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Dressing as your Authentic Self in the Office

Remote working has changed the way we perceive ‘professional attire’. Whether it’s being in your pyjamas on a work call. Or only wearing half a suit during video chats, many workers have experienced a new sense of freedom that had previously been unobtainable. But why stop there? Why can’t this freedom follow us back into the office? What says you shouldn’t be dressing as your authentic self in the office, every day? 

Professionalism is a concept built on three main principles: knowledge, ethics and judgement. But when did clothing ever have any bearings on these three attributes? 

For many years clothing has been coded, it’s how people would tell apart those with power and status, from the masses. In this day and age, things aren’t so cut and dry, which, I for one, am grateful for. Clothing is less of a weapon of classism-  and goes beyond its immediate practical qualities. So why all the fuss over fashion? Why should employers be encouraging you to dress as your authentic self in the office? 


Fashion in Culture 

For many people, fashion is an intrinsic part of their culture or belief system

For example, sacred items of clothes for Muslims include scarfs, Thobe, Abayas etc.

Sikhs treat their hair in a certain way and often wear turbans as a representation of their faith. It is an expression of brotherhood for many Sikh men. 

My point is- clothes often tie directly into a person’s identity, and to strip this away is not only cruel but quite problematic. 

The benefits of dressing authentically also extend beyond religious freedom.

Personality and Confidence in the Office

When an employer takes on a new employee, I’d like to think they’ve based that choice not only on talent and expertise but also on ethics, enthusiasm and personality. 

So to have won over this incredible human who will be an asset to your business…

And then try to fit them into a box of shirts, ties, and patent dolly shoes- just seems like a disservice to both parties. Don’t you think? 

Clothing is not only a great way to express yourself, but research suggests the type of clothing we wear can affect our behaviours as well as our confidence. By wearing clothes we love, we feel confident in ourselves and this is particularly important to well-being in the workplace.  Not only this but confidence is vital to a person’s ability to fulfil tasks effectively and with faith in their results. You need to be confident in order to efficiently communicate with colleagues in the workplace. 

Practicality and Comfort

Sitting in a hot office, at a computer desk for hours on end isn’t always the most comfortable situation to find yourself in.

After all, how can you focus on the task at hand if you’re conscious of the sweat patch growing in the underarms of your shirt? 

That’s why so many people found working remotely so eye-opening. For the first time, they felt comfortable as they worked, and this had a direct impact on their productivity, performance and quality of life. 

No matter what your job is, your attire mustn’t be a detriment to your ability to do it efficiently. 

That’s why instead of focussing on professionalism- employers should be promoting practicality. 

Does your clothing infringe on your ability to accomplish your job? 

Is it offensive to clients or colleagues? 

If your answers to these questions are both no, then your clothing should be deemed as ‘work appropriate’. Whatever that means. 

Removes an Element of Stress from the Workday 

There’s nothing worse than having to iron and pleat a cotton shirt. This is especially true when you’re in a rush and know your shirt will soon be creased during your commute. Having to think about whether an outfit is ‘professional’ enough, or whether it’ll be badly received by colleagues is an additional challenge to face each morning. If businesses adopt a universally more relaxed approach to work attire, this stress would be reduced. And you’d be able to dress as your authentic self in the workplace. 

Why you should be Dressing as your Authentic Self in the Office

Dressing authentically encourages a culture of authenticity, with your staff, colleagues and your clients. This breeds confidence, honesty and ultimately, happiness. People work best when they feel relaxed and safe. And nothing is more relaxing than being able to be yourself in the office. 

So I have to ask. Should businesses be removing formality from the office? Should businesses be encouraging employees to turn up as themselves?

Not having to mask your true self is not only beneficial to productivity but vital to overall wellbeing and quality of life. 

Happy employees are more likely to stick around.

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