Is every day now going to be ‘dress down Fridays’?
A couple of early wins for Ubiquity in the move back to organising face to face events for PR clients this summer got Joel Jelen thinking.
The Liverpool-based director of agency Ubiquity had just won work with the city restaurant impresarios of three decades The Red and Blue Restaurant Group led by Paddy Smith and Jonathan Poole. The pair are launching French bistro, Bouchon in July, their 12th venture, following on from the success of the likes of Bacaro, Salt House Tapas and Hanover Street Social.
This followed news of wellness advocate Jelen revealing Ubiquity had been approached to launch in July, a brilliant new book by Kim Rutherford called 8 Wise Ways to a Healthier Happier Mind, recently released on Amazon and across 39,000 bookstores – the book supports as many people as possible with their mental health, wellbeing recovery and prevention plan.
“I used to joke about the topic of what to wear to work but after a break of 15 months, I got chatting with a few colleagues who said that when they opened up their wardrobe, they began to have a re-think of the standards that they considered to be professional work attire.
“It’s a bit easier generally for us men”, said one of them “who don’t have to navigate a complex nexus of expectations about their appearance.”
“Perhaps the changing of the standards of professional work attire will allow for more inclusivity, where women won’t feel pressured in some cases to wear makeup or high-heals. It might allow people to feel like they can come to work as themselves and feel less pressure” adds Jelen.
“Maybe it also depends entirely on your function. I’m not expecting my bank manager at Metro Bank to arrive in a hoodie under a blazer although it’s cool if he does.
Jelen continued: “We work with for example, property developers and construction companies like Emperor Holdings and EveryTrade and I’m never going to turn up for a meeting with the guys in a three-piece!
“Similarly, with the roster of wellness companies on our books like Ghosh Medical Group, Blankstone Opticians, Pain Point Coach, Matta’s, 8 Wise and Dr John Mew, turning up in a suit is not the right message and neither am I comfortable in doing it.
“I suppose if you’re in a non-client facing role, you could go for comfort but maybe not like i saw walking past The Lobster Pot the other night with a punter at the counter in a dressing gown.”
“I’ve already seen more joggers, leggings and sweatshirts and clothes dubbed ‘workleisure’ being worn in the business district in the gradual return to the office in Liverpool’s business district.
“But are bosses ready for something different…akin to hybrid dressing? Perhaps, more people seem freer to wear whatever they want, but they still want to look good. I reckon more will be casually dressed in the office when it’s fully time to go back, especially men.”
Jelen says some of his colleagues who head up law and finance firms are more relaxed within reason about the dress choices of their teams yet some staff members he spoke with are worried about “the superficial and societal implications of their choices.” That makes sense.
“If our clients go to a more casual dress code, I don’t want to be that guy in the suit,” said one guy who is weighing up what to wear when he isn’t in court.
“Overall, are women more likely to dress up than men when everyone returns? Questions Jelen. “Perhaps once you see your colleagues and clients in very casual attire, it’s hard to unsee that.
“There are probably quite a few company executives walking a line between allowing employees to dress down as an incentive to get them back in the office and making sure they look presentable.”
Jelen says he is going to ask the ubiquitously suited and booted David Wafer, chair of the IOD for Liverpool City Region when he sees him next after the Institute of Directors organised an event with new Mayor of Liverpool Joanne Anderson.
Regardless, Jelen maintains that dressing for success is now at odds more than ever with our growing desire for comfort with the latter winning out.
We reckon that could be in evidence at the launch of Bouchon where ‘Paris Casual’ might be the order of the day.
Many thanks to My Planet Liverpool for interviewing Joel about his thoughts on the formalities of returning to work this summer…
The next print edition is out on June 30th 2021.