THE MILITARY and the Church have the edge in determining the proper attire for the job, especially for formal occasions. Their designated uniforms are unique and have a long tradition. Colors, coats, capes, stripes, accessories, and medals indicate status, including how to address the wearer properly.
Uniforms require subjects in a particular group to look the same in their attire. In sports like basketball, players wear uniforms made up of undershirts and shorts with numbers on them, and a predetermined color. This look identifies teammates and allows peripheral vision to determine ball movement. The job of putting a ball through the hoop, or preventing it from getting there, entails large salaries, considering a television audience in the millions around the world.
Three referees too have their own uniforms of shirts with short sleeves paired with long pants and whistles to keep the game under control. They are definitely paid much less than the burly guys in shorts.
In the office, the prescribed uniform is giving way to a less formal dress code.
The dot-com companies and their newly minted billionaires (after their IPOs and before a declared interest in buying them fizzles out) have made casual attire indicative of a 10-figure net worth.
Even bankers now sport casual wear, especially when they’re pivoting to the digital space, beyond ATMs and online banking. Financial technology (fintech) encompasses startups that don’t even pretend to be in banking but in payment systems. They are entitled to their own casual dress code — black turtlenecks are passé.
“Smart casual,” even at evening parties of moguls, is now acceptable office attire, even in large companies. Long-sleeved shirts, whether plain or with tiny checks (and no brand logos of scooters or pizzas) paired with denim pants are considered office-appropriate, even if it’s not a Friday.
Thick denim jackets, when trimmed with fake fur and patches of stars and stripes, send a different message. The all-denim look is associated with overseas workers coming home for a visit with long hair and accompanied by three big cartons at the airport. The swagger is inversely proportional to the strength of the peso.
Even denim pants with ripped thighs sections (but not where the zipper is) are making the scene, although mostly for social occasions. This ripped look can go with pointed boots and motorized skateboards. This attire is a declaration of radical chic, especially when accessorized with a key chain dangling from the belt strap for keys to the warehouse. What jobs are associated with this attire? Maybe BPOs in the night shift, boutique studios, bloggers and troll farm hands, and consultants for digital transformation — today we’ll talk about firewalls.
The casual look projects nonchalance and liberates the wearer from concerns about matching colors. (Am I on the right floor?) Even TV news anchors have dispensed with ties. Still, casual attire should provide clues to status. The chairman in short sleeves should be distinguishable from a collection clerk wearing fake signature brands. (Take a look at the watch.)
Showing up at a business lunch looking like a journalist or advertising copywriter (Were they ahead of their time?) should not raise eyebrows. The moment is saved from being awkward when bankers in charge of loan restructuring show up wearing magenta pants.
Casual wear does not cover all fields of social interaction.
There are still old-fashioned rules applied to those running a country. Proper attire is a declaration of how seriously one is taken by peers from the region. Will other heads of state recognize the presence of a sloppy gatecrasher? Is the waiter serving drinks skipping one head of state nobody is talking to?
It escapes no one’s notice that in terms of attire, the present leader is a vast improvement over his predecessor. There are no more rolled up sleeves, open first or second buttonholes for the traditional formal attire.
Always natty in a jusi barong (long or short sleeves) the incumbent leader exudes confidence and invites respect. And for a man of a few words, this properly attired presence is a refreshing change.
What about his casual attire for intimate social gatherings? Are there Hawaiian shirts in his closet? Maybe, these bring some unpleasant associations? Like formal attire, clothes for this leader may not be too colorful, loose fitting, and carefree.
For sure, proper attire for the job must be cut… and cut cleanly.
Tony Samson is chairman and CEO of TOUCH xda