MIT Sloan School of Management alumni split right down the fashion runway when it comes to picking the worst trend in business clothing. About half of those responding to a recent survey cited casual dress in the work place. But the other half said a return to formal business attire was the worst trend.
“Casual clothing … blurs the distinctions between levels of the organization and erodes the incentive to climb the organizational ladder,” said Jeffrey Johnson, Sloan class of 1985.
But Mariette Howell (Sloan, 1973), said the worst business clothing trend was “business suits and neck ties – doctors don’t need them to gain respect, so why do other professions?”
The survey, which was conducted in fall 2002 in connection with MIT Sloan’s 50th anniversary, drew more than 600 e-mail responses from across the world and from alumni in a wide range of business sectors.
About half the respondents graduated between 1950 and 1990, while half left Sloan since 1991. About 20 percent were women.
Some alumni wished the clothing gods would just make up their minds.
Richard Rosson (Sloan, 1993) said the worst development has been “casual Fridays. Make up your mind already – either stay formal, or dump the tie the other four days.” The mix of formal and casual has “created unnecessary confusion and added wardrobe expense,” agreed Renee Buck (Sloan, 1993).
But like the good management students they were, survey respondents also paid attention to detail in citing worst business clothing trends, such as:
Clip-on belt phone or Blackberry holsters
“50-year olds with pony tails dressed in all black (like me)”
“expensive designer golf clothing”
engraved belt buckles
high heeled shoes for women “as proved by any manufacturing plant tour involving catwalks, or a surprise winter snow storm”
corporate logo wear
Bermuda shorts (“They do wear them there, and frankly, men’s knees and a suit jacket were never meant to be seen simultaneously.”)
One respondent broke his answer into two categories. The all-time worst clothing trend was leisure suits, he said. The current worst trend is tight, Italian suits. But several other alumni said mini-skirts merit top spot in the business fashion hall of shame. Jeff Magill (Sloan, 1985) offered the best perspective. What is the worst business clothing trend? “I think it’s been all downhill since the loin cloth,” he replied.