It is safe to say that everything changes with the times and the dress code is no exception. Much has changed just 19 years into the 21st century and looking back 5 decades ago, the changes in dress codes have been considerable. The question does the “dress code” still exist in the 21st century “?” To better answer this question, it is first important to define what a dress code is. A dress code can be described as an accepted way of dressing for a specific social group or a specific occasion. It can also be described as a set of rules for what one needs to wear, or what they can wear at a specific time.
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The answer to the question above is yes, the dress code still exists to this day s. However, the preciseness that formerly came with dress codes and people s adherence to them has been reduced significantly. This paper will look at why this event is the case, along with various examples that point to the existence of the dress code, even so, many having a different opinion of this topic. It will look at notable changes over the past few decades, aspects that are considered the norm today, with the patterns that point to the future of the dress code as time passes. It will evaluate various aspects of dress codes, various environments, and settings, along with various factors that many may argue or accept.
The Office Dress Code
Since long ago, office jobs have been associated with formal wear, a dress code which is characterized with button-up shirts, ties, suit and leather shoes. Up to a certain point formerly, no one would imagine a professional in a formal job showing up to work in a t-shirt, a hoodie, and sneakers. It was the case ultimately, so much, so that the stereotype of the average salaryman became one where he was dressed in a suit and tie, coupled with a briefcase, reading a newspaper.
This event still is an image which is fixed into people’s heads regarding formal wear, and it is still enforced in certain areas of the world and certain jobs.
However, along came casual Friday, and what many have referred to as the “end of the office dress code.” In an article published in the New York times back in 2016 (Garber, 2016), they noted that the world today has business moguls (important or powerful people) dressed in hoodies and t-shirts. It is characterized by more people working from home in their pyjamas, and the line between “work” and “everything else” is becoming similar, related and hard to distinguish. What used to be “work clothes” have so far lost their meaning, and this has punched holes in dress codes that used to define a certain profession, and a certain class of individuals in the society. It is a change in people’s outlook for dressing and getting work done. However, does this event mean that the dress code is as good as dead?
By no means.
A change in dress codes from one to another does not mean the death of dress codes, rather the simple gradual transformation of the same. Casual wear for beginners today is still a dress code. Many people may refer their Primark t-shirts, jeans and trainers as their work dress code depending on their line of work. This event shows that the concept of dress codes is not dead. Instead, it has just transformed into something more fluid, more relatable for those who are directly affected and more accommodating given how people live their lives today.
Looking back at the idea of showing up to work with a casual outfit, it dates as far back as the 1960s. This was the dawn of Hawaiian shirts, guerrilla marketing, and Dockers khakis (Sumerau, Cragun & Mathers, 2016). Just like that, suits were considered as really boring, and slowly, organizations started accepting casual Fridays, and more casual wear within office walls. Gaber (2016) pointed out that the introduction of casual Fridays served as good a role as a “gateway drug” where the relaxation that it offered guided to many questions, why they would not wear the same clothes on other days of the week.
Today, there are much of companies around the world that do not care about formal wear, so long as employees are productive. Such companies bring in billions of pounds every year, another factor that is making others more conservative enterprises to change their stand regarding formal wear.
Once again, does this mean that the dress code is dead? By no means. The dress code has simply gradually transformed from one thing to another. It has not gone extinct. Looking at this topic from a gender belief, a lot has changed as well. In the 90s, formal office wear for women was mainly characterized by short heels, skirts, blouses, and blazers. Moving into 2019, women today can show up to work in flat, comfortable shoes, pants, and comfortable blouses, complete with jackets. In fewer
developed places, women are even showing up in jeans, sneakers, t-shirts, and on bad hair days, they can even show up with beanies and no one would see anything wrong with that.
Casual Dress Codes and Productivity
Once again, this does not mean that the dress code is dead. Instead, it is much alive, only that it has changed to the opposite end of the spectrum. It also does not spoil aspects such as productivity and efficiency in the workplace. In an article published back in 2018 by the Professional Organization of Women of Excellence Recognized, it was noted that being dressed throughout the day in a suit and heels is uncomfortable. This event inhibits one’s performance and productivity and reduces its output on a specific day at work. A more comfortable and relaxed outfit, on the other hand, allows one to be more productive, more creative and more efficient at what they do (Power Woe, 2018). It makes sense, as such, why most successful “startups” are going for this casual dress code, and why they are growing in their performance compared to more traditional institutions that are very strict about their professional dress code.
