Software developers have always had a stigma associated with the way we dress. Perpetually
underdressed and stereotypically touting T-shirts and shorts into the office, we wear our
programming-joke-printed T-shirts like armor against the pressures of the professional work
place. Unfortunately, when companies become successful enough to move out of the closet
sized office in the industrial park, the era of casual wear tends to transition into an onslaught of
pastel colored button-ups and ill-fitting slacks.
The aftermath of this cultural upheaval leaves employees rattled, and shakes out a few characters that we’ve all come to love and loathe. Maybe you’re not the comic book hero T-shirt type. Maybe you were born wearing wing tips and a Loro Piana super 170 blazer. Maybe you’re reading this article, sipping on Fernet-Branca in a black turtleneck at an artisanal pierogi restaurant on the upper west side. Wherever you may stand, let’s take a look at some dress archetypes of the common software man.
The Anti-Establishment Guy
This person’s views about clothing are so acridly adverse to business casual that it makes you
wonder if they’d rather be homeless than work any other type of 9-5 office job. You can’t discern
if they haven’t changed clothes in the last two weeks, or the equally probable chance that they
just own 14 of the same shirt. Can be seen posting on r/leagueoflegends giving unwanted
advice to filthy casuals.
The Valley Guy
Your startup is the single most important thing in your life. You’ve given up countless nights,
weekends, friends, and a reasonable chance at a family. You would do anything for your startup.
Except wear a tie. You won’t do that. No, you won’t do that.
Okay. We get it. You enjoy clothing and accessories, and thats great, but theres nothing
practical about wearing a 3-piece double breasted suit to the office every day when you don’t
interact with a single soul – except for your two team members that you stand 10 feet away from,
lest you get any Flaming Hot Cheeto dust on your new Hermès scarf.
The College Grad
Without a shred of knowledge of what work wear is commonplace in the office, this poor young
soul left his house in a faded yellow polo and khakis. His shirt still has jungle juice stains on it
from “Chad’s killer pool party” last weekend, and his reversible belt is flipped to the wrong color.
Can be found bragging to his friends that his company stocks beer at work, but has yet to find
the courage to enjoy a beer without his boss offering him one first.
The Wearables Guy
Fit bit, Apple watch, Polar height rate monitor, and currently spending 100% of his free time
working on the first app to make Health Kit relevant. Can be seen at your local urban coffee
shop tirelessly defending Google Glass’s poor market reception.
This person got his CS degree from that huge liberal arts school ironically. Steve Jobs had it
right. Tight black sweaters and blood vessel constricting jeans are just expressive enough to
show your distaste for common office sheeple, but still show your complex, tragically
misunderstood individuality. Their upper-middle class, functioning, emotionally available family
just doesn’t understand them. Can be seen at your local dive with a sticker covered MacBook
Pro brushing up on LISP.
What all of these people have in common
They wear what makes them comfortable. Ultimately, what clothes we choose to wear is a
manifestation of our egos. As long as you were the person that consciously chose to buy, wear,
and be seen in those clothes, you are wearing a part of your personality. The dandy isn’t going
to be comfortable in a TMNT T-shit, and the hipster is going to be happy in an Dormeuil suit. It’s
not only intuitive to let your employees wear what makes them comfortable, but peer reviewed
psychology studies show that the autonomy for something as simple as letting your workers
dress the way they want directly correlates with increases in creativity, productivity.
Regardless of style, forcing developers to adhere to a strict dress code when they only interact
with others inside of the same organization seems archaic. With the rise of enterprise software,
more and more companies are tightening up their workforce dress codes to sit just below
“business casual”. Defenses such as “you’re a professional, so dress like one”, and “you can’t
be taken seriously unless you dress seriously”, are painfully weak and insubstantial.
Developers are contentious by nature. We are trained to analyze, think critically, question, and
scrutinize. Of course we’re going to bicker about each and every little thing – it’s in our blood.
However this should never be interpreted as a plea for uniformity. We’re simply getting ready for
our next code review.