The Official BQE Software Blog

Formal vs. Casual Office Dress Code

Due to the rise of the “T-shirt and jeans” culture in the software industry, many people have started to question whether the age-old “suit and tie” dress code is even necessary for business wear. For example, Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, showed up on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange for his company’s IPO wearing just jeans and a hoodie. Apple’s late CEO, Steve Jobs, made his black turtleneck sweater into an iconic fashion piece. Through their fashion choices, these self-made billionaire entrepreneurs have certainly proven that wearing formal clothes doesn’t always make you successful. While a large majority of companies have embraced the business casual attire, the question still remains: Should a line be drawn for what’s appropriate to wear at the office?

"Dress codes have most certainly relaxed over time, particularly since the introduction of 'jeans Fridays' and dot-com era casual attire," said Judah Kurtz, of BPI group, a human resources consulting firm in Chicago, Illinois. "What is considered 'appropriate' varies by company and culture, as well as what parts of the house are strictly internal versus client/public facing."

In the CNN article, “Decoding the workplace dress code”, Kevin Sheridan, senior vice president of HR optimization at Avatar HR Solutions in Chicago, said, "Dress code policies walk a fine line between portraying a professional image to clients and customers while allowing employees to be comfortable, engaged, and expressive."

Many believe that you should always dress for the job you want, not the one you currently have. After all, what you wear is representative of your personal image. If you wear low-cut tank tops and acid faded, torn jeans to work, you are branding yourself as a person who doesn’t care about tidiness and upkeep. Therefore, you must also not care about style, class, and organization, which are qualities that complement efficiency and productivity. You will be labeled as ‘lazy’ and ‘unable to work well’.

Also, at networking events and interviews, employers form their first impressions of you based on how professional and smart you look. They judge your character, personality as well as your intelligence on how well you present yourself. Hence, it is recommended to wear business formal or semi-casual attire to offices and professional events in order to avoid being sorry later on.

According to the Forbes’ article, “Is Casual Dress Killing Your Productivity At Work?” your level of alertness is affected by what you wear. A study found that people displayed heightened attention when they wore a doctor’s lab coat. When the same people wore an identical coat, but were told it was a painter’s coat instead, they weren’t as attentive as before. Dr. Karen Pine, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and fashion psychologist, explained, “When we put on an item of clothing, it is common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment. A lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it’s ‘professional work attire’ or ‘relaxing weekend wear’, so when we put it on we prime the brain to behave in ways consistent with that meaning.” Since clothes influence behavior, dressing casually could cause an employee to feel less focused, alert, and productive.

At BQE Software, we abide by the rule “dress smart”, which means that you should wear something smart and appropriate for the office but not something you are uncomfortable in. It is a semi-casual business dress code that leans more towards professional wear. Since we are a software company, we like to wear a relaxed attire to help us feel comfortable yet productive. For instance, jeans are allowed but flip flips and sandals are not. We believe that when you dress smart, you feel more confident and competent about yourself and your work.

What about your workplace? We would love to hear about your views on this topic. Please feel free to post your comments below.

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