Mark Zuckerberg caused quite a stir on Wall Street a few weeks ago — sure, Facebook went public, but no one could stop talking about that hoodie.
Zuckerberg’s unique definition of business casual made people unhappy. Analyst, Michael Patcher, went as far as to say in an interview with Bloomberg TV, “He’s actually showing investors he doesn’t care that much. … I think that’s a mark of immaturity.”
Society is a lot more casual today then it was even 30 years ago. For some, casual Friday has turned into casual Monday-Friday.
Many argue casual is better. People are more comfortable, happy and productive when they are dressed casually. However, there is a spectrum of casualness. From just-rolled-out-of-bed chic to traditional business casual, where people place themselves in that spectrum may reveal what they think of themselves and their environment.
Technology vs. The Suit and Tie
There are many reasons society has become more accepting of casual clothing in various settings.
Many view technology as one of the biggest forces behind this shift.
“The technologies we use influence the way we see the world,” said Clark Callahan, a communications professor at BYU. “Those individual technologies … tend to skew us to more individual ways of dressing. Whenever we become more self-centered, we’re less likely to conform to social standards. We say, ‘I’m not going to dress up because it makes me uncomfortable. It’s about me, my enjoyment.'”
Callahan said many believe the camera to be the first technology that turned our focus inward. It was the first time we could see ourselves as others see us. As time passed, our desire to have others see us as an individual has increased.
As society has become more concerned with creating personal identities, people have become more aware of how they feel in their clothes as opposed to how they look.
“People in the past, they didn’t mind if fashion restricted them a little,” said Mary Farahnakian, professor of design and technology in the theater and media arts program at BYU. “People now don’t like that. They don’t want to be restricted. Casual chic now … is easier to move around in.”
Susan Moreno, a BYU student from Miami, Fla., said she selects clothes during the week based on comfort and casualness.
Another reason for the level of casualness, Farahnakian pointed out, is globalization in the marketplace. With the need to travel and go on business trips, the suit-clad people of the corporate world are now commonly seen wear slacks and a button down.
“(With so much traveling), people could not be as formal as they used to be,” said Farahnakian.
The change in uniform for those traveling then seeped into the workplace and became the new uniform, even for people remaining at their desks.
But Ma, everyone’s doing it!
Twenty-five years ago, students were not allowed to wear shorts on campus and jeans were considered too casual for class. What is now a standard BYU co-ed uniform was once discouraged.
The topic of casual dressing, especially when it comes to dressing for Sunday, has even been addressed by the Latter-day Saint General Authorities. In a talk entitled “To Young Women” in the October 2005 session of General Conference, Elder Jeffery R. Holland said, “Good friends would never embarrass you, demean you or exploit you. Neither should your clothing. … When we come to worship the God and Father of us all and to partake of the sacrament symbolizing the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we should be as comely and respectful, as dignified and appropriate as we can be.”
Dressing as a way to change our state of mind
The way we dress seems to have an impact on the way people feel about themselves and those around them.
“We obviously have clothes for swimming. We have clothes for different sports and whenever we put those on, it prepares us to do those kind of things,” said Rory Scanlon, professor in the theater and media arts program at BYU. “So often we say clothes are attached to different activities or a frame of mind we want to be in.”
Steve Fortney, a student studying economics said he saw this in his own life. He decided he would dress up in a shirt, tie and slacks when he went to take a test to see if it had any impact on his grades. While he isn’t sure how much his appearance had to do with his score, he said it makes him feel and act better.
“When you’re going to go do something that takes a lot of concentration and you dress smart, it definitely puts you in a good state of mind,” Fortney said. “You definitely feel and act more professional when you are dressed professionally.”
Hank Smith, a religion professor, said he sees a difference in how his students act depending on their clothing. He said when students are dressed in extremely casual clothes like sweats, they usually are not as engaged in class.
“We are supposed to be careful in the appearance we give,” Smith said. “Even if I don’t feel that way, I might be saying (I don’t care much about this) through my clothing.”
For Zuckerberg and Facebook, the image is a hoodie. Other go-to outfits are jeans and a t-shirt or a blazer and skirt. Either way, everyone has to find their personal image that best communicates who they are and what they stand for.