Dress Code and Health Care
When discussing matters to dress codes, it is easy to solely focus on the corporate world when, instead, other areas need to be looked at. Take health care institutions, for example. The concepts that were their decades ago, in the institutions, still apply to nowadays, and this event shows that the dress code is very much alive in the 21st century. It is, however, important to note, that the healthcare sector has been least affected by the changes in dress code preferences,
along with the looseness that has come with the enforcement of specific dress codes in certain environments.
In a hospital setting, lab coats are the norm. the same applies to head attire, branded polo, and dress shirts and scrub jackets among others (English, 2016). This event is not just a dress code from an aesthetic belief, but a functional one as well. Health care, professionals are required to be dressed comfortably to aid in their mobility and allow them to stay productive over the long work hours that they must endure. In a hospital setting, the dress code for health care professionals also allows them to be easily distinguished from the rest of the people in the facility, thereby aiding anyone who needs help to call upon the right person at that given place and time.
The dress code within a hospital is usually enforced, and all professionals are usually pushed to respect the code, all the whom usually do. This event goes to show the relevance of the dress code, and how it is bound to stick around for two years to come. Hospitals will always be there. Health care, practitioners will also always be there. Dress codes in these facilities have been tried and tested, and they are not about to change anytime soon, not even with the “casual Friday” that influenced the corporate world decades ago. It is institutions such as these that will ensure that the dress code does not die an untimely death. Looking at it objectively, it is bound to stick around for two years to come.
School and Dress Codes
Take a look, also at learning institutions. Currently, in the United States, 16.5% of public schools require students to wear uniforms (Slabbert, 2019). In addition to that figure, 54% of schools in this nation enforce a strict dress code for students (Gurung et al., 2018). In the United Kingdom, on the other hand, over 82% of state schools require a uniform of some sort that students ought to wear (Freeburg & Workman, 2016). This event is mostly right with secondary schools, of which 98% of them require students to wear uniforms compared to 79% of primary schools in the country (Gama & Diaz, 2018). Simply by looking at these two countries gives an interesting perspective to the state of the dress code in the 21st century. The figures above go to show that the dress code is not dead and that it is not limit to end anytime soon.
Schools are critical institutions for any given society. In specific communities, they form the cornerstones and the fundamental building blocks for society. As such, given their enforcement of dress codes, it is safe to say that going forward, institutions like these will keep the dress code much alive decades into the 21st century.
Once again, the move to change the dress code in learning institutions is not bound to happen, any time soon, meaning the dress code, as people know it today, is an edge to last for two years to come. It is also important to understand the impact that raising children with a specific dress code throughout their learning years has on them, and their outlook towards dress codes. On one hand, some ends up not liking dress codes altogether and set out not to live by the norm, whether society likes it or not. Some appreciate the discipline that comes with observing a specific dress code for all those years, with the equality that it brings to people in the same environment (Bagçeci, Deliçay & Yildirim, 2017). These are everyone who is out to respect dress codes and observe them, be it in their areas of work, places of worship or any other place. Furthermore, these individuals should they be blessed with kids, are bound to raise them just like they were raised, thereby ensuring
that the dress code is not dead and does not die for generations to come.
Religion and Dress Codes
Religion, as suggested above, is also another critical aspect that is easy to ignore when discussing dress codes and whether the idea itself still exists in the 21st century. There are specific costumes that people of certain religions must wear. This is your dress code and one that should be observed, whether people like it or not. Religions differ, and costumes differ as well, but they all show the importance of dress codes in religion. Take Muslims, for example. The main rule in Islam is that women should dress modestly, and this is often characterized by the hijab, a form of veil designed to cover women’s hair. Women in this religion are required to wear the hijab in front of any man they can theoretically marry (Cain, 2018). This means that the only exception to them wearing this costume is when they are near family.
