DRESS-DOWN IS HERE TO STAY, ACCORDING TO STUDY FOR LEVI’S
Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio
NEW YORK — The dress-down trend in corporate America is picking up speed, according to a new study commissioned by Levi Strauss & Co. — which couldn’t be happier.
The study, which is to be released today at the National Retail Federation annual convention here, found that 90 percent of office workers in the U.S. now dress down at least occasionally, up from 63 percent in 1992.
One-third of U.S. firms are allowing their employees to dress casually for the five-day workweek. The study also revealed that human resource managers are seeing the liberal dress policies as morale boosters as well as a way to attract new employees.
“This [past] year was the year that the dress-down trend became permanent at corporations,” said Daniel Chew, consumer marketing director at Levi’s, which has been capitalizing on the phenomenon through a major marketing program and through its Dockers and most recently Slates, a men’s business casual pants line, due in stores for fall. “There is no turning back.”
He was referring to a slew of Fortune 500 companies, including IBM and Ford Motor Co., which have introduced dress-down policies for all five days of the work week.
Chew predicted that by the year 2000, 50 percent of all U.S. companies will allow their employees to dress down every day of the week. Levi’s commissioned the study in partnership with the Society for Human Resource Management, the largest professional association for human resource managers. The study, conducted last October by Evans Research Associates of San Francisco, was based on telephone interviews with 505 members of the association. It is a follow-up to a comparable study done in 1992. The study showed that:
* 42 percent of office workers can dress casually once a week, a threefold increase from 17 percent in 1992.
* 33 percent of companies now allow casual business wear every day of the week — up from 20 percent in 1992.
* 85 percent of corporate human resource managers now believe that casual dress policy improves morale — an increase of 39 percent in three years.
* Two-thirds of corporations believe that casual business wear can be used as an incentive to attract new employees — up from 29 percent in 1992.
Levi’s, which over the past three years has worked with 22,000 companies in helping them map out a strategy for implementing dress-down policies, plans to continue chasing the opportunity, Chew said. In addition to Dockers, which is primarily aimed at men, and Slates, Levi’s is in the midst of expanding Dockers for women, with plans to make a big push within the next two years.
Chew noted the study that one-third of women who dress casually for work prefer to wear khakis.
In addition, Chew said that Levi’s plans to aggressively market its jeans as another “perfect alternative” for work.
The study found that 92 percent of firms with casual clothing polices accept jeans, compared with 60 percent in 1992.
“Business casual is incredibly multidimensional,” he said. “It all depends on what you’ll be doing that day, whether you will be seeing clients and what the weather is like.”
To capitalize on the casualization trend that is unfolding overseas, Levi’s is getting ready to launch a multimedia international marketing program, aimed at such countries as Japan, England and Sweden. The plan, which is expected to be launched in two months, will involve retailers.
“This will be a major consumer awareness program,” said Chew, who declined to elaborate.