Clothes in the workplace: Then and now

Jaspreet Bhogal


Jul 20, 2022

Now that I’m well into my 30’s and surrounded by those much younger, I definitely find myself having the ‘back in the day’ conversation with anyone who can relate!

One such discussion recently revolved around how the definition of ‘work wear’ has, with time (like most things), changed. Some of these changes I understand and support wholeheartedly. I love the choice, and the fact that the train to work is not filled with everyone in some sort of unofficial, ‘I work in London’uniform.

However, there are a few changes that I definitely think it’s a case of, ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it!’ Below I’ve discussed 3 of the biggest changes, myself and my, ‘born in the 80’s’, colleagues have noticed.

Suited and booted

I remember when I started my first ‘proper’ job and without fail every man I met, regardless of age, would be in a black or navy suit, a tie with a sharp Windsor knot and, (more often than not), a pair of black, pointy lace-up shoes.

In more recent times it’s all changed! We’ve interviewed people in purple suits, checked suits, and even suit-less (a blazer, trouser combination). I firmly hold the belief that, though it may be seen as old school, I still think if you’re going to an interview – suited and booted is the way go!

Colours – good or bad?

Mirroring the black suits I saw, I remember my first forays into ‘workwear’ clothes shopping, and I was literally drawn to everything black! In the years following, I perhaps managed to slightly broaden my horizons, by going for a grey or cream, and a splash of polka dot if I wanted to ‘stand out’.

I look around now and I’m in awe of the brightly coloured dresses, blouses, ties, socks, and coats! I occasionally find myself browsing a bright outfit, but true to form, I then head straight for my dark comfort zone! Maybe one day I’ll have the confidence to wear a bright red dress to brighten up a dreary commute to London in the rain… but until then hats off to those that already do!


Maybe it comes from working in a shoe shop for 5 years, but whenever I meet someone new I look at their shoes, and what I’ve noticed recently is that gone are the days of the plain lace-up brogue or simple heeled court shoe! However, I don’t think that’s a bad thing, after all, who said work wear needs to be dull? Or uncomfortable for that matter!

Personally, I love how a pair of shoes (regardless of a plain black outfit) can make such a difference! I’m also grateful for the emergence of the shoob – a comfortable compromise between a shoe and a boot! (Those that have had to have bare the pain of a stiletto for 10 hours, I’m sure feel the same!)

One change I’m not so keen on, but unfortunately have seen more and more recently, is a loafer with no socks (especially when paired with a mismatched suit for an interview!) – sorry boys!

Whilst the above might seem like I consider myself some sort of Gok Wan, or Trinny and Susannah (a throwback for some I’m sure), it is in fact the opposite!

I don’t for one second consider myself even remotely fashionable but I do find change interesting! I can only imagine what the definition of ‘workwear’ will be in the next 5-10 years, but I do hope we don’t go too far the other way and get rid of the idea of it all together. After all, part of the fun of being an adult, and having a job (at least for me) is getting ready for work!

Share this article


Jaspreet Bhogal

Having worked in recruitment since 2009, and with Oyster since 2011, Jas is renowned for her exceptional organisational skills. Jas loves proving people wrong, and is relentless in offering something different and better to the industries she recruits into. Whether through training residents, mentoring programmes or supporting D&I, Jas is proud to have built successful relationships with the people and the sectors she works with.

More from our blog