It was de rigueur to power dress for the office in the 90s. 20 years later, the sign of success is to wear the same clothes every day.
Back in the day, you were not perceived to be successful in business unless you dressed the part. Everyone wanted to be noticed, not just for the work they did but also for the way in which they presented themselves in the workplace and to clients.
Women wore big shoulder pads, big hair and big jewellery, with office competition rife. Men wore sharp suits (often with shoulder pads), silk ties and cufflinks. It was the norm; it was part of the business culture. How times have changed. Now world leaders in business are revealing that the last thing on their mind is the outfit they choose for work in the morning.
In a recent interview, Mark Zuckerberg admitted that he does not want to waste time worrying about what to wear; instead, he wants to focus on the things that matter and has multiple versions of the same outfit. Steve Jobs was the same. He wore black turtleneck sweaters, jeans and trainers. It was his work uniform.
Zuckerberg and Jobs are not alone in admitting that decisions about what to wear, or even what to eat, are considered a waste of time – time that could be better spent focussing on more important matters. Barak Obama admits he wears the same colours and styles every day because it means he can focus on other more pressing decisions.
This does not mean being smart at work is not important. It might be acceptable to be a little more casual if you work in a creative environment, such as in the case of Zuckerberg and Jobs, and you can get away with being smart/casual if you are the CEO of a multi-billion-dollar empire and you don’t have to impress anyone or stand out from the crowd. For most people, however, being smartly dressed for work is expected by their employers.
Business people are often judged by clients, whether consciously or subconsciously, on their appearance. Wearing a suit and tie, or a tailored shift dress and jacket, creates a professional impression. If you take care of the details with regard to your appearance, you are more likely to take care over the work you produce – at least in a client’s eyes.
It is all about perception. Although the Jobs and the Zuckerbergs of this world can get away with dress-down Fridays all week, most people can’t; however, it is still possible to dress smartly while using a more minimal approach to work wear to make life easier. A capsule wardrobe comprising a small range of essentials means you need less storage and less maintenance, and it is more cost effective than having a massive wardrobe of different outfits.
In a world that has become very materialistic and in which clothes have become throwaway items, it is more environmentally friendly to buy a few good pieces that will last. Less is more in the 21st century, it would appear.
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