Build or burn?

Dress code

At the launch of Radio 1 in 1967 all the DJs turned up in casual clothes and all the musicians turned up in suits and ties.

Getting on a plane one evening I sat next to a passenger who’s first word to me was ‘Lawyer?’.  ‘Accountant.’ I replied, adding ‘Good guess.’

I was dressed in a dark grey suit.  This has been my standard dress for over 30 years.  The only variation has been the tie.  In 1999 and 2000 I briefly went about in casual clothes, but that was the height of the dot-com mania.  We all went a little nuts then.

I think attitudes to dress code are heavily influenced by your first job.  In my case, I generally think you should err on the smart side when you dress for work.  It makes you look good and looking good helps your confidence.

I don’t approve of ‘dress down Fridays’.  I figure it is either ok to dress down all the time, or it is not ok at all.  And if dressing down means a less productive day on a Friday, then I doubly don’t approve.

I recall a hot summer in 1990 when a hippy-ish logistics manager initiated a bit of a dress code rebellion.  He started turning up in shorts and a loose, short-sleeved shirt, and encouraging others to do the same.  He was in his fifties with very white legs and carrying a bit of a belly.  It wasn’t a good look and his protest fizzled out.

I joined in the next period of madness in the late nineties when we all started copying the dot-com start-ups dressing down all the time.  I basically dressed the same was at work as I did at weekends.  For me this experiment came to a sudden halt after two events in early 2000.  The first was a smartly dressed consultant who I hadn’t seen in a while.  He came in to say hello and asked ‘Have I come at a bad time?  Are you moving offices?’.  The second was after some people arrived to interview me for a corporate event.  I had forgotten they were coming and did the interview in jeans and a jumper.  I decided to switch back to smarter dress after they sent me the edited recording.

The smartest dressed people I know are lawyers.  I once sat in a meeting next to a lawyer who was so well dressed and coiffured that I assumed she must be attending a black-tie event immediately after work.  She wasn’t.

The worst dressed people are academics.

The easiest people to guess their profession from their dress are architects.

The scariest dressed are people close to the media or fashion.

And Mark Zuckerberg just looks silly.

The worst dressed person I ever met was someone from a ‘Local Enterprise Partnership’ in Norwich.  He arrived to a meeting in muddy clothes explaining that he had just been digging the garden.  I initially took his dress as an insult.  It wasn’t.  He was just a clown.

The good thing about all the recent ups and downs of dress code is that these days you can pretty much wear what you like to work (except gardening clothes) and no one will judge you.

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