Whilst some psychology research makes us question the meaning of life, other articles can make us question the very clothing on our backs. Does dress code made a difference?

Ok, so the former is an extreme example, and the latter perhaps, but both are true none the less. Clothes, it appears, make man perceive the world differently…’really?’ I hear you say? ‘But how?’

The theory goes that you are more focused if you wear formal clothes. The more formal the clothing, the more focussed you are. Some research shows that formal wear makes people think more broadly. It also relies on the theory that it differentiates your perception of how you carry out your task from social to business.

The opposing opinion seems to be ‘on trend’ in today’s world. A relaxed approach to work dress has been proven to have added benefits in productivity. Relaxed dress immediately means you are more comfortable, as it is more like clothes worn at home, i.e. your comfortable environment.

Research has also shown that it increases social interaction. Although some would debate that this results in less productivity, the theory states that shorter, regular breaks produce higher productivity when working. Shorter stints of work are arguably far more productive than longer drawn out stretches where motivation fluctuates, and attention waivers. Social interaction also motivates and keeps people happy.

This theory is used by the globally successful companies like Google and Facebook. Google is said to have no dress codes for employees. However, if the above research is to be believed, Google’s relaxed style when it comes to dress should mean less productivity. Being one of the most successful companies in the world, this is hard to imagine is true.

Our offices at Hippo operate a ‘well presented’ dress code. Personally, my wardrobe is full of these types of items, although my selection has halved recently after munching on one too many Terry’s Chocolate Oranges.

Now, let’s add ‘business formal’ and ‘business casual’ to the mix – when did there become so many terms for work dress? You see, the trouble is that the definition of ‘work dress’ is different for most companies and individuals.

Focus on dress codes and appearance at work has become more prevalent in recent years. This could in part be due to the number of legal cases being highlighted in the media relating to this subject matter, in addition to the general uncertainties amongst employers and employees about what dress code is acceptable.

27-year-old Nicola Thorp, a receptionist working as a temp for PWC was sent home, without pay, for refusing to buy and wear heels and instead option for flats. Since then, she has launched a petition to change dress code laws so that women have the option to wear formal flat shoes at work, if they wish. The petition has now reached over 150,000 signatures.

Although an extreme case, this example does raise an interesting point – does dress code make a difference?

In other words, does the way you dress have an impact on your work and/or learning abilities? At your event, does the attire your delegates wear make a difference to their performance?

The arguments remain the same really. People naturally talk, act and conform to the expectations that their attire sets. Considering the above, if your focus is on networking perhaps a more relaxed approach would work better. Alternatively, if you’re content heavy and focussing on business performance maybe the formal approach would wield better results. You would also need to take into consideration the general dress guidelines of your office. It truly is a subjective debate as there are no clear answers. Researchers would be the first to admit more studies need to be conducted to reveal the psychological effects of dress codes and performance.

But, does the real problem lie in the terminology we use? People’s perception of generic terms, such as ‘smart casual’, differ quite significantly. Whilst one may accept jeans under this term, others may consider this too informal and untidy. I mean, for sure this would be the case if they had ‘trendy’ rips in them, or if those skinny jeans turned out to be showing a little bit too much. But, what does ‘smart casual’ mean for a female? A blouse? A skirt? Is jewellery allowed? The impact of having an uncertain dress code can influence a person’s emotions towards an event prior to them actually arriving. Those of an anxious disposition may worry they will not fit in, concerned about what others will be wearing and not wishing to stand out – surely this is everyone’s worst nightmare?

Fundamentally, for us at Hippo, it comes down to feeling confident in the clothes you are wearing. Confidence affects performance, arguably more so than any specific dress type.

So, the questions remain; do we pay enough attention to the dress code at our events? Does dress code really matter? Do we concentrate on what the social norm is rather than considering how the delegate will feel? What dress code should I have for my event? Really, the answers are down to you and your interpretation of the research conducted.

If I had the time I’d conduct further research myself, but I spend too much time wondering what to wear in the mornings.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us for any of your event management requirements – we’re here to help. Hippo.