IT Dress Code: 10 Cardinal Sins - InformationWeek

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9/24/2014
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Kevin Casey
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IT Dress Code: 10 Cardinal Sins

You don't need to be a runway model to succeed in IT, but please stop making these office fashion faux pas. Remember, you work for an enterprise, not on the Enterprise.
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(Image: Simon Zirkunow)

Hey, you over there. Yes, you -- in the short-sleeve plaid button-down shirt and khakis. Straighten out that pocket protector and step into the conference room. We need to have a few words with you. We're the fashion police.

If only there was, in fact, a set of statutes -- and a corresponding law enforcement agency -- to save us all from ourselves when dressing for work in the morning. So many felonies of fashion and misdemeanors of mode could be prevented each and every year. Careers protected, reputations saved, unsavory gossip mills shut down for good. Alas, we're mostly left to our own devices when it comes to our appearance, and while we'd like to think we're adults who can reasonably dress ourselves, somehow bad decisions continue making their way into cubicles and conferences rooms with alarming regularity.

So if you put the casual in "business casual," have food stains on your sweatpants, or treat the office like your own personal gym locker room, by all means, keep reading. This is for you. Trust us.

We're not here to give you a makeover, mind you. Doing so would be allowing the inmates to run the asylum, to be honest. There are far better sources for fashion advice. And there's nothing wrong, per se, with sticking to the conventional and subdued when it comes to workplace attire. In fact, some of the questionable choices we're going to harp on here are probably the result of trying too hard to be too fashionable, cool, trendy, or whatever other word you want to substitute.

Rather, we're after the "oh, no" clothing and appearance decisions, the kind that tend to generate raised eyebrows and the "Did you see what [X] was wearing?" conversations behind your back. These are the fashion choices that might have a perfect context elsewhere in your life -- but work isn't that context.

Just as we might sometimes try a little too hard for our own fashion good, there are those among us who grossly misinterpret the meaning of the word "casual." It's a lasting artifact of the first dot-com boom, the offices where soccer sandals and flip-flops are de riguer. Maybe we don't need to dud up in suits every day, but a decent pair of shoes might still behoove everyone.

Then there are variables of common sense -- and common decency -- to consider. No, we don't want to talk about the sprawling ERP upgrade with you while you're sporting super-snug bike shorts and an equally form-fitting tour jersey. That's just awkward, your upcoming triathlon notwithstanding.

Look, you can keep the pocket protector and the short-sleeved button-down shirts. They've earned their rightful place in the chronicles of IT. But let's all commit to avoiding the graver fashion choices.

Read on for our list of fashion sins. Dare to defend these? By all means, chime in. Better still, tell us the weirdest, wackiest, or flat-out worst thing you've ever seen someone wear into the office. We'd love to hear about your coworkers' fashion disasters. We're sure there are some doozies -- share your nominations for the Fashion Hall of Shame in the comments.

Kevin Casey is a writer based in North Carolina who writes about technology for small and mid-size businesses. View Full Bio

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ANON1247032252192
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ANON1247032252192,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/10/2014 | 9:41:01 AM
IT Dress Code
Great article and slideshow.  I think strategically scheduled MIRROR TIME at the enterprise (not On the Enterprise) could be done at the start of the work day, at breaktime, at lunchtime, and at the end of the work day.  Also, let's not forget about the BUBBY system.  Yelp for help.
freespiritny25
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freespiritny25,
User Rank: Ninja
10/22/2014 | 11:25:52 AM
IT Dreas Code: 10 Cardina Sins
"Never wear anything to work that you would also wear to bed." Great article..burn the Jorts and PLEASE never, ever socks with sandals. Great list of rules! I am lucky enough to wear a uniform daily, so I will definitely avoid getting arrested by the fashion police.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
10/2/2014 | 5:05:07 PM
Re: Just be clean

@jgherbert   No worries, I guess I would take advantage of any moron who thinks I am smarter because I have one of their childhood favorite accents.   Who said life was fair or even that most are smart ?  

Good thing we are writing this because I probably wouldn't understand you through the thick British accent - being all less inteligent and all.   : ) 

jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
10/2/2014 | 4:15:01 PM
Re: Just be clean
@Technocrati>

"I am so glad you brought this up, it has been a little known aspect of this quirky society that has annoyed me for many years."

Sorry, I didn't read any further - it didn't sound like your opinion was worth considering. *coughs* ;-)

(yes, quite) I shouldn't complain about it I suppose, as it's to my advantage perhaps, but it is interesting how certain accents can raise you up or, equally, put you down, quite unfairly.

jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
10/2/2014 | 4:02:00 PM
Re: Hats: The odd one out
@Susan Fourtané> Ack, I'm sorry to hear that; I hate when I lose all those thoughts and like you I frequently can't contemplate going back and writing them all out again!

By the way, my COO is a lady, which put me doubly on guard after your story! ;-)

 
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
10/2/2014 | 3:34:17 PM
Re: Hats: The odd one out
jgherbert, 

I lost my post to an error of the system. I will not write all again. Sorry for that. Just two things: 

"With that said, I had a meeting with my COO last week, and after reading your post I did give my shoes a quick shine. See how shallow _I_ am? ;-)"

How nice. :D I am glad you did. He was probably impressed. ;) 

I had written a little crude observation about appearances and how appearances even matter in what people say, but not really think. Too bad I lost the post. :( 

I'll come back later to tell you about an experience I had about how appearance matter, later when I am less upset for having lost the post. 

-Susan

 

 
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/30/2014 | 11:23:26 PM
Re: But what about...
I know a few people who can truly rock a bow-tie. I'm not one of those people, but I'd allow for bow-tie exceptions, even if inspired by Dr. Who.
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Author
9/30/2014 | 11:05:34 PM
Re: IT and academia have many of the same clothing issues

kstaron- Just curious did the unusual footwear choices make you question the individuals professional choices?

kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
9/30/2014 | 3:10:55 PM
IT and academia have many of the same clothing issues
I worked in academia for while and oh the socks and sandles! they were everywhere. Coming from a lab enviroment, I always had a thing against open toed shoes in the office. (In a lab they are down right dangerous due to heavy equipment, corrosive chemicals and such) For me, the most offensive thing at the office was the ripped up post college grunge style that made them look like they just didn't care.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
9/29/2014 | 2:29:28 PM
Re: Just be clean

--Another interesting side note is accent. I'm British and have a 'home counties' accent (around London, but not a London accent), and I have been assured that my accent gives my opinions extra credibility and give me a additional perceived 10 iQ points or so.

 

@jgherbert   I am so glad you brought this up, it has been a little known aspect of this quirky society that has annoyed me for many years.   The ol'  "you have a accent, so you must be much smarter than us none accent speaking people are !"   I have seen this erroneous thinking carried out, thoughout my entire career, it was cute at first, now it is down right insulting.

British accents are approx. worth 10 + and you will have hit the jackpot if you have a German one ....that one is at least 50.   What a joke and I give kudos to you for even mentioning it.  

It is usually the (ironically) unspoken  word  amongst execs and HR.

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