Pinstripes or PJs – which gets the job done?

For the past year workers around the globe have delighted in the benefits that have come from working from home. Business-on-top and trackies-on-bottom has been the go-to look for many Zoom meetings, with business-on-top serving a temporal purpose for the duration of the call before being ditched when that little red ‘x’ is clicked. However, workwear has relaxed significantly since the power suits of the 1980s. Many businesses have welcomed a business casual wardrobe in the workspace allowing workers to tentatively blend wardrobes of ‘work’ and ‘play’. Glimmers of personality and individuality have crept into office dress codes with a statement earing here or a pop of colour there. But, as the pandemic has revealed, rule-abiding uniform is not essential to productivity, nor is it beneficial to celebrating staff as the exciting individuals they are. In a post-pandemic world, what is the etiquette on office attire? 

Previously, it was customary for women working in business to tower in elegant stiletto heels. In 2016, temporary receptionist Nicola Thorp was sent home from work after refusing to wear such footwear. This subsequently sparked a heated debate over the requirement of heels in the workplace and led to a parliamentary debate in March 2017. However, legislation protecting women from dismissal over their footwear was rejected by the government. This has not been an issue confined to the office but has also become a very global and public debate. In 2016, Julia Roberts made headlines by walking barefoot on the Cannes Film Festival red carpet in protest against the festival’s expectations of formal dress for women. Likewise, in 2018, Kirsten Stewart publicly removed her Christian Louboutin’s on the festival’s red carpet standing in solidarity with women across the industry and world. While the high-heel debate has been a high-profile public discourse, considerations to the struggles that may arise when people with protected characteristics are asked to conform to dress codes has often gone under the radar.

Expectations of office-appropriate dress have been evidently loaded with white privilege. Back in 2016, an MBA student called Rosalia tweeted a concerning Google search. The results showed that when searching “unprofessional hairstyles for work”, results displayed images of Black women with naturally Afro hair. Contrastingly, when searching for “professional hairstyles for work”, results yielded images of White women with neat up-dos. Rosalia’s tweet sparked campaigns against rampant racial bias in the workplace. Responding to these, California became the first US state to pass the Crown Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair act). So far, only 12 other states have followed suit.

Ablism has also penetrated workplace dress codes. Concerns have been raised over how accessible workwear is for those with disabilities. For example, considerations must be made to the struggles neurodivergent people may encounter with particular fabrics and how comfortable wheelchair users are in restrictive garments.

While the pandemic may have physically distanced us, is it possible that the digitalisation of bringing work into the home has made our connections with clients, colleagues and partners a little more human? Rather than enter meetings in our professional get-up in white-washed offices, we have peered into each other’s homes commenting on furnishings, exchanging the triumphs and troubles of home-schooling, and excused dog barks, children’s giggles, and interruptions. We have all become a little more ‘us’ in the WFH space. While it is perhaps not the best idea to re-enter the office in a onesie, perhaps it is a good time for employers to shake up office dress codes.

After over a year at home, many of us may be thrilled to blow the dust off our favourite office looks. Some may also find office attire the necessary signifier of the boundaries between worktime and downtime. Nevertheless, business casual is continually on the rise across a variety of industries. Statistics show that the switch in office dress codes has been brewing for a while now. In 1995, US necktie sales reached $2 billion. However, by 2014, sales had plummeted to $850 million. In the UK, workwear retailers Charles Tyrwhitt and T.M. Lewin have introduced business casual ranges to adapt to the shift in demand. As a B2B marketing agency, it is important for the Skout dress code to strike an important balance. While the marketing industry has taken a significant leap towards casual dress, B2B engagements still tend to have an expected formality. Just as we apply the creativity and excitement of B2C PR to our client’s needs, our team can be seen tailoring comfortable, smart, accessible, and stylish looks for their workday. As we return to the office in 2021, perhaps the pandemic has been the significant push employers need to adapt dress codes that celebrate and appreciate their staff. 

Browse more blog posts

Posted on
byLottie Buckley
Halloween is just around the corner, and as seasoned storytellers, we thought what better way to mark the occasion than to share our scary stories – although probably not the sort you’re used to.  Do you want to know what really keeps us PR people up at night? Nothing chills us to the bone quite like reminiscing about serious PR...
Posted on
byBella Minns
The 10th of October is World Mental Health Day  – a day recognised by the World Health Organisation to raise awareness of mental health issues and encourage actions to care for our mental well-being. Participating in transparent discourse around mental health is fundamental to this and, as a business, we recognise our responsibility to engage in these conversations to ensure we are...
Posted on
byBella Minns
Account executive We are looking for a bright, confident, enthusiastic account executive who is keen to further their career in B2B public relations, content development and digital communications. Ideally, you’ll have a year or two of agency experience on your CV and are looking to make the next step. Job summary As a key member of the PR, content and...
Posted on
byBella Minns
We are excited to share that we have recently gained a new client in the built environment sector!  We will be working with Yorkshire-based Assent Building Control to create a thought leadership programme for the business and build its profile within the industry  Assent is at the forefront of Building Control in the UK and has an excellent reputation, offering a very high level of service. Looking to improve its share of...
Posted on
bySkout team
Junior account executive We are looking for a bright, confident, enthusiastic self-starter who is keen to start or further their early career in B2B public relations with a keen interest in social media, content development and digital communications. Job summary As a key part of the PR, content and digital team, you can expect to develop your skills in media...
Posted on
byBella Minns
If you follow us on Twitter (wink, wink, nudge nudge), you will have noticed our team’s commitment to sustainable living. In #plasticfreeJuly, we shared the various water bottles our team use to avoid single-use plastic. As many of us return to the office this month, we have created a simple guide on the ways in which you can help to...
Posted on
byBella Minns
Why rebrand? Rebranding is often essential to the longevity of a business. While familiar branding often ensures businesses have a longstanding and loyal clientele, stagnancy in branding can prevent new growth and become less appealing to new generations of customers over time. At Skout, we have recently undergone a rebrand to reflect our positive and optimistic attitude to B2B PR....
Posted on
byRebecca Brown
According to B2B Marketing, 2021 is ‘The Year of the Human’ and an opportunity for brands to reconnect with customers, build trust and relationships, and elevate buyer experiences through stronger engagements. As B2B experts in the art of natural storytelling, communications and building brilliant relationships, we thought we’d explore this trend for our first instalment of ‘Skout likes’. After all,...
Posted on
byBella Minns
For the past year workers around the globe have delighted in the benefits that have come from working from home. Business-on-top and trackies-on-bottom has been the go-to look for many Zoom meetings, with business-on-top serving a temporal purpose for the duration of the call before being ditched when that little red ‘x’ is clicked. However, workwear has relaxed significantly since...
Posted on
byBella Minns
Women have continuously dominated PR. According to a survey by the PR communications census 2018, women make up 66% of the PR workforce. This fabulous feminisation of PR has often been celebrated in fictional characters such as Sex and the City’s Samantha Jones and Absolutely Fabulous’ Edina Monsoon. Yet, as many try to hazard a guess as to the reasons...