By Alana Winns
According to the New York Times, yes — men wearing shorts to work is a thing and is becoming increasingly common. In an effort to beat the summer heat, some have even deliberately banded together for what they call Shorts Friday.
Chris Krautler, a 32-year-old vice president in the public relations department at Olgilvy & Mather, told the Times that it is how one wears shorts that matters most. “For our group, the gentleman’s agreement was: If you wear shorts, they have to look nice,” said Krautler. “The idea of wearing a t-shirt and shorts isn’t right. There’s a balance to it.”
Television news veteran and co-host of the Today Show Matt Lauer seemed to have mastered the art of that balance two years ago when he stepped on set sporting a light-colored short suit. Naturally, the bold work-fashion move made headlines.
Even men who earn their income working in law or finance are noticing that more traditional career areas are lessening their grip on what the office attire should be. PwC (No. 4 on the Diversity Top 50 Companies list) recently scrapped its own company dress code, paying homage to its millennial employees who value a culture of flexibility.
After conducting a NextGen Study that discovered openness in where they work and how much they work is a high priority for millennials, the multinational company introduced new company policies with the tagline, “It’s not about working less, it’s about working differently.”
Blair Decembrele agrees that flexibility can foster a positive work environment for employees.
Decembrele, a career expert at LinkedIn, told the Times that the trend is not necessarily a bad thing. “A casual dress code can make people feel more comfortable,” she said, “which can help with productivity.”
Menswear expert G. Bryce Boyer wrote in his book “True Style: The History and Principles of Classic Menswear,” “Appropriate dress frees us from the anxieties and liabilities of sending negative and confusing messages.”
Wearing clothing that makes you feel comfortable and is appropriate for the environment can allow a person’s confidence to thrive and can potentially leave room to worry about the more important distinctions of their job, rather than whether or not they are being judged by colleagues and managers.
However, despite wanting to feel comfortable, studies have shown that dressing appropriately more formally for work has its benefits.
The “dress for success” motto conventionally excludes wearing shorts as a means of being taken more seriously. While appearing to be laidback in the office is accepted, it can also be subconsciously frowned upon, possibly allowing promotions to go to a person who wears a pressed button-up and khaki pants every day.
And according to Krautler, another, less serious drawback for those who support the shorts trend is corporate air conditioning.
“You’re walking to work, and it’s hot as hell and you’re happy you’re wearing shorts,” Krautler told the Times. “But when you get in, it’s pretty chilly. Now I understand where women are coming from when they complain.”
The alternatives, if men decide they don’t want to roast all summer long while still sparing the office from the sight of their legs, is to wear summer-friendly pants including light-weight chinos. Chinos in particular come in a variety of colors that exert both personality and professionalism during the warm weather months.
While many companies are embracing the art of summer-friendly office gear for men, it is still a tossup as to whether or not the style is being taken seriously as a powerhouse uniform.
Dressing for success is fair game, as the old saying goes, “Dress for the job you want.”