Since 2010, the trend toward casual attire in the office has slowly evolved, even in some of the most traditional organizations and industries. Now it’s almost harder to think of industries where a suit and tie is the norm, than those where it isn’t (banking, finance, and law may be single-handedly keeping Men’s Wearhouse and the Macy’s suit department in business).

Where it was once the norm to see suits, heels, ties, and jackets, there’s been a slow but steady move to business casual clothing in the workplace. A stream of articles last month announced even Goldman Sachs, a famously conservative and formal workplace, had implemented a more relaxed dress code for their offices. While private industry parts ways in many things from the federal government, and especially the Department of Defense, even there, times have changed and so have dress codes.

The evolution of less traditional workplace clothing

The evolution started with casual Fridays: Men wearing golf shirts and khakis and women wearing less formal clothes. From there was the slow evolution of shirts without ties, and jackets only worn for meetings.

Dress codes shifted toward even more relaxed standards with the influx of millennials whose style and demeanor were far less formal. As the older generation of workers retires, and younger people with less formal styles of dressing appear, the workplace has to evolve into something everyone feels comfortable with.

Pajamas to work? the military says, ‘yes, sir!’

After September 11, 2001, contractors working with military personnel got used to seeing them in utility uniforms in the workplace, which are the least formal of the military uniforms. It proved that wearing less formal clothing doesn’t equate to doing a less professional job. Despite being perhaps unaffectionately dubbed as pajamas with boots by some service members, the attitude toward military uniforms seems to be focused more on a uniform that fits the job, than keeping up a suit-and-tie appearance.

Women are also a factor in the changes. As women have moved up in status and ranks, so has their desire for more sensible clothes. Wearing very high heels is not recommended for many women, and it’s far more acceptable and common for women to wear pants in the workplace than it was before 2010. Change begets change, and once the freedom of less restrictive and more comfortable, albeit professional, clothing is allowed, it becomes the norm.

The new normal in office attire

There are varying opinions and thoughts about the merit of having a less formal, non-traditionally dressed workforce. The trend seems to be moving in the direction of less is more. Less formal, more comfortable, but still professional clothing seems to be the new normal.

What is acceptable office attire in your workplace?

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Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who works as a professional freelance writer, commentator, and blogger; as well as a public affairs, website content and social media manager for the Department of Defense.