After living on the west coast for almost 12 years, I’m always shocked at how shocked I feel when I see someone in a suit, even when walking around downtown Seattle. Maybe it has changed over the last decade but the east coast I remember has always had the terms “business attire” and “business casual” in their HR manuals for workers. Especially as you approach the financial centers of New York, Boston, and D.C. The almighty tie on a person immediately declared that person to be “respected and in power” of a job.
Long story short, I’ve always called bullshit on this thought process.
In truth, if there’s one thing that I would honestly give praise to Steve Jobs on is his evolving wardrobe from the suit and tie in the 70’s to the lack of a collar by 2000, even when addressing thousands and later streaming to millions in keynotes or new product releases.
Throughout my own career, I’ve been forced to flip burgers in a tie, sweep floors in a tie, build computers in a tie, and write code in a tie. I fought the Good Fight in at least four different companies that tried to force their non-customer-facing employees to wear business attire and often won. I would be willing to bet that if you asked the CEO why his company collapsed it would due to employees wearing jeans and not the fact that he couldn’t sell a cracker to a staving population. In one company, when they tried to channel the “you shouldn’t wear [knee length] shorts” through HR, I politely asked if they would stop women from wearing skirts, which were often above the knee, sighting gender discrimination. And then worn shorts to work the next day.
Longer story shorter, I haven’t been in a suit for business since I landed in WA in 2004. Even outside of work, I can only recall one tie occasion, and that was on the east coast.
What’s been interesting the last couple of months is that there’s a collection of my colleagues at Microsoft have started “Fancy Fridays”. When I started in office jobs, it was Hawaiian Shirt Friday or Business Casual Friday – for the younger generation that didn’t have business attire forced on them, they get a kick out of dressing up Fridays. Which is actually even crazier when you look back in time and learn that suits were originally resisted in the business world as being too casual. That they were made to be worn multiple days because they were cheaper and old business – think 1880’s – rejected the trend, watching men to wear custom clothing, meaning that suits have run the gamut from rejected to required to abandoned to prized.
People look good here on Fridays – I’ll admit that – but there’s no way I’m not wearing shorts this summer.