Tech Job Dress Code: 9 Rules for What to Wear in Tech
So, you’ve got your first job in tech. Or perhaps you have just landed a new role which comes with more management interaction or client-facing meetings. How do you give the impression of looking like you mean business without losing the tech hallmark of relaxed informality? Here are our ‘rules’ for how to dress the part (of course we mean rules in the lightest sense of the word!).
# 1: Keep It Clean
It should be obvious, but our first rule is that whatever you wear you should be clean and, importantly, look clean. Unfortunately, this is a regular trip up. Irrespective of cost or the type of clothing, the item will always look a price-point higher when freshly laundered and pressed. And, while you are taking the trouble to make your clothes look their best, you should extend the treatment to personal grooming in particular keeping hair and facial hair tidy however you wish to style it.
# 2: The Hoodie Debate
As comfort and function typically trump formality in tech, the reality is that you can wear almost anything you like. When it comes to the hoodie question, we have a preference instead for sweatshirts. There is no real functionality to a hood in the workplace – and we think it says ‘campus’ more than ‘workplace’. Irrespective of your choice, go for a style that is (a) a good fit for your body shape being, in particular, not too baggy, and (b) logo and slogan free.
# 3: T-Shirts Rule (or Rather, Rules for T-Shirts)
It is hard to beat the basic tee for comfort and utility. We have two pieces of advice: recognise when yours have passed their retirement date and avoid excessively large logos or humorous slogans.
# 4: You Can’t Go Wrong with Classic
We have a soft spot for the classic polo shirt. For over a hundred years it has maintained its status as the perfect weekend staple and, increasingly, as a workplace workhorse. The reason is simple: choosing the right style of polo gives you something that is both t-shirt comfortable and shirt respectable.
Polo shirts fall broadly into two categories: the traditional sports polo and, more popular recently: the semi-formal style which borrows more from shirt design. We suggest choosing the latter as it gives more flexibility; choose a style which comes with a stand collar – this type of collar (much like a shirt) allows the polo to sit up properly under a jacket if needed. Quality buttons (mother-of-pearl ideally) are noticeable from further away than you might think and will mark you out as someone who takes notice of the finer details – never a bad thing when trying to make an impression. A long sleeve example will see you through colder months and is ideal for the shoulder seasons when you can roll the sleeves up for an effortlessly relaxed look.
# 5: Bottoms Up
Our top tip for your legs is to try something a little different. Of course, chinos and jeans will always rule the roost in tech (and everywhere else) but we think a crossover style works very well which is why we suggest trying drawstring trousers. These have become more popular in recent times as they offer the comfort of loungewear with the smartness of a chino. Most come with 3-5% elastane which is enough stretch to stay comfortable meaning you will not feel like you are waiting to take them off the moment you get home. A navy style will allow you to choose a bolder colour for your sweater, jumper, or polo shirt.
# 6: Putting Your Foot in It
There was a time when you would be considered somewhat of a dandy if you owned more than two pairs of shoes: a training shoe and something for smarter, more formal occasions (i.e. that funeral of a distant relative you’re obliged to attend). Thankfully that time has passed and there is now enormous choice from well-established brands and independents offering a great variety at all price points. Trainers will always be popular in tech: we suggest choosing a shoe with modest branding and prefer single (or at most two) neutral colours. We also like suede in both trainers and shoes – they elevate the former and relax the latter – and don’t worry about the rain, there are inexpensive protective sprays which do an excellent job of keeping them looking smart.
# 7: The Resting Jacket
It’s good to be ready for the unexpected. In tech, it can mean being summonsed to an external meeting at short notice. We recommend leaving a navy or charcoal grey blazer jacket on your chair for the occasion, so you won’t have to bring it in and out of work every day ‘just in case’. And, as we all know, the ‘jacket on the chair’ is a time-honoured ruse to suggest the owner is still working but momentarily away from his desk. Win-win.
# 8: If You Want to Get Ahead, Get A Hat?
Or rather not. We’re thinking about baseball hats in particular as the main choice of hat these days. No other piece of headgear is so iconic yet so divisive. We won’t wade into that debate here but we don’t think hats in general have any place in workplace.
# 9: You’ve Got to Roll With It
If it’s good enough for Steve Jobs and Elizabeth Hol… (well, never mind!), its good enough for us. We think the polo neck/turtleneck/roll neck is a great addition during colder months in particular as it never gives the impression of being over or under dressed – versatility – the same reason we love the polo shirt.
And those are our ‘rules’ for dressing well in tech. We would also add that while your own personal style is important, you need to be wary of standing out – for this reason, it always helps to be aware of the room. Naturally, it’s better to stand out for your work than your workwear.