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Is the suit a dying dress code in the office?
By Christine Atieno | Updated Dec 10, 2015 at 13:20 EAT

One of the most stylish fashion statements a guy can make is a suit. Be it at the office, a red-carpet event or any special occasion. Sure, casual jeans, a t-shirt and a pair of trademark converse shoes are more comfortable for some men but when it's time to look sharp, smart and put-together, there is nothing like a suit.

However, suits are slowly fading into oblivion in the corporate world. Take a look at the men in your office, how many of them are in a suit? How many are in a simple official look that is a trouser and neatly ironed shirt? How many of them are in a jeans and a t- shirt? One out of every 5 men in an office wears a suit

Growing up, suits were the order of the day, but people evolve with time and so does fashion. There is a new trend in office wear, it is the jeans and shirt, which are slowly taking the place of the suit as the standard office wear.

In a survey of 1,000 professionals conducted by an online shop in the UK, ECigaretteDirect.co.uk in November 2014, more than a third no longer regularly wear a suit to work, with nearly half of the respondents believing that the days of wearing a suit to work are numbered

Staff nowadays put on anything from chino pants and a jacket to T-shirt and jeans to sit behind a desk, with many putting on a two-piece suit only when they have a formal meeting.

The scenario is the same in Kenya, suits are slowly fading away. Benson* a real estate agent attributes this to the weather, “Nairobi records a high temperature of 27degrees Celsius, thus making it uncomfortably hot for most people to wear suits, this is the reason why I last wore a suit in 2012, and I wear a sweater whenever it is cold”

Thomas* customer service agent has a different opinion, “suits are quite costly and you have to own a variety that are of good quality, which are not cheap at all”, he says.

“Organizational culture also has an influence on office wear, when I first started working in my company, I donned suits every day, but I noticed I was the odd one out, every other person was either in a jeans and t- shirt or a trouser and shirt, and just like that I ditched the suit for the same, I had to blend in”, he adds

Martin* a news editor disagrees “Organizational culture cannot influence your personal dress code unless there is a policy for it. It all depends on how a person was brought up. I work in an organization where a majority of my colleagues wear a smart casual look but I wear suits from Monday to Friday. 

He further explained that is a discipline that was instilled in him as a young boy .To him, suits are the standard dress code in an office.

To some extent organizational culture has played a huge role on the eradication of suits in the office. Samuel* an accountant agrees with Thomas “There are some organizations that do not have a rigid dress codes for their staff, one such company is Sport Pesa, their dress code includes Jeans and a T-shirt basically they allow any form of casual wear”, he says.

The nature of a job is also a contributing factor. Some technological companies also have the same casual wear policy, probably because there is no need to look dapper in a suit when you carry and operate on heavy machineries. Media houses are not an exception either most news anchors only switch to suits when they are going on air

If men nowadays opt for a more casual look than a formal look, then it begs the question, does it affect their productivity at work? There have been numerous studies about the power of the suit and how it influences one’s manner of thinking that cannot be ignored, do these studies still hold water?

Why should your brain function differently when you’re wearing a suit as opposed to a jeans and T-shirt?

The survey revealed that 64 per cent of the population said that what they wear made no difference to how they worked.

James Dunworth, co-founder of ECigaretteDirect.co.uk concurs with the findings ‘I don't think casual wear makes someone less productive or reduces the quality of their work.’

'I have found you get the most out of a happy and respected workforce and if that means letting people wear jeans and a T-shirt to work, so be it.

It would seem that the symbolic power of the suit will fade in coming years as casual wear becomes the norm in a growing number of workplaces, but Michael. L Slepian one of the Authors of the study, Wearing a Suit Makes People Think Differently, doesn’t think so

While speaking to The Atlantic Business Magazine in April 2015 he said “It takes a long time for symbols and our agreed interpretations of those symbols to change, and I wouldn't expect the suit as a symbol of power to be leaving us anytime soon

Slepian may have a point, because there are some traditional companies such as banks, insurance companies, the Parliament that still adheres to the strict suit policy, so the suit may be down but it is not out yet

But as aforementioned fashion evolves with time, there is no telling which way we are headed. What is popular today may not be so tomorrow, what was considered old fashioned may be the current fashion trend .So whether the suit will survive the precarious fashion world is a matter of time will tell.

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