Women are required to cover their entire bodies, although many leave the exception of face and hands.
Men, on the other hand, are required to cover their bodies between their navels and their knees, although a bare chest is frowned upon in specific situations. Islam is not the only religion with a specific dress code. Buddhists also follow a specific dress code, and it is safe to point out that religion is very much alive in Asia and growing to this day. Buddhist monks often see orange robes with shaven heads. The robes also come in brown, grey, brown or black. Buddhist nuns also have shaved heads and wear similarly coloured robes with the addition of pink and white (Clemente, 2017).
Dress Codes in Unskilled Labour
Earlier, corporate jobs were discussed, along with health care practitioners and that specific line of work. Looking at more practical work out there, which do not require as much skill to
do and do not pay as much, it is easy for “dress codes” to lose value and the adherence to it,
an aspect that points to how much alive the dress code is in the 21st century. Take construction workers, for instance. They may show up in their casual outfits, but once work starts, they need to wear reflective jackets, safety caps, and other safety clothing and equipment before they can get anything done. It is a requirement, even in the law, that anyone at a construction site ought to wear a specific piece of clothing and safety equipment. It is a dress code meant to be adhered to, and it usually adhered to as well (Slabbery, 2019).
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Also, take grocery shop personnel as well. It may not be a glamorous job for some to stock up grocery store shelves and clean up washrooms, but they all wear specific clothing that distinguishes them from the regular customer. It is a functional approach towards aiding in service delivery, an approach that bears on hospitals, gas stations, garages, car lots and various other establishments. Dress codes in these sectors are functional, and they are observed to the latter (English, 2016). It, as such, may be argued that when these businesses continue to exist and function, the dress codes associated with them will continue to stay very much alive.
Dress Code, Benefits
There are tons of benefits for dress codes, even to this day. In school, for instance, having a specific dress code force student to focus on their studies rather than fashion. At a specific age, students are bound to be destructed and caught up in a race to outdo each other in who is “cooler” than the other, who is dressed more fashionably than the other. Having all wear, the same uniform eliminates this need and forces them to focus on what is important studies.
It brings about a form of equality, as pointed earlier. It is a move that puts everyone on an even playing field, from the students coming from families with few possibilities, unable to even have a decent meal at home to the ones that are lucky to have “everything,” with good conditions. It equalizes everyone (Freeburg & Workman, 2016).
Dress Code Disadvantages and Conclusion
On the downside, not everyone is comfortable with dress codes, and in many ways, dress codes tend to be discriminatory and sexist. Society is wired so that when it comes to dressing code policies, women end up getting the short end of the stick, and this event applies everywhere from school to the work environment (Gama & Diaz, 2018). Either way, all these go to show that the idea of the dress code still exists to this day. It is very much alive, and it comes with all the advantages and disadvantages of it. Dress codes are bound to stick around for much longer, probably for all humanity, particularly since people know its role, its value, and its place in society.
The analysis of this case leads to the conclusion that the world would be better if everything in life balanced, as the dress code.
- Bernsen Bağçeci, p.159.
- Cain, A. (2018).
- Clemente, D. (2017)
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- Freeburg, B.W. and Workman, J.E., 2016. Dress Codes and Uniforms. Encyclopedia of Adolescence, pp.1-13.
- Gama, A. and Diaz, A., 2018. The Problem with Dress Code. Yorba Times: standing up, Speaking; out, p.52.
- Garber, M. (2016). Casual Friday and the ‘End of the Office Dress Code’. [Onlinecasual-friday-and-the-end-of-the-office-dress-code/484334/ [accessed 29 Jul. 2019].
- Gurung, R.A., Brickner, M., Leet, M. and Punke, E., 2018. , 158(5), pp.553-557.
- Power Woe (2018). [Online] Professional Organization of Women of Excellence, Recognized. Available at: http://www.powerwoe.com/dressing-success-21st-century/ (accessed 29 Jul. 2019]).
- Slabbert, A., 2019. Africa, 29(2), pp.176-181.
- Sumeru, J.E., Cragun, R.T. and Mathers, L.A., 2016. Contemporary religion and the cisgender of reality. Social Currents, 3(3), pp.293-311.
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