The collapse of Australia's corporate dress code has just made life more difficult for men

Donny Galella wearing a beige suit and black tie and weekender bag at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Resort 17 Collections at Carriageworks in Sydney. Christian Vierig/WireImage

Having a dress code at work wasn’t such a bad thing for men.

You didn’t have to think about what to wear. Just reach for the blue or grey suit, add a tie and white shirt, and slip on the black leather shoes.

But with corporate dress codes collapsing across Australia, the new, and mostly unspoken, standards come with their own challenges.

The relaxing of dress rules isn’t an excuse to swap the suit for jeans and pretend you’re working for a startup. There’s a catch.

At PwC, the list of acceptable clothing has been replaced with a simple message — staff should dress in a way that makes them feel great, is respectful to clients and colleagues, and safe and appropriate for the environment they are in.

This freedom to choose comes with the burden of decisions to find something to wear to fit the situation. As a consequence men now have to be more creative about their clothing choices.

And, for some, that’s a challenge. However, the latest research shows men are shopping more for clothes and are, supposedly, enjoying the experience.

Retailers see this as an opportunity.

A personal style

“Fashion retailers in particular have a lot to gain from this trend,” according to the annual AMP Capital Shopping Centres Recommended Retail Practice Report.

“As the younger generation enters the work force, and many large corporations begin to relax their formal dress codes, the days of wearing the same navy suit to work every day are gone.

“This means that many men are suddenly faced with the need to develop a personal style beyond the two days of the weekend.

“It’s not just young men either, even older generations are no longer wearing ties to the office every day. This creates a strong opportunity for fashion brands to provide curated services for men’s styling, such as working with personal style experts and creating environments where men feel comfortable shopping for fashion items.”

The AMP study talked with 750 shopping enthusiasts in Australia and New Zealand over three weeks in May. On top of that, there was an online survey of 1000 in Australia and 500 and New Zealand.

Men like shopping?

Men are keen shoppers, according to the results which are aimed at informing retailers. Three quarters (75%) like shopping, and 22% say they love it, while 56% admit to visiting a shopping centre at least once a week.

Source: AMP Capital

“It might seem hard to believe, but men want shopping to become less of a necessity and more of a pastime,” says the study.

“Traditionally the face of retail has been predominately designed for women, and male shoppers feel under-catered for in the retail environment.

“Men tend to be more technology–focused than women, which makes them the prime target for digital disrupters such as Amazon, so bricks and mortar retailers need to do more to connect with men emotionally.”

Men, when compared to women, also have a different end game in mind when shopping.

Men have needs

Matt Jensen, the CEO and founder of clothing store M.J. Bale, says men typically shop because they have a need and not because they just want something.

“They may have an event or party coming up that they want to look their best, so come in to store with a specific vision or outcome in mind (such as a wedding),” he told Business Insider.

“Guys shop for value, so we’ll also spend time talking with the customer about how else he can use the garments to either dress up or dress down another look.”

Jensen says women are more happy to browse, not always looking for an outcome. Men only really come in to a store if they have a need or if something has caught their eye.

“Young guys tend to make more spontaneous decisions based on something they’ve seen and like, whereas mature customers are more considered in terms of their purchase, weighing up factors like quality, longevity and fit,” he says.

And the men don’t always make decisions on their own.

“A lot of guys tend to come in to store by themselves at first, then bring in their partner afterwards for approval and validation,” Jensen says.

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