Suiting up

Latin America’s office workers are smartening up.

Office workers across Latin America have for years taken a laxer approach to the dress code than peers in North America and Europe. Stifling temperatures and a less formal culture meant that suits were often not the first choice of attire, but the mentality is gradually changing.

The former CEO of one of Latin America’s largest department store chains explained, “We see an increasing trend across the region in terms of the demand for formal wear and casual clothing given that the pandemic has induced hybrid models of working.”

“We see an increasing trend across the region in terms of the demand for formal wear and casual clothing given that the pandemic has induced hybrid models of working.”

Former CEO, largest department store chain, Latin America

Indeed, dress codes have become rather more flexible as a reflection of the growth of home working which is likely to stay. Ties, for example, are not yet dead but they are likely to increasingly lose prominence in men’s wardrobes.

The pandemic saw increased flexibility when it came to how employees should or should not dress. The approach prioritised comfort over style thus corporate acceptance of a more casual look has advanced and, unsurprisingly, purchases of more formal attire have decreased. Whilst this does not necessarily mean that formal attire will disappear, it will become less attractive.

Certainly, according to surveys, an increasing number of young Latin Americans feel comfortable moving away from formality and moving towards more casual clothing. Formal attire will not be eliminated, but many more people dress more comfortably with more casual clothing. The same goes for shoes, the increase of use of trainers instead of formal shoes is also gaining momentum and men that end up wearing a suit still wear chic trainers to match their outlook, this was imaginable in the region, sometime ago.

A prominent Peru and US-based men’s fashion designer added, “Like in many other countries, for day-to-day use, the tie is dead. Latin American men only wear it for very formal events these days.”

“For day-to-day use, the tie is dead. Latin American men only wear it for very formal events these days.”

Prominent fashion designer, Peru

Men continue to wear suits, but many have replaced it with nice trousers and a good shirt, a look that now has become mainstream. We are unlikely to see a renaissance of the vest and tie anytime soon. In Latin America, men invest in timeless pieces such as a good leather jacket or a good blazer.

Latin America is strongly influenced by fashion trends in other parts of the world – globally there is a move towards more casual wear as companies ease dress codes and there is a greater perception among companies that by letting employees wear what they feel comfortable in, that is the best way to increase work productivity and to improve loyalty.

Latin America’s leading companies are looking to foreign shores and implementing changes in their own codes – saying goodbye to the suit is a small price to pay to ensure that they remain competitive and attractive to newly qualified graduates, a pool of talent they cannot afford to lose.

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