Unless you work for an organization that provides you with a uniform, chances are that you’ve had to shell out for some workwear to add to your personal wardrobe. Some workplaces require specific clothing. For example, if you work as a front-of-house employee for a law firm this could include formalwear such as suits and shirts, whereas a painting and decorating firm might require overalls and protective footwear. However, the consensus idea of ‘smart’ and ‘professional’ clothing is changing as we move further into the 21st century.
Whereas once employers were concerned with disappearing hemlines, bright colors, or long hair, these days our attitude towards workwear is a little more forgiving. So much so, that sometimes, it’s difficult to navigate the world of smart-casual and still maintain a professional look. As the once separate locations of work and home start to blur with the increase in remote working and freelancing, we take a look at the changing fashions of different workplaces and what it really means to look professional.
Silicon Valley Chic
The familiar plain tee, well-fitted jeans, and casual hooded jacket have almost become a uniform in their own right in Silicon Valley. Big names in the world of tech innovation such as Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and even Jeff Bezos have set the standard for the ubiquitous low-key look that belies the huge wealth behind them. However, shouldn’t people running such enormous businesses and making multi-million dollar deals be wearing a suit? Or at least something a bit more traditionally ‘smart’?
Well, besides the obvious comfort to be found in wearing jeans and a hoody, there is something deeper going on. The image of men in suits is seen as stuffy and out of date these days, and that is something that most tech companies, however big or small, want to stay away from. Technological advancement is synonymous with the state of the art innovation and the representatives of the scene want to reflect this attitude in their clothing. But make no mistake – that deceptively plain grey tee that you saw Zuckerberg wearing cost between $300-$400 and was made by a luxury Italian design house. In this case, the devil is in the (remarkably well hidden) details.
Professional Poker Players
Casinos have always been the place for sharp dressers, with many establishments enforcing a strict formalwear policy. However, the official uniform differs depending on which game you are playing. For example, for the pro poker player, the uniform has changed over recent years, oscillating between the hyper-casual mainstays like hoodies, gaudy t-shirts, and tracksuits, and something a great deal smarter. As pros ventured from online play at home and onto the live game circuit, they wanted to retain the comfort and practicality of the clothes that they’d been playing in. Cue ranks of casually dressed players turning up in all manner of brightly colored, ill-fitting t-shirts, hoodies, and football jerseys. However, as time has progressed and these same players have grown older, they’ve started to recognize the power that comes from wearing a well-cut suit when you hit the felt.
A well-dressed opponent in any capacity is one that can inspire anything from low-level uncertainty to outright awe in the person sat across the table. Wearing a suit is one of the easiest ways to look smart, professional, and like you’ve got your act together when you get down to business.
Freelancing and Working Remotely
The online world is not just for poker players; many companies, services, and organizations have now pivoted so that a lot of their business is conducted in the online realm. This has opened the floor to freelancers and consultants, as well as giving existing staff the opportunity to work remotely. While employees are still expected to be trustworthy, competent, and professional, there is much more leeway around appropriate workwear. When your entire working day is conducted from the desk in your own living room, it suddenly seems less important that you wear an expensive suit or smart outfit to impress the boss.
Of course, some people feel that retaining designated workwear even when working from home enables them to get into the correct mindset needed for their job. Others interpret the term ‘smart casual’ quite literally, donning formalwear on their top half and joggers or similar on their bottom half to remain comfortable throughout the working day. Only time will tell how the online world will further impact the visual idea of professionalism, at least, and influence future workwear trends.