My most recent post pointed out that the thermostat in most offices is set to what's comfortable for a baby-boomer male wearing a business suit, making most offices feel too cold for women of all generations.

Science says that people who feel cold are less productive, so I suggested raising the thermostat a few degrees, which would create a more equitable environment for both genders. While this might make men who wear suits uncomfortably hot, that's a good thing.

Because business suits should be banned from the office anyway. Here's why:

1. Business suits encourage conformity.

Take a look at any group of older men (or younger men imitating them) and they look like peas in a pod. And, as anyone who's worked in an all-male suit-wearing environment knows, they usually think like peas in a pod.

Example: imagine a "yes man." What is he wearing?

Some of this unoriginality is because suit-wearing corporate cultures naturally attract men who value conformity, but it's also because people are influenced by the clothes they wear. Dressing formally therefore tends to limit creativity.

2. Business suits epitomize stagnation.

Consider: companies throughout the world have spent billions of dollars to create open plan offices full of the latest design concepts, in the belief that this new type of environment will create innovation and collaboration.

And then those companies fill them (at least in part) with men who are wearing an outfit (suit, slacks, white shirt, tie) that is for all intentions identical to what businessmen wore in the 19th century. Hand me the buggy whip, Clarence!

3. Business suits camouflage cluelessness.

Any bozo who can cough up the cash for a nice suit can look authoritative. Indeed, that's why you run into so many "empty suits" at conferences. Many is the CEO who'd command less authority were he wearing a golf shirt and checkered pants.

study from California State University, Northridge showed that formal dress makes men 1) feel more powerful but less connected and 2) favor abstract reasoning over concrete facts. In other words, business suits actually make men clueless.

4. Business suits create gender inequity.

While business suits confer automatic credibility to the men who wear them (whether they're deserving of it or not), there's nothing analogous in women's closets. Because women's clothing communicates (at most) neutral semiotics, women must actually BE smart in order to LOOK smart.

Furthermore, while suit-wearing men can don the same outfit each day (changing only the colors, slightly), women must expend extra time and energy selecting outfits and are ridiculed if they wear the same boring outfit every day. It's simply not fair.

5. Business suits weaken teams.

Ample evidence has shown that teams with a mix of personalities, backgrounds and genders are more effective than teams that consist only of men. Because business suits encourage conformity, cluelessness and stereotypical male behavior, they make teams weaker.

As such, business suits should be banned from the workplace. Some people may object that would stifle those men who feel more comfortable dressed 1890s-style. But consider: office dress codes frequently ban clothing that's too casual. So, then, why not ban clothes that are too formal?

Published on: May 3, 2018
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