Most IT pros don’t shop at Brooks Brothers. In the high-tech field, dressing down is definitely “in.” That’s what TechRepublic readers revealed in our recent dress code survey.

A whopping 76 percent of you said that you have a relaxed dress code at work, ranging from business casual to blue jeans. But not everyone goes by the “no jacket required” rule. Twenty-four percent of those surveyed said that they wear conservative business attire on most days—and that includes those who go casual on Fridays.

Business goes casual
Not only did our survey choose business casual as the most popular category, we also received a flood of e-mail that described just how common this dress code is among IT pros.

The majority of dress code policies you sent us were similar to the one at SteelPoint Technologies in Boston, MA. The company describes business casual this way:

  • Khakis and shirts with a collar, such as a golf shirt
  • No jeans or sneakers
  • For a client meeting, business attire is appropriate (a suit, for example)

Is the conservative three-piece suit soon to be extinct? Or do you agree with those who say IT pros should dress up? Post a comment at the end of this article or send us an e-mail.
“Business casual is the way to go, it is like paying employees the equivalent of what they would have spent in dry cleaning,” wrote Micheal McClelland, Chief Technology Officer at SteelPoint.“ He added that when a client sees some workers in business casual and others in suits, “the client realizes that their consultant made a special effort for them to be professionally dressed.”

How your clients are dressed has a big impact on your office dress code, according to many of you who sent us e-mail.

“For our offices in San Jose or Palo Alto, business casual is a little more casual than San Francisco. They’re dealing with start-ups and most of the start-ups don’t have a dress code,” said Lorraine Jolivet, assistant HR director for Ernst & Young .

Several managers told us that while business casual is the norm, there are plenty of exceptions.

“If I am pulling cable, work jeans and a T-shirt are the rule. If I am addressing the board, I may opt for a tie. Just like you choose the right tool for the job, so should you choose the right mode of dress,” wrote Shawn Reinert, of BankWest in Colby, KS.

We received about a dozen e-mails that described a dress code that depends on the job category:

“Analysts and administrative staff: Nice casual. Techies: Jeans and tennis shoes. Management: More formal, nice casual to suit and tie,” wrote Paul Paynter, CSTE, BEST Consulting.
This isn’t Vogue or GQ. We don’t promise to give you the latest fashion news. But we do have our own sarcastic take on techie dress codes. Check out our TechRepublic coverboy.

Love those Levis
Business casual isn’t casual enough if you ask many in the “comfortable” category. Thirty-three percent of those surveyed are allowed to wear blue jeans on the job. Most often, tech support folks said they need to crawl under desks, so wearing jeans makes sense.

The extra-casual look is so accepted that four IT workers wrote in to say that when they wear a suit to work, their co-workers give them suspicious looks and ask if they’re going on a job interview.

Here’s some e-mail typical of those we received from employees who wear blue jeans to work:

  • “Jeans are the norm in our tech support group. I’ve also found that it helps attract the kind of people we want to come work here—bright and down-to-earth,” said Laurie Jameson of Louisville, KY.
  • “I’m in an IT shop that will allow jeans and sweatshirts. Never been happier! Think I’ll stay here awhile,” wrote Tammy Adkins.
  • “I don’t see the sense in wearing a tie and pants. It’s like asking a plumber to wear a suit,” wrote Carlos E. Hurtado.

What happens when you don’t have a dress code policy in writing? Next week, the second part of our series will look at horror stories from the office fashion police. Plus you’ll learn the latest advice on establishing a workable dress code policy.
The suits speak out
If you’re among the 24 percent still dressing up for the office, take heart. A few folks sent us letters insisting that an old-fashioned suit and tie will improve your career and your company’s bottom line. Check out these comments:

  • “How can you expect an organization to look serious when it comes time for billing if the IT staff is dressed in jeans?” wrote Alian Fillion, President and CEO of Info-Logique Technologies Inc.
  • “Some people find [conservative business attire] less comfortable, but you’re not at work to relax; you’re at work to work. Save your jeans and sweatshirts for the weekend,” wrote Ben Young.
  • “I feel IT people in large corporations are hurting themselves by ‘dressing down.’ IT people have to make their way into the ‘inner circle’, or we’re all going to end up answering to computer illiterate paper pushers,” wrote Bruce A. Walker of DatatPlex Technolgies.

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