As the British summer kicks fitfully into life, the debate about what is – or is not – acceptable office clothing is hotting up as new research finds that more firms are returning to the formal dress codes of the past.
Research by executive communications consultancy The Aziz Corporation has found that dressing down appears to have fallen out of favour, with a sharp drop in the number of firms that allowed full-time, casual dress.
Fewer than a third of UK businesses let their staff to dress casually at all times, a fall of ten per cent on last years' figures.
Only half the company directors surveyed said that they let staff wear casual dress except when meeting clients, while 37 per cent of bosses expect staff to dress formally at all times - an eight per cent increase on 2003.
Finance companies were the most formally-minded, with eight out of ten saying that they would not allow staff to wear casual dress when not meeting clients - an increase of 38 per cent on last year’s results.
But the survey also found that male directors have few problems with women wearning very short skirts, with 37 per cent saying they thought that they were perfectly acceptable in a business situation. Only 15 per cent of female directors thought the same.
Khalid Aziz, chairman of The Aziz Corporation, said the results suggested a post- dotcom backlash against casual dress:
“In a business environment you want to be noticed for your work not your taste in clothes," he said, "so although it is obviously important that you feel comfortable in what you wear to the office, your clothes must also project the right image.
“While being more smartly dressed does not necessarily mean that you are better at your job, there is no doubt that the more formal the attire, the more seriously people are taken."
"Most employees appreciate the need for professional dress in the work place and many in fact believe that they are less effective in their jobs when ’dressed down’," he continued.
"As long as management provides clear guidance and show a degree of flexibility in warmer conditions office dress codes need not be a matter of dispute."