More stress codes than dress codes
New research reveals lawyers spend £26,508 on work clothes over the course of their careers. This staggering sum is both more than the average annual wage in the UK and more than what some City firms pay their trainees.
This hefty clothes spend — which breaks down to £47 per month and £564 per year — doesn’t seem to be born out of a desire to be fashion-forward. For the amount of dosh lawyers throw at their wardrobes, they kind of seem to hate dressing themselves: 67% find it difficult to choose what to wear to work and 29% say it leads to stressful decisions. Lawyers also waste a lot of time navigating these ‘stress codes’, the average lawyer spending three months of their life contemplating what to wear to work.
With little joy apparently gained from lawyer dressing, why do they splash so much cash? The research, by totaljobs, cites the criticism lawyers face when they don’t fit company culture. Seventeen percent of the 500 survey respondents say they feel pressured to dress a certain way, yet 11% admit there’s a lack of clarity about what the company code actually is. Getting it wrong can lead to catty comments: When dressed casually, 17% have been told they look tired and 9% have been asked if they’re sick.
Where is this workplace dress stress coming from? We all know the legal profession is one of the most conservative out there, favouring traditional, formal suits in dark colours over anything remotely Rihanna at the Met Gala.
However, techy giants have shown that you can don a T-shirt and jeans and still be professional, powerful and rich. Lawyers — some of whom are representing these tech companies while others are incorporating the tech they’re marketing into their working lives — may see burning their ties and splurging on a pair of Vans as the perfect homage to Mark Zuckerberg and co.
This shift in mood is reflected in the relaxing of (some) City outfit dress codes.
Take Travers Smith, whose solicitors are now able to wear “business casual” clothing when not in client meetings or working on client floors. The same is true at CMS, a firm which unveiled a new casual dress code post-merger to help its lawyers integrate.