Down With Casual Fridays: Dress For Success

The Wall Street Journal published an article with the title, “Young Attorneys’ Casual Attire Draws Criticism at Big Firms; A Crackdown on Ugg Boots.” The story discusses a trend whereby law firms encourage a more casual dress code in the office to their detriment.

“There’s just one problem: It can be difficult to get young associates to shift gears and don traditional dress when the need arises. A decade after the dot-com boom made casual Friday a weeklong event, many people under 30 have never witnessed a suits-only office,” writes the WSJ.

The article is also a message about generational differences. For women, heels have gotten taller and hemlines shorter. For men, ties have become obsolete.

“I share the lament and disgust about the general level of associates’ attire,” says Tom Mills, the 60-year-old managing partner of the Washington office of Winston & Strawn LLP. “I think it’s abysmal.”

Casual Friday has become a tradition in a variety of business fields, law included. It serves a plethora of functions, including a sense of leniency on the part of the firm, a celebration of the end of the work week, and a sense of comfortability among stressed colleagues.

But, let’s face it. A lawyer’s week does not end on a Friday. At most firms, attorneys work far into the weekend, especially the junior associates.

To the employee, it may seem as though you are more productive on days where you are not strangled by your tie, smothered by your suit jacket, or corseted in panty hose. However, studies show that casual dress has no correlation with work productivity, according to research published in the Undergraduate Research Journal of Human Sciences for The Master’s College.

Instead, casual dress has been linked to poor performance reviews and lower professional reputation.

Studies find that those employees who choose to wear more professional attire advance faster in their careers, according to 63 percent of executives surveyed by The Wirthlin Worldwide.

Law firms waste time and money coming up with policies that address dress code. No jeans, no sweatpants, no open-toed shoes. Why not try, in one fell (efficient) swoop, no casual attire?

With a consistent professional dress code, law firm managers will never worry about surprise drop-ins by important clients. There will be no reprimands  about casual Friday taken too far.

The look of your firm reflects its commitment to excellence.

“Given lingering high unemployment rates, employees may want to hang up the flip-flops, not just for the summer season, but for good,” writes author and business expert Jeffrey Magee in USA Today.

“What these findings strongly suggest to employees is, even though your company dress code may be business casual, how you dress sends a message to your employer about your level of professionalism and productivity, and that it can impact your career path.”

So why casual Friday when lawyers already get casual Saturday and Sunday?

-WB

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