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Can you wear shorts to the office?

They have been described by John Bercow as ‘an affront to all right-thinking people’ and by Richard E. Grant as ‘toddler wear’. As the UK prepares for a heatwave, however, many men are choosing comfort over convention by wearing shorts into work.

Here, two members of the Debrett’s team go head-to-head to argue for and against the wearing of shorts in the workplace. But what do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.

For: Olly Walker, Head of Sales

Against: Dan Scothern, Senior Business Development Manager

Shorts-advocate Olly gets straight to the point: “Wearing shorts could improve your performance at work,” he argues. “Being too hot and stuffy can affect both your mood and your efficiency levels. When it’s warm, shorts are more comfortable.”

Besides, if it’s just your colleagues bearing witness to the baring of legs, what’s the issue? “If you’re not meeting any clients or suppliers, why should it matter what you wear?” Olly asks. “Your legs are under a desk for the vast majority of the day.”

Maybe so, says Dan, but we shouldn’t underestimate the psychological effect of dressing more casually: “The connotations associated with wearing shorts are those of leisure and holidays. Employers risk staff members bringing the mindset of these two things into the office. Although this is not necessarily a bad thing as far as team morale is concerned, it might not help productivity – in the same way that no actual school work was ever done on a non-uniform day.”

Dan acknowledges that modern office dress codes are changing, but says that employers should consider their company ethos when deciding on a policy: “Shorts have almost always been associated with relaxed environments. Therefore a company that allows shorts might unknowingly be allowing a relaxed approach to business, which could be internally and externally detrimental to the company.”

Olly counters with the point that women can wear skirts and dresses at work: “Is it that much of a difference? And shorts can be made to look smart – a pair of chino shorts worn with a shirt and loafers or boat shoes, for example.”

The final word goes to Dan, who fears that allowing shorts in the office could be a slippery slope, a descent into ultra-casual wear: “Why not wear a vest, or a cap, or even flip flops?”

We wonder what the Speaker would say to that…

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  • In the United Kingdom shorts are wholly unacceptable as formal office wear or any form of formal wear and will immediately create the perception that the wearer has too casual an attitude to his appearance in a business or professional or smart social setting. It is disrespectful to a host. Shorts are for the beach or the garden or country walks.

    The situation may be different in the Bohemian atmosphere of the IT or arts world or similar.

    The position is completely different in a formal setting in Bermuda where, almost uniquely in the English speaking world, properly tailored long shorts with long socks will be normal even at a Governor’s reception.