At my law school, particularly before we merged with the University of Massachusetts, many of the students were not familiar with business dress. Our school is located in an area that has many first and second generation immigrants and has a history that is more blue than white collar. Because of this, many on our faculty attempt to model “proper” business attire for an attorney by dressing in a style that is conservative, traditional and main-stream.
Recently, I have had the chance to visit several major U.S. cities and have noted a big change in general dress standards. For example, on recent trip to NYC, I dined at several top-drawer restaurants, Le Bernardin, for example (deserving all of the accolades it has gotten, by the way). Ten years ago, no sane person would think about entering that style of a restaurant without wearing business attire; indeed, many top restaurants had and enforced a dress code. On my recent trips, however, I found that business attire is now the exception with many diners wearing much more casual attire, i.e., shorts and a polo shirt in Le Bernardin. I found the same thing to be true in other cities in both the South and West.
My question is whether the time spent talking to students about business attire is now wasted. After all, it wasn’t long ago that no lawyer would enter a courtroom with less than a wig and robe. Is business dress dying?