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By Jones, Bodil | Management Review, July 1996 | Go to article overview
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Unsuitable for the Job?


Jones, Bodil, Management Review


Flexible work options not only involve the time we arrive at or leave the office, how we get to the office and where we go to work. Now they even affect what we wear.

With summer temperatures during the past few years soaring to unusual heights, many organizations began allowing their employees to dress more casually, and coolly, in the office. Originally, in many companies this leniency was just intended for the summer season, but they found that when their employees dressed down, their productivity shot up. Hence, many of these companies decided to tone down their corporate dress policy.

Other firms initiated a "dress-down" day--usually a Friday--when workers were encouraged to dress more casually, and this increasingly spread to become a part of everyday life in the corporate world. Like many other business trends, so-called dressing-down began in the United States and is slowly finding its place in offices across the rest of the world.

Initial indications show that most employees at all levels of the organization seem to be in favor of the idea. Retailers have even reported a sharp drop in sales of formal office attire, indicating that the trend is catching on.

Some of the more obvious advantages of discarding the traditional suit and tie include that employees may feel more at ease, and that executives and managers are placed on a more even playing field.

One of the proponents of the concept of dressing down is Ricardo Semler, president of Semco, Brazil's largest manufacturer of marine food-processing machinery, and author of the bestseller Maverick. He refers to traditional dress codes as "medieval." "Office personnel are supposed to stroll around in suits and ties or dresses, but who remembers why?" says Semler. One reason he has come up with is conformity. Says Semler, "People want to feel secure, and dressing like everyone else is one way to accomplish that.

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