Fashion in the workplace

Is it fair men have to suit up while women have more flexibility?

When it comes to fashion, boundaries are being broken everyday. Gender neutral clothing has started popping up throughout some of our favourite shops, with skirts no longer being exclusively for women and trouser suits no longer exclusive to men. Despite still having a long way to go, fashion is moving forward and we can certainly see the lines between what are labelled ‘men’s’ and ‘women’s’ clothing starting to cross. One place that hasn’t seemed, for the most part, to have taken the leap across to the idea of unisex fashion, is workwear. There are many ways work environments can be seen to be unfair towards women, however, fashion isn’t really one of them, and it needs to be asked if it’s really fair that women get so much more flexibility in what they are able to wear compared to men? 

In most work place environments, everyone is told to ‘dress smart’. Yes, it’s only work and it’s a dress code that everyone has to stick too, not just men – but for women, this could mean wearing anything from a blouse with a skirt to a dress to a trouser suit. For men however, the term ‘smart dress’ usually only boils down to one choice of outfit; shirt, suiting up. Is it really fair, in this day and age, that men only have one real choice when it comes to what they can wear Monday-Friday? 

I suppose you could argue that this is, in fact, the fashion industries fault in itself – the workplace states ‘smart dress’ most of the time, yes, occasionally they may specify that men must ‘wear a suit’, but for the most part it is generalised that all employees must stick to ‘office wear’. If the only smart dress or office wear that is actually on offer for men to buy is some sort of suit and trouser combo then obviously this is what they are going to have to wear to work, whether they want to or not. Compare that to women, who have a whole range of things available to them to wear, in a range of different colours and styles also. Now, I am in no way saying that men aren’t allowed to wear a bright pink polka dot shirt under their suit jacket, but how often is it that you see that available in the shops? And even so, there is no denying it definitely would turn some heads in the office, become a potential cause of mockery, and possibly even be frowned upon by employers. 

Weighing up the argument of men having less flexibility when it comes to fashion in the workplace. I can see how, if you were the type of person who wanted to express themselves with flamboyant workwear, it would potentially be much easier for a woman to get away with then a man. Having said this, I personally feel there is probably a bigger problem with actual retailers and their restrictions on men’s workwear ranges, rather than the restrictions employers set on men’s workwear clothing. If I’m being totally honest, I do think this is one of the more minor issues when it comes to gender inequality in the work place. Considering women can’t even get equal pay this is just something men will have to deal with until someone decides to do something about it, but it’s 2018 and if men want to wear a skirt, blouse and blazer combination to the office, why the heck shouldn’t they?

Kemer Aydin

Image: Jim Stroud