Put the socks and sandals away

Programmers in pinstripes: Companies demanding business attire for IT

JAXenter Editorial Team
Sandals image via Shutterstock

The typical developer dress code isn’t known for being chic: the t-shirt and jeans combination are the epitome of comfort for most, yet some companies seem to want to change the rules. Could this mean the end of the casual office?

In IT-related occupations, workers are not necessarily known for their sophisticated sense of style. Instead of haute couture, the standard ‘uniform’ for programmers and developers (in smaller companies especially) is still the t-shirt and jeans combination.

However, a change is in the air for dress codes. Some companies are insisting that their IT staff should start getting serious about their attire.

Dress codes instated for developers

The new CEO of Barclays has introduced a dress code banishing jeans, t-shirts, sneakers and flip-flops from the office. From now on, turning up to work in casual attire is only considered acceptable on “Casual Friday”, but flip flops are still not allowed.

The surprising thing about dress code rules for the banking world is that its message isn’t merely hidden in a sea of suits, but also applies elsewhere. According to reports, the technology giant Hewlett-Packard had earlier this summer sent out a confidential memo to some research and development teams about adopting a more formal standard of dress.

The HP dress code accordingly prohibits collarless t-shirts, faded or tattered jeans, shorts, baseball caps and other headgear, sports clothes, sandals and other open-toed shoes. For women specifically, the list is supplemented by a ban on short skirts, short-cut dresses, high heels and “too much” jewellery. Although the company has since denied that such a dress code exists, the derision against it had already made waves in the programming community.

In a period where companies will fight tooth and nail for talented programmers, lack of dress code is often seen as a perk of the job, with employees also considering the benefits of working remotely or from home (thus eliminating the dress code issue).

What is the point of a dress code?

Less surprising then is that some of the most successful companies out there completely forego the dress code path. At Google, the lack of a dress code in no way impedes on the fact that they are consistently ranked as one of the top best companies to work for.

For the founder of Virgin Group and self-confessed hater of ties, Richard Branson says that creative people, and therefore creativity, are trapped by the business look. According to him, creativity can only be harnessed when the environment is relaxing and welcoming of it, and what better way to feel good than to feel comfortable with what you’re wearing?

There’s a reason very few creative people wear suits and ties. Audacious ideas rarely spring from boardrooms and office cubicles. They come from getting out and about and experiencing life in its most inspiring settings. Creativity doesn’t wear a uniform, nor should creators. Business people should lose the suit and tie, and dress comfortably. There is no reason for CEOs or managers to dress differently from the rest of their teams either.

The opposite notion of “No Dress Code” is an attitude that’s been used by companies such as Betabrand for recruitment purposes. And while probably not 100% sincere, this video shows that its employees can dress according to their own taste, which seems fitting (heh) at a clothing company.

What do you think? Would having a dress code be viable at your company? Let us know in the comments below.

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Software Dev
Software Dev
4 years ago

Nice post! In my opinion I think that the company should provide a few ground rules but also be flexible. Given a scenario where the developers will be company facing, they should be instructed to “dress up” on those days as appropriate.