How Docker’s Saved Casual Fridays

Jul 31, 2018

If you’re grateful for “Dress Down Fridays,” you have the overheated workers of an archipelago in the Pacific and a smart marketing team to thank.

In 1962, the Hawaiian Fashion Guild lobbied the local government to allow working men to substitute the traditional suit and tie for a more playful alternative. Though the idea was born to boost Hawaiian shirt sales, “Aloha Fridays” became emblematic of the state’s business culture. The workplace tradition even got its own anthem — “It’s Aloha Friday, no work til’ Monday, ba dobie doobie doobie doo.”

Casual Friday Makes a Splash

Back on the mainland, workers continued to dress in traditional nine-to-five attire. That is, until recession hit in the early 90s. Managers started adopting Casual Fridays as a cost-effective employee perk. But some employees got a little too comfortable with the attire they chose. Employers struggled to develop guidelines that walked the line between business and casual.

Levi’s was eager to save the trend. The apparel company had success positioning its Docker’s brand khakis as the go-to business casual clothing. Levi’s recognized that unless companies could reign in employees’ questionable fashion choices, Casual Friday would fade away. So, it focused its marketing efforts on key influencers – human resource managers.

The company created an instructional pamphlet titled “A Guide to Casual Business Wear” and mailed it to 25,000 HR departments nationwide. It included tips for casual dress in the workplace, including avoiding open-toed footwear and tank tops.

Image via BusinessInsider

Fashion Prevails

The guides worked. Casual Fridays endured, and Docker’s classic Khaki became the “ba doobie do” of the modern workplace.

Today, Silicon Valley has taken business casual to a whole new level, but the Docker’s brand and the workplace are sewn together in most consumers’ minds. By creating a tool for HR managers, Docker’s was able to connect with customers more effectively than if it had employed traditional marketing methods.

Long Story Short: Sometimes the best way to reach your primary customer is through whoever’s wearing the pants in that target market.

This article also appeared in our weekly newsletter, Long Story Short. It was written by Colleen Boyle.

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