Not that long ago, most workers wore uniforms, whether they were officially required clothes, like those for police officers or nurses, or the suits of white-collar professionals, which were dressed up or down according to individual taste. But fewer people wear them these days, and what started with casual Friday has morphed into "casual most of the time" — and much of that change has happened in just the last five years.
Millennials are to blame (or thank, depending on your perspective): Comprising over 60 percent of the current work force, that group has plenty of power, and they generally don't like to dress in formal clothing for work. So companies that want to attract new hires are relaxing their workplace dress policies.
An OfficeTeam survey asked managers and employees about dress codes. Fifty percent of the managers responded that their general office dress is somewhat or much more casual than it was five years ago. And when asked what they preferred in a potential office culture, more than 58 percent of workers responded that they would prefer a casual or business casual dress code.
"You've got a highly competitive job market right now, and companies are having to be more creative about how they attract people. One way is not just offering good compensation, but other perks, and employees today see dressing less formality as a perk," Brandi Britton, OfficeTeam's district president in Los Angeles told The Gazette.
Wondering what business casual means for women these days? This video might help. (Don't worry, guys, there's one for you further down.)
In fact, the old-fashioned suit might even be seen by some as weird or threatening.
"We typically wear suits quite a bit, and when we visit some of our clients and show up in our suits, they think they're being audited or the FBI is raiding them," said Britton.
A casual dress code tends to be more popular during better economic times, whereas recessions tend to mean people are more likely to dress more formally, so this trend is a positive one in at least that respect.
Of course, when trends tend toward the more casual, it's easy to make mistakes. Some good guidelines for men and women alike include not wearing overly-tight pants or shirts, avoiding T-shirts with slogans on them, nixing clothes with stains or holes and never wearing pajamas to work. When it doubt, go with business casual clothes. It's always best to be a little on the formal side rather than on the too-casual side. Keeping a nicely tailored jacket at your desk or near your workstation means you can dress up almost any ensemble if need be at the last minute.
This video has tips for guys who may need tips for office attire:
While more casual and creative dress can be a fun way to express one's individuality, some people would prefer a return to the days when they didn't have to think so much about what to wear to work. That's led to the rise of a capsule wardrobe, which involves picking a limited number of pieces that all work together so you can mix-and-match them and — most importantly — not spend time figuring out what to wear.
Whether you go minimalist or enjoy expressing yourself via your outfits, the wave of the future seems to be more casual, so enjoy it. Prioritize finding clothing that's comfortable and looks great on you — and if you're into it, expresses your love of birds, polka dots or your favorite colors.