A dressing down for dress down Friday

A lot of men seem to have decided it's time to discard the tie for work. Yet, in most cases, they still wear a suit. Frankly, it just isn't a good look. It is a rare man indeed who can get away with wearing a suit without a tie. Those who can would probably look fetching in a barrel and braces...

"Gentlemen you look neither cool nor hot in your suit without a tie. George Clooney does. You look half-dressed."
Leo D'Angelo Fisher, Freelance journalist and management authority

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Illustration: Chris Kelly. Corporate caricatures & illustrations.

Perhaps the suit-without-a-tie look is supposed to look bohemian, raffish, unconventional. What it looks is unkempt, untidy and unfinished.

The tie very often makes a statement and these would-be mavericks obviously believe so does no tie. But the tieless look doesn't so much make a statement as pose a number of questions: Don't you have a mirror at home? Doesn't your better half love you enough to set you straight? Hadn't it occurred to you the tie helped disguise your paunch?

It's true an ill-fitting suit or a suit of modest provenance can be drab attire. But at least the tie provided men with an opportunity to inject some colour, flair and even elegance to their otherwise nondescript corporate appearance. The return of the tie-pin provides an additional avenue of sartorial expression.

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Photo Credit: Featureflash /

But all this apparently counts for nought. Tieless men in suits very possibly outnumber men with ties on city streets and they are a blight. Gentlemen – and I use the word loosely – you look neither cool nor hot in your suit without a tie. George Clooney does. You look half-dressed.

And it's not just men in business and the professions who are turning their backs on the tie.

Politicians have taken to wearing a suit without a tie. No doubt this is in an attempt to look like ordinary Joes. Instead they look like sloppy Joes.

As if today's pollies don't have enough trouble being taken seriously, now they are attempting the common touch by discarding their tie when facing the cameras with their latest attempt at statesmanship. 

The tieless trend is not confined to the open-plan offices below. Executives and CEOs also seem to think that donning a suit sans tie makes them “one of us" when doing their work-floor walkabouts. 

Office schlubs no doubt are of the view they are sticking it to the man by daring to wear an incomplete uniform to work. The abandonment of the tie is ostensibly a gesture of defiance. Like be-suited commuters whose idea of rebellion is wearing their faux Nikes to and from work, an appalling breach of good taste which in more enlightened times would have earned them a spell in the stocks.

These are men who think nothing of wearing backpacks with their suits, so they are clearly capable of anything. They are the office turtles, their unseemly demeanour heightened by their gigantic white runners and now, more often than not, absence of tie. 

And yet the suit survives this onslaught of bad taste. Even the lowliest bargain-basement suit deserves to be treated with some respect. If you must dress down, at least attempt a stab at the “smart casual" look and save the suits for weddings and funerals.

This lack of regard for one's appearance is baffling. Workplaces have never looked more slothful. Even Melbourne, once the undisputed style capital of Australia, has succumbed to the slovenly workplace look. 

What's behind this assault on 9-to-5 decorum? I blame 'Casual Friday', also known as 'Dress Down Friday'. And dress-down is right. Talk about how low can you go.

Yet another American gift to modern culture, Casual Fridays were supposed to be a morale booster, a reward for a hard week's work. Of course, it wasn't HR departments or sociologists who came up with the idea: famously an American fashion magazine and its department store advertisers dreamed it up.

For the magazine it meant more advertising and more stories on what should be worn. For the stores, more sales of Chinos and Polos. Presumably they hadn't factored in the decline in tie sales.

The dress down day was, as we now realise, the thin edge of the wedge. Whatever the good intentions behind this regrettable advent, Casual Fridays have degenerated into a rush to the bottom drawer.

City offices on Friday now look like Saturday at a Westfield shopping centre. Men who would normally wear suits (with or without ties) now dress as if they are going to spend the day helping a mate move house; the nice girl from accounts looks like she has stepped out of a rapper's music video.

What this does for productivity one would hate to think. Certainly the Productivity Commission could do worse than can conduct an inquiry into economic impact of Casual Friday.

It's not an unreasonable assumption that when one does not dress for work there's every chance that one does very little work. If Friday has become a day when work can be downgraded a notch or two, maybe it's time to consider a four-day week.

Perhaps it is too late to put the trackie-dacked genie back in the bottle, but surely it is not too much to ask that certain dress standards be maintained in the office and during the working week.

There is not much that can be done about the unsightly backpacks and inappropriate footwear but for those men who still wear a suit to work: put your tie on.

Leo D'Angelo-Fisher specialises in the practice and malpractice of management. In more than three decades as a business journalist he has worked for BRW, The Australian Financial Review and a range of other business magazines in Australia and Hong Kong. His sometimes acerbic observations of management and its fads has brought him a wide following. He blogs at

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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