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Should All Office Workers Dress Exactly the Same?

Another day, another dilemma about what to wear to work. While our democracy hangs in the balance, we debate wearing New Balances to the office. We change our outfit three times, and hope for the best.

Sometimes, we wish that we had a personal stylist to select our work clothes for us, because figuring out what to wear can feel like a job in itself some days. However, there might be a simple solution to our sartorial indecision: a universal, formal office dress code where all office workers dress exactly the same!

Everybody In Khaki
An article in Britain's The Independent ponders bringing the dress code found in private schools into the white-collar workplace. This way, nobody stands out, nobody feels under-dressed, and nobody can out-do each other in the workplace fashion sweepstakes. Our colleagues won't be able to get a leg up on us professionally, since we're all wearing the same pants that we put on one leg at a time.

It could be like going back to 1999, when Gen X dotcom employees had to have their baggy-in-the-crotch beige pants. We thought we looked awesome.

Could an office "uniform" be the answer to our daily workplace fashion dilemmas? From the article:

If inclusivity and attracting a truly diverse workforce is the goal, then workwear [sic] expectations need to be looked at. A more formal dress code might be the way to solve it. The simplicity and uniformity of business dress might help to level the playing field. If everyone is in simple trousers, shirts and black shoes, it's harder to feel inadequate, or as though you don’t match up. It's also much more economically viable to own a few pairs of work trousers and shirts, than an endless array of effortless-fashionable-smart-casual items, which have seemingly become the norm.

If employers want to attract a diverse workforce, then they should eliminate diversity of dress. Could it work in the average big law or Big Four accounting firm? Would office employees willingly give up their Brooks Brothers button downs and Balenciaga boots for beige slacks, a white shirt and matching shoes?

Cost-wise, the idea could have some merit by taking the pressure off of office workers to keep up with the Jones & Co. Is that Hermes, or is it H&M? Who cares, it doesn't matter anymore, since work is all about performance instead of Prada. It's Eve St. Laurent egalitarian.

Alas, this idea probably wouldn't fly in today's white-collar American workplace, where we see ourselves as ladder-climbing individuals first and easily-replaceable cogs in the corporate machine second. A white-collar work "uniform" would be seen as too restrictive, too strange, too much, too totalitarian.

Besides, the trend is moving in the other direction toward office employees rolling out of bed in leggings and hoodies and semi-brushed hair and coming to work. Every day is casual Friday now. So, in a way, we're already beginning to dress the same at work. Sloppy. But please, let's leave the flip-flops at home. That's a step too far at work.


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