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We all know that casual clothes are more and more accepted in the work space. Even banks made the news because they are loosening their dress codes. But how do international manufacturers of work wear experience this trend? What are the major changes and is there a difference between countries when it comes to casual work wear?
Rise of the casual work wear
I discussed this topic with Daniel Clocuh, head of Product Management at clothing manufacturer Greiff. This German company has been making work wear for over 200 years and focuses mostly on representational positions. In addition, they create clothing for the hotel and food industry.
When did you notice there was an increasing need for casual work wear?
“Currently, a lot is said about the fact that business work wear is becoming more casual. But this is not something that happened only a few years ago, it has been going on much longer than that. It started in 1950, when casual Friday was introduced in the United States. Later on, in 1980, people started wearing sports shoes more often in their spare time. In 1985, a German politician caused a big stir by wearing a pair of sneakers.
Nowadays, nobody would be surprised anymore. Since 2000, we have noticed that ties are also worn less and less. In the past, people would only wear casual clothes to work on Fridays. Nowadays, it is the other way around: casual clothing has become the norm, business clothes are only worn for special meetings.”
What are some of your best-selling items and why?
“The chino and 5-pocket pants from our casual collection are the most popular items. On one hand it has to do with the fabric. The pants are made of LYCRA® T400®, which is very stretchy and creates a comfortable fit. In addition, the cotton used in these pants is 100% certified Fair trade. We notice an increase in customers that value the sustainable and ethical aspect of fabrics and clothes. But it is still a bonus, the sustainable aspect should not spike the prices.”
Do you notice a change in color preference?
“People still prefer to choose more discreet colors in the corporate industry. Even though these are still dominating, we think that sometimes clothes should stand out a bit. That’s why we have a Bordeaux red chino in our collection these days, for example. Our customers from Switzerland are most daring when it comes to colors.”
Of course, my curiosity was piqued after hearing about their popular chino. I have known Greiff for a while and have several items of them in my closet. I think it’s great clothing. All the pants I have of Greiff are part of a suit. So, it was about time to test their chino.
After putting the grey chino on I immediately understood the high popularity of this item. It is perhaps not as formal as suit pants, but the shiny fabric makes it look very elegant. Ideal for companies interested in implementing the casual work wear trend in an elegant way.
As always with Greiff, I think the fit of the clothing is wonderful. I’m not only talking about the pants, but also about the blazer and shirt. Everything fits well without it feeling too tight.
Even though the pants and blazer are part of the casual collection, the total picture looks elegant and presentable. I would describe the style as business casual: elegant and neat, but not formal.
Differences between countries
This business casual look has been common in the Netherlands for a long time. But is that also the case in other countries? I decided to ask Clocuh.
Do you notice a lot of differences between countries? For example, is that casual trend equally visible everywhere?
“We mainly focus on Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Benelux. Between these countries, I certainly see differences when it comes to casual work wear. We particularly sell a lot of casual items in Belgium. Especially when you compare this to the three classic business collections. In Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland, this casual trend is also clearly noticeable.
In Luxembourg, the trend of casual work wear has only just started. I think this is due to the interest this country has as a financial and administrative center. In the financial industry, there is a stronger emphasis on a more serious look. That is probably why there is less need for casual work wear.”
Are there clear differences between industries? Does the hotel industry show the same need in casual clothing as the food industry?
“In the food and hotel industry, the clothing really depends on the company and its concept. From classic suits to trendy clothes: everything is actually still being worn.
However, the differences between service industries is large. On one hand, there are the more conservative industries with a stricter policy, like aviation companies. But at the same time, there are conservative scenes like banks that loosen the dress code. Same goes for higher management levels in large corporations. And then there are the companies in which the dress code has always been casual, like the IT companies.”
Do you expect the casual trend to continue or will formal clothing become trendy again?
“I notice that the gap between business wear and casual wear is getting smaller and smaller. It is for this reason that we have doubled our casual collection in our catalog.”
* I wrote this article in cooperation with Greiff. The clothes for this article were a gift.