers (76 percent) dress down for work with casual Friday happening every day.

Travelodge, which operates 559 hotels and annually looks after around 10 million business customers surveyed, 2,000 British workers to investigate the modern office dress code – after hotel managers reported a decline in the number of ties, cufflinks, tie pins and suits being left behind. The study revealed that in modern Britain, just 50 percent of places of work across the country has a dress code policy in place. For over three quarters (76 percent) of these organisations, it is a casual dress code policy. The report also revealed that for modern British workers comfort dressing triumphs over power dressing, as (69 percent) of workers reported that dressing casually for work makes them feel more comfortable and over a fifth (22 percent) reported that they are able to express their personality by dressing casually.

Over half of workers also stated that a casual dress code is more affordable and takes less upkeep, whilst 26 percent of adults said it takes the pressure of having to look good all the time. The report also revealed that 60 percent of British workers believe that a more laid back dress code enables a more relaxed office environment and colleagues are a lot friendlier towards each other. Commenting on the findings, Professor Karen Pine, psychologist in fashion at Hertfordshire University, said: “Over the last three decades, we have experienced a big movement in the workplace, where traditions and protocols and have fallen enormously. The biggest changes have included decline of hierarchy, the boss being less of an authoritarian figure and more of a coach, all colleagues being called by their first name and the biggest change, the transition from a formal dress code to a casual one.

“Having a dress-down Friday every day enables workers to be independent, and showcase their personality and attributes by how they dress rather than the position they hold. This leads to stronger bonds between co-workers and removes barriers, enabling everyone to get on with their jobs.” Forty three per cent of workers believe the business suit no longer has a place in the office and if they saw a colleague wearing a suit to work they would stick out like a score thumb – and highlight they are going for a job interview.

The modern British office is more likely to be full of professional gentlemen dressed in jeans or chinos, long-sleeved button shirt, a smart blazer or jacket and a pair of loafers or smart sneakers. While there has been a more dramatic shift in male work attire, women have adapted their look too amid the trend for casual work clothes.

There was a time when women would have worn shoulder-pad power suits not for power but in order to fit into the boy’s club and be ‘taken seriously.’ The work wardrobe would have consisted of a slightly below-the-knee skirt suit, preferably in grey or dark blue, with a white blouse, a scarf tie and high heels. In today’s world, women are more likely to wear skinny jeans, a smart jacket, a tee-shirt or top and sneakers or flat shoes.

Professor Pine said: “Interestingly, women have probably benefitted from this movement more than men. In the past, women had to dress like men to reach senior positions in the workplace. Now they can dress as they like and assert their individuality through their work attire, without fear of bumping up against the glass ceiling.” When quizzed about dying work fashion trends, 42 percent of workers believe the tie has fallen out of favour. One in seven workers think the tie that has been around since the Roman times and died a death as a piece of office attire in the 2010s, while tie-clips fell out of favour in the late 80s.

Two thirds of workers think high-waisted trousers would look out of place in the office these days. Only a quarter of adults think trouser braces would blend in in a modern workplace, and three in five would scoff at a colleague in a waistcoat. The pocket square is also considered the preserve of late 80s business types, as are braces and cufflinks, which workers believe have looked out of place in the office for decades.

For men, a traditional shirt, a smart jacket and a pair of formal shoes have survived as office dress in the work place over the last three decades and for women, high heels, a black blazer and blouse, are also items that have remained as staples of the work wear wardrobe through the decades. Respondents were also asked which business figures have influenced the change in work attire over the years and taking first position was Virgin founder, Sir Richard Branson as the smart casual style guru. Branson, now 67, famously ditched a suit and tie in the mid-nineties in favour of an open-neck shirt and pair of Levi’s jeans.

In second place was, Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook and his “stylised blandness” of casual grey t-shirt and jeans.  He famously said that by wearing the same outfit each day, he had much more time to think about more important matters. In third place is entrepreneur, business magnate, inventor, and industrial designer, the late Steve Jobs, who was also famous for his uniform of a black polo neck, blue jeans and New Balance trainers.

Iconic fashion designer, Donna Karan, who built her company around her smart casual ‘Essentials’ women clothing line claims fourth position. In fifth place is business women Whitney Wolfe, founder of dating app Bumble, who is famous for attending meetings in a blazer, jeans and flat shoes.

Shakila Ahmed, Travelodge Spokeswoman said: “As the UK’s first budget hotel brand, over the last three decades our hotel teams across our 559 hotels have reported a decline in the number of business customers checking in kitted out in a traditional three piece business suit. Also we have seen a rapid decline in the number of ties, cufflinks, tie pins and suits being left behind our hotels. There was a time when we could have tied all the ties left behind our hotels to cover the length of the UK. Today’s modern business travellers have adopted a more smart, comfortable, casual look and are travelling with less items of clothing with them.”

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