Steve Jobs didn’t wear shoes. Mark Zuckerberg wore the same outfit every day -- a grey t-shirt and jeans -- and much of Silicon Valley followed suit (or didn’t). At some point in the 1990’s, denim shifted from a mainstay of the grunge rock era (i.e. a Canadian-tuxedoed Kurt Cobain) to status symbol of the corporate tech elite. Wearing jeans to work suggested you were in control of your own destiny, so to speak - or at the very least worked for someone who “got it”.
Fast forward a few decades and denim rules the office party - “casual Fridays” as common as birthday donuts in conference room A65. Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, you name it, they had offered this lifestyle since inception, leaving competitors little option but to offer equivalent sartorial flexibility.
Does anyone wear suits in the workforce of the future?
The answer is yes, but to limited extent. The trend declined substantially with the cycling out of Baby Boomers, who -- despite their “anti-establishment” phase of the 1960’s and 70’s -- had long grown used to the delineation between dressing for work and dressing for everything else.
While some professions continued to prefer business formal wear -- sales people, lawyers, bankers and finance, for the most part -- nearly everyone else bucked the trend in lieu of creative expression and recruiting power.
With freedom of wardrobe came the desire for freedom in other areas. For many workers, the commute was the most miserable part of the day. Traffic jams, accidents, and general wasted time put most people in a bad mood -- or at the least a highly stressed one.
Self-driving cars helped in this area, but frustrations remained. At the end of the day, many people wondered why they had to commute to the office in the first place.
“No suit, no commute” became the mantra of a cross-section of generations -- Gen X, Milliennials, Gen Z. They would not take jobs that didn’t confine to their standards, and -- as many of these folks were talented -- many companies chose to give them what they wanted.
The Mad Men era had died -- companies no longer controlled the workers; the workers controlled them.