Will the recession make us dress smarter?

I have posted many times on the great dress down nightmare but, I wonder, will the recession get us all dressing smarter again? Earlier this month, TM Lewin, the Jermyn Street shirt retailer, reported an increase in sales. Could that be a sign that people are smartening up?

Lucy Kellaway certainly thinks so. Her evidence is from a conference for HR managers:

At a conference in London last week for HR managers, everyone was in a suit and tie while, at the same conference two years ago, they were all casual. HR people are on the front line of the jobs market and they are also like lemmings – so, if they think suits are in, they are in.

HR managers as fashion barometers? That’s a new one.

But the return of the suit and tie is probably just as well. The British, and especially British men, have never really been good at dressing down without looking scruffy or silly. A few even manage to do both at the same time. Who says men can’t multi-task?

In the past, HR managers on away days have tended to adopt that freelance-executive-coach-working-from-home look. Perhaps the return to suits and ties is a sign that the freelance coach lifestyle has lost  some of its allure.

But perhaps I am being unfair to my countrymen and to my fellow blokes. Americans and women, it seems, are just as bad. As Laurie reported last summer, female HR execs were seen at their annual conference wearing flip-flops. A one off you might think? Apparently not. Only a few days later, HR Minion was driven to despair by managers and supervisors coming into work in similar disgusting footwear:

Yes, you do need to wear a bra and no, sweat pants are never acceptable. And the flip flops. Oh, how I have come to hate flip flops.

It happens here too. Every bloody summer.

I very rarely comment on fashion, and those of you who’ve met me will know why, but this much I most certainly know; no-one looks good in flip-flops. Without exception. They make even the most graceful person waddle like a duck. And as for men in flip-flops, don’t even get me started. They make you look like an unwashed backpacker on a beach in Thailand.

I normally look forward to summer but one thing I don’t like about it is the general collapse of dress standards. In a few months time, people are going to start wearing t-shirts to work, fat people with tattoos will walk around in vests and, yes, the sodding flip-flops will come out. I’m not against people ditching their ties on hot days or wearing lighter jackets. I’m not suggesting we should sweat through the summer in grey pin-striped suits but should we really go the work in the same clothes as we would wear to a barbecue?

I hope Lucy Kellaway is right. Maybe a recession and the fear of job losses will make people smarten up a bit more this summer.

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4 Responses to Will the recession make us dress smarter?

  1. HR Minion says:

    I would love to see people dress nicer at work. I don’t think you do a better job necessarily, but I think people react to you differently and more positively.

  2. Kevin Carson says:

    I generally evaluate such trappings of the job culture in light of one question: would they exist, or be an issue, in a culture of self-employment and cooperative ownership? My belief is that the overwhelming majority of waged and salaried employment are unnatural, and are the products of a long series of events (including the Enclosures and other land expropriations) which made the employment relationship artificially prevalent. If wearing “nice” clothes is something people don’t like to do, and only do so out of the fear of losing their jobs, then it’s one of the ill effects of reduced bargaining power of labor–a BAD thing.

    Here’s for a world with plenty of work but no “jobs,” or at the very least in which jobs are competing for workers instead of the other way around. And here’s for a world where the bosses are afraid of losing us or incurring our displeasure, instead of the other way around.

  3. jonty says:

    I once worked with a lad who had broken his toe. He made a big thing about dropping the usual dress code standards and thought it was really cool to work around in flip flops – until a customer ran over it with a wheelchair.

    We didn’t laugh… much

  4. IRS Lawyer says:

    That window is to a Wells Fargo Bank office. FBD has the 6th, 7th and 8th floors.

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