I’ve worked in a variety of organizations and industries, from banks to manufacturing plants to non-profits to Fortune 15 multinationals. Consequently, my work attire has deviated wildly depending on my job. I’ve worn suits and ties, cut-off tee-shirts and shorts, button downs and jeans.
After nearly twenty years and a dozen workplaces, I’m here to tell you that dress down should be expanded from Friday to every day. You work best when you’re comfortable. Who can work in tucked-in shirts and tight slacks accentuated with belts that strangle beer guts, droopy dress socks and Payless loafers?
There isn’t anything casual about business casual.
When you spend twelve hours per day sitting under fluorescent lights, hunched over a keyboard, and staring at two monitors, you’re not going to be at your best if your neck, belly, upper calves, and toes are all crunched like breakfast sausage, desperately in need of circulation. If I’m constantly uncomfortable, adjusting myself and discreetly unbuttoning my pants under my desk, I won’t be able to focus on making my corporate overlords meet their profit margins.
And we can’t have that.
Meanwhile, if I’m comfortable, I’m not only more productive, but I’m also not daydreaming about ripping off my clothes the instant I get home. If it works on Fridays, why not the rest of the week? The higher execs, beautiful women, and the skinny guys from Europe will still wear all their fancy shit. And I’ll be content in my Sean John jeans and Nike Elite Shinsens.
Some people make the argument that putting on professional clothes makes you think and act more professional. Additionally, It also shows some respect. There is some truth to this. After all, it’s the reason you should get dressed up for a wedding or baptism or funeral.
And I’ve witnessed the other side.
At one of my offices there was no dress code. None. Very few employees had more education than a high school diploma and many had worked there for the entirety of their adult lives. As you can imagine, the boundaries of taste and propriety were pushed to the limit. Guys looked like they had just come from the bar or the garage; women dressed as if they were about to go the club or the gym.
I always wore a button-down with jeans, which, in comparison, looked like a three-piece Brooks Brothers suit in comparison. The guy that sat behind me wore a white t-shirt and baggy sweats every day. He was the White Iverson of the office. One day, he challenged me not to get “dressed up.” The next day, I rolled into work in an oversized t-shirt, sweats, and Timberlands.
And I’ve never been more unsettled. I was too comfortable. I kept checking to make sure I was fully dressed. I felt like I should be sitting on my couch, not at my desk.
So, yes, dress down should be instituted every day. Just not dress all-the-way down.
After all, you work best when you’re comfortable.
Just not too comfortable.
Christopher Pierznik’s eight books are available in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Medium, and many more. Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.