Thursday, February 18, 2010


We had a re-org last fall and to many people's excitement, we were encouraged to start dressing more casually on days other than the company-sanctioned Friday.

Our group is a highly technical subset of the organization.  So much so that while the organization as a whole is as much as 80% female, our group is probably at least 80% male.

From the outset, I was a little bummed by the decision and haven't been able to fully embrace the dress code.   But it's bugged me because I want to be a team player, so I've been thinking about why I was finding it so difficult.

In the very beginning, it was practicality - I only owned two pairs of jeans and one of them had paint on them.  Lori's since gotten me two new pairs of jeans and I got a pair of cargo pants for when I was working back of house on a stage show at church and needed lots of pockets.

Second, my idea of casual probably wouldn't go over too well.  My family will tell you that there are some things that just are.  One, when I get home from work, I immediately change into shorts.  I don't think they want me wearing shorts here.  I'm not sure their idea of casual is casual enough.  The flip side, a short funny story... a few Sundays ago I was getting dressed and I hadn't yet rolled up the sleeves on my dress shirt.  Rachel did a double-take and then looked at me really puzzled and asked why I had my sleeves rolled down, it was something she really wasn't used to seeing.

Next, it was one of respect.  I read recently that in uncertainty, people cling to rules.  I've always been a very black and white person.  To my detriment in some cases.  But, as an organization, we've been instructed to dress in a certain manner.  So do I accept the suggestion from my group or the rules of the organization?  Apparently in this particular case, both are OK, even though they are in conflict and it's not a case where I can embrace the and.  Am I trading short-term collateral for perceived long-term that may not be noticed?  Not sure, but I think it is being noticed and I think my coworkers, even if the disapprove of my dress code, realize that I'm a useful person to have around so they'll tolerate my slacks and my dress shirts with collars, my semi-nice black shoes and my ties.

And then there's comfort.  I find a good pair of dress pants made of a high quality, breathable fabric far more comfortable than a pair of jeans.

And maybe even courtesy and ego.  I believe that I can do great work and look good doing it.  And I feel I look pretty good in nice clothes.  If I learned nothing from all those episodes of What Not To Wear that I watched with Lori back before we had kids and could just sit around watching TV all Saturday afternoon - a properly fit article of nice clothing can make anyone look better.  Even a guy like me who's about eight cans short of a six-pack.  And I get far more "good mornings" from the staff (male and female, outside our group) when I wear a tie.   The women here seem to dress to a nicer level than the guys across the board.  So it's almost as if they appreciate when they see someone wearing a tie.

And then lastly, the whole idea of dressing for success or faking it until you make it.  If everyone else dresses casually and I dress nice, there's a multiplier effect there and they're just making me look even better.  And I believe that this is paying me dividends already.  I believe that I command respect and people seek out my opinion and advice and that in some small part, it's the confidence I get from being able to dress nicely.

When I look good, I feel good.  And when I feel good, I feel confident.  And when I feel confident, I rock.  So, let's rock.