Clothes Do Not Make a Professional – these days we trust the individual!

In the 70’s a new liberal idea started to become reality, a new more liberal way of thinking around how one should dress for work. Those well matching costumes and polished shiny shoes were suddenly considered over-dressed. It may be hard to imagine today but just twenty some years ago it was completely inconceivable to come to the office in shorts and short-sleeves, something we see at several offices during the summer today. Slowly but surely dress codes have started to change and today we see more sweeping changes taking place. The lines between private dress and work dress have become even more blurred than ever before. Expectations around clothing have changed and one’s professionalism no longer rests in the clothes we wear.

We Make Room for the Personality
In the 90’s we saw Jonas Birgersson’s casualness with his bright orange fleece and even before that IKEA and their wooden shoes and polo shirt dress code was seen over 20 years ago and affected business dress code significantly. It is only now that even the more formal and strict employers in areas such as banking and finance have begun to follow suit. The dark suit and tie today can be lightened up with a blazer and chinos and a feminine outfit with matching heels is easily exchanged for jeans and a blouse, possibly with the so-called “Odd jacket “. Swedbank’s Anna Felländer is a good example of the new age of bank employee who breathe “modern and individual leadership.”

Today we rely more on the one that shows their personality and their own identity and thus to us feels “authentic and reliable / secure in themselves” than a “formal accountant” which gives a too formal and rigid impressions which in turn sends the message – “I just follow orders and cannot think for myself.” Individualists with enough self-confidence to dare dress in their own personal style are today’s “rock stars” that us mortals want to follow. Hans Rosling from the refugee issue is a good example of personal style. He dresses in deed in a jacket, but looks generally a bit tousled like an eccentric Professor of Calculus with his purposeful blazer hanging a little askew; note a blazer and not dark suit. The following day a DN article about Globen’s refugee-gala commented, “Carola and Tomas Ledin were all in their glory – the gala’s big thing was Professor Hans Rosling, who after his speech was hailed as a great rock star on Twitter.”

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Personalized Leadership Breaks Office Dress Codes
As the hierarchical work climate has cooled new rules have slowly begun to emerge, and then the phenomenon of “casual Friday” took the world by storm, but also had to change, as if that was even thinkable, to and even more casual work week. The conservative “management by fear” is simply outdated. Today, process-driven leadership has taken over and flat organizations with self-managed work groups and teams are the norm.

Personalized leadership is undoubtedly one of the reasons that the old dress codes are being relaxed, and it is gratifying to see that many companies adapt to its employees’ personalities and needs! As recruitment consultants, we see a big difference both in how the CEO’s and HR Directors we meet dress but also in the “requirements” they have on how candidates will be dressed. A Purchasing Director of a fashion company that comes to the interview in a suit and tie is questioned generally more than someone coming in jeans and shirt. Unless it is evident that there is a “suit-guy / girl” who dresses like he or she feels and is.

The person with the ability to convey “I am genuine and represent my thoughts and ideas, dare to be who I am because I am competent and good at what I do” This allows the “upholstery” to become inferior, and is crucial to how the candidate is received during the interview. This of course assumes that the skills and resume are compliant with the required profile, which is always superior. Just a few years ago this would have been unthinkable, and most of the customers we met in high positions decided heavily on the suit.

Casual Friday All Week
The Casual Friday principle all week is no longer just for the less bureaucratic and creative professionals and we believe strongly in the developments taking place in allowing employees to express themselves in their own way.

How do you see the recent trend in working dress codes? Have you also noticed the change, and do you in such cases see it as positive? Please share with us your thoughts in the comments!