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May 7 2007   9:07AM GMT

Corporate culture: What do you wear to work?

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse


 When I was a little kid growing up in suburban Poughkeepsie, New York, it was easy to spot the Dads who worked at IBM. They all wore the IBM (I’ve Been Moved) uniform: a dark suit, white shirt, skinny tie and shoes with laces. Loafers of all kind were frowned upon.  

IBM celebrates the corporate uniform in a retrospective called “The Way We Wore.” 

I was surprised to learn that there really wasn’t a dress code at IBM during the 1960‘s. The uniform was just an example of what my parents would have labeled “peer pressure” when talking about a younger generation. 

I cringed when I saw the 1984 photo of a woman exec wearing a big bow tie that screamed “Dress for Success” and the group photo from 1997 could be an ad for the Gap.

Going through IBM’s virtual scrapbook got me wondering — what’s the corporate culture of today going to look like to future social historians? 

I telecommute and am working right now at my dining room table, still in my pajamas. My husband commutes an hour and 15 minutes each day. His daily uniform is a bright-colored shirt, wild tie, khaki pants and boating shoes. (Jeans on Friday) 

Not a dark suit or power bow-tie between us.  I know when I do have to go in to the office, it’s pretty eclectic. It got me wondering, IS there a uniform for techies right now?  Do people in your workplace still dress like they did in Freshman year — or has business invaded the landscape of your workday and changed the camouflage?

Informal survey: What’s your work uniform?

7  Comments on this Post

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  • Alex
    Great question! For most of the late 90s when I worked as a techgeek, I wore khakis and button downs or, when it grew warmer, polo shirts. These days, in a casual work environment, I show up in cycling gear, shower, and then change into a t-shirt and blue jeans. That seems to be the gear of the moment -- though jeans have gotten quite fancy and t-shirts are occasionally fitted, so there's a way to be geek chic now in way that's under the radar. My paleo-geek uncle, who works at a defense contractor, notes that denim work shirts and pocket protectors are still in vogue there among the brave or unconcerned, along with a weighty batbelt. I used to see more short-sleeved dress shirts but, outside of missionary schools, those seems to be relics of a more nerdy past. T-shirts and jeans certainly seem to be popular amongst certain digerati: According to Time Magazine, "[Larry Page and Sergey Brin's] standard attire is black T shirt, jeans and sneakers (and white lab coats for special occasions). " It seems like that's the uniform for Steve Jobs too, if you watch his recent keynotes -- although he does favor the mock turtleneck. Maybe that's a Mac thing? What does everyone else think?
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  • Archie L.
    Monday and Wednesday...Sweat clothes (worn to exercise at 7 am) until noon, then sometimes I put on chinos and sport shirt, sweat clothes after 2 pm seems a bit grungy. Tuesday and Thursday...Put chinos and same sport shirt back on (change this every week at least). Friday...Same outfit, maybe change the shirt to please my wife. Saturday and Sunday...Jeans and sweat shirt to wash windows and work in yard. Chinos and sport shirt. Once a year or so...Tie and shirt and gabardine slacks and jacket, all of this getting a bit tighter. Except for the tie. Except when executing work orders issued by my wife, I tend to dress for comfort when reading. I'm mostly retired but occasionally like to see what's happening in IT, which is why I subscribe to the Word of the Day. Long live the WOD!
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  • Lynn
    Casual Fridays (and Mon-Thurs) are over. The shoes are the telling sign. The new uniform always starts with the shoes. Next time you're sitting outside eating lunch, watch the kind of shoes that go by. They're expensive looking and fashionable. Even the techies have ditched their sneakers.
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  • Bill Link
    Hey, is this like Twitter only for clothes? Polo shirt and khakis. It's what the president of the company wears.
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  • Ivy
    I telecommute too, which translates to a slow, low-fashion show through the day: Checking mail and etc. in PJs. Sweats come next, sometimes for the morning because -- in theory -- I'm going to take yoga breaks from time to time. I'm usually in jeans and a shirt or sweater by noon and may go so far as fixing my hair and putting on make-up. Even shoes. Could be back in the evening in PJs again, always a hazard when the office is just down the hall from the boudoir.
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  • alfred e. newman
    We used to have casual Fridays. Memo No. 1: Effective immediately, the company is adopting Fridays as Casual Day so that employees may express their diversity. Memo No. 2: Spandex and leather micro-miniskirts, halter tops and belly shirts are not appropriate attire for Casual Day. Neither are string ties, muscle shirts, rodeo belt buckles flip flops or moccasins. Memo No. 3: Casual Day refers to dress only, not attitude. When planning Friday's wardrobe, remember image is a key to our success. Memo No. 4: A seminar on how to dress for Casual Day will be held at 4 p.m. Friday in the cafeteria. Fashion show to follow. Attendance is mandatory. Memo No. 5: As an outgrowth of Friday's seminar, the Casual Friday Steering and Advisory Committees have appointed a 14-member Casual Day Task Force to prepare guidelines for proper dress. Memo No. 6: The Casual Day Task Force has completed a 30-page manual. A copy of "Relaxing Dress Without Relaxing Company Standards" has been mailed to each employee. Please review the chapter "You Are What You Wear" and consult the "home casual" versus "business casual" checklist before leaving for work each Friday. If you have doubts about the appropriateness of an item of clothing, contact your CDTF representative before 7 a.m. on Friday. Memo No. 7: Because of lack of participation, Casual Day has been discontinued, effective immediately.
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  • Kara
    I also telecommute -- right now I'm wearing jeans and a tee-shirt. Having to drive my daughter to school in the morning forces me out of my pjs! My attire changes dramatically when I'm at company headquarters, conferences and important meetings. Then it's suits and skirts for me! Enjoy.
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