Walk around any office and you’ll see that the formality of office dress codes is on the decline, or rather that casual dress is becoming the norm. Whether office workers are simply following in the Silicon Valley steps of Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs (both of whom are known for rarely, if ever being seen in a collared shirt if they can help it), casual attire is becoming the new normal. As the health of the economy increases, the demand for talented workers is on the rise. Whereas in the past when companies had the power to set the rules and new hires were just happy to have a good-paying job, the leverage is starting to move to the other side of the desk during the interview. As the demand for top talent increases, the ability to wear what you want in the office versus an enforced dress code may be the difference between which offer to accept. While “business casual” is one obvious possible middle ground for companies, there is another compromise that even the most modern of tech firms are taking advantage — branded casual apparel for their team.
What is branded casual apparel?
When giving your team the option to wear what they want to wear, many of them will gravitate to a natural middle area — clothing that is extremely comfortable, yet presentable. Ultimately, if you were allowed to wear your favorite clothing every day, what would you want to wear? Branded casual apparel meets the need of the employee and the company alike — comfortable apparel that carries your company’s branding or message on an item team members will actually want to wear. Whether it is a logo or a slogan, when you offer team members branded casual apparel, it is a win-win situation. It could be a fleece vest with your company logo on one side of the chest, a buttery-soft cotton t-shirt with a branded slogan on the chest or a cozy hoodie sweatshirt with your company logo on the front. You’re taking more control of what your company dress code and perpetuating your brand image with branded casual apparel.
Think of branded casual apparel as an investment.
To your employees, handing out high-quality “swag” in the form of hoodies, vests, t-shirts, coffee mugs and the like may just feel like Christmas morning. In reality, these items are an investment in your team and a perpetuation of your brand. There are a few factors to consider:
Don’t cheap out. Buying lower-quality goods will ensure that they’re rarely worn. We’ve all received that scratchy free t-shirt that quickly became your house-painting shirt. While you don’t have to spend $100-$200 on branded winter coats for your team, investing in the higher quality t-shirts, hoodies, and other “swag” items will ensure they are actually worn. When shopping for these items, think to yourself “does this item have the potential to be my favorite t-shirt, hoodie, vest, etc.?”
Consult your team about the design and style. There’s nothing worse than dropping money on apparel that nobody would be caught dead wearing. Observe what kind of items your team wears on Casual Fridays or when not on the clock. What kind of logo would they actually wear? What styles do they naturally gravitate towards? When in doubt, just ask.
Cool it with the contact information. Because you’re slapping on your brand on this investment, you may be inspired to put a phone number, an email address, or even (heaven forbid) a QR code on these swag items. Just hold your horses, partner. Before you pepper your swag with contact specifics, remember that few people want their clothing to look like the back fence of a baseball stadium. Keep the branding “wearable.” Certain logos can look cool, interesting or eclectic slogans are fun, and even a very short URL may be acceptable, but then stop while you’re ahead. Remember that few people are going to be copying down phone numbers off of your team’s clothing. Instead, do your best to foster casual conversation with whoever is wearing it. Let your team do the talking, not their shirts.