Our company just issued a global policy of ‘Dress Down Fridays’. The news came out in two quick-succession emails. I think the idea was to present a thoughtful and gracious surprise to the hordes of employees across the globe. It felt a little bit condescending, but it was still received pleasantly enough.
There was a definite sense of anticipation leading up to the big day. I even received an email on the leading Thursday asking me what I intended to wear on the big day!
When Friday eventually arrived, my eyes were treated to a feast on the full gamut of urban Hong Kong fashion. It was certainly interesting watching how my fellow banking colleagues interpreted this newly gifted artistic license. For some this was an opportunity to show their workmates, and perhaps even some of the ladies on the floor, just how much fashion nous they had. The upper end of this corporate catwalk included bi-coloured blazers, pocket squares and fancy footwear. At the other end of the spectrum I noticed dirty sneakers, t-shirts and jeans and even a hooded shirt with Chinglish brandished across the chest.
This global initiative did make me wonder how it would have been received in other parts of the world where the local culture is so pervasive that it penetrates into every aspect of life – including work wear. How would individuals feel in such places such as India where women usually wear Saris for pleasure and business? Would they consider themselves a little short changed? Perhaps there are differing levels of saris that I am just not culturally attuned to enough to understand.
Back home in Australia we called ‘Casual Fridays’. As school kids, we all had to wear uniforms whether you went to a privately funded school or a publicly funded school. In those days we called it ‘Mufti Day’. Strange name when you think about the term ‘Mufti’ which is an Islamic religious scholar/leader much like a priest. As it turns out, this term dates back to the 1800’s when British soldiers had a tendency to dress in vaguely Eastern style dressing gowns with tasselled caps – which apparently looked like what Mufti’s wore. Yeh, I get it.
Then there are instances where people might genuinely enjoy wearing business attire all the time, what then? Would Dress Down Friday just become a tedious burden then?
For my part, I neither love nor loathe business attire, but I am lazy and ‘Smart Casual’ has always seemed so contrived. I chose to wear what I’ve been wearing on all those Fridays prior to Dress Down Friday.
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