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Workplace attire

Mary Ramirez Community Leader Aug 28, 2018

Famous tennis player and new mom, Serena Williams, made headlines after playing in the French Open while wearing what's being referred to as a catsuit. The catsuit was later banned due to it being inappropriate. 

Here are the questions I pose:

  1. Is a professional workplace attire necessary in tech? 
    1. For positions that are client facing and for positions that are not client facing.
  2. Does wearing jeans and a T-shirt make you less knowledgeable? Why are companies scared to adopt a comfortable look?
  3. How can companies create an attire guideline that's inclusive?

Let's discuss! 


As the famous saying goes:

"Sales people look so smart and intelligent in their fancy suits and cars - until you find out they work for tech-founders who sit around wearing shorts and t-shirts all day".

Companies should be free to choose their branding, style and culture... define themselves what 'professional attire' means to them. Sharp suits with sharper ties? Why not! Flip flops and Bermuda shorts? Sure, let's do it!

I don't judge any of my colleagues, partners or clients on their attire... as a Project Manager I am looking at end results and work performance... not their clothing. (Draw the line mind at nakedness....) ;)

Case in point... today one of my colleagues is wearing one of the most INDIVIDUAL t-shirts I have ever seen in life: but he's amazing at his job and delivers results I can't even DREAM of! So although it's not my cup-of-T (get it?), his t-shirt gets a thumbs up from me ! :D


Epic T-Shirt.jpg

Mary Ramirez Community Leader Aug 30, 2018

Hi @Andy B - PTC,

The fact that the sales guy has a suit on while the CEO is in jeans and a tshirt, is quite funny! But so true in the tech industry. Let your co-worker know his shirt gets a thumbs up all the way from Phoenix, AZ!  

The mortgage company that I've worked with for five years now has a 'business professional' dress code published, with 'business casual' fridays. For the better part of my career though, I've been the tattooed and mohawked mama, which still gets me the look from the CEO when he sees me in the hall. I do adhere to the blazer, button down, and slacks way of life though.

I'd like to think at this point that my reputation for getting sh*t done precedes me, and maybe people don't focus so much on my bright hair and tattooed arms, which is how I want my employees to feel as well. I think that how you look is a non-issue to a point. There are obvious lines of cleanliness and decency that should be observed, and most people would agree.

There's a lot of gripes in my office around the dress code, since we don't interact with the public or invite in visitors on a regular basis. I do think that when employees are happier, they work better, and part of that is being comfortable.

There's arguments on both sides of the aisle. Studies have show correlations between uniform enforcement and inclusiveness. Sometimes though, standardized dress codes like the one in my organization, can be prohibitive for people that can't afford a whole set of clothes that they can only wear at work.

Also, the people running the French Open need to get over themselves. I don't buy this 'disrespecting the game' nonsense.

Mary Ramirez Community Leader Aug 30, 2018

Hi @Meg Holbrook,

You've brought up so many good points!!! I'm a true believer in "don't judge a book by its cover." Society has made us believe that people in suits are "professional" and "intelligent." Is that true? Definitely not!

Regardless of what you decide to put on in the morning, your goal at work is to produce (something). If I'm wearing jeans and a T-Shirt, my mind is at ease and I'm more focused. If I'm wearing a pencil skirt and heels, I'm more worried about giving off the wrong perception. I shouldn't be worried about these things! I shouldn't be stressed about wearing the same thing because slacks and blazers cost too much. 

Like you said, if sh*t is getting done then everything else is irrelevant. For a newbie, entering a workplace where people are of different shapes, sizes, colors, gender, age, etc. provides a sense of relief. A sense of, I'm not the odd man out, I belong. 

Jack Brickey Community Leader Aug 30, 2018

I really think it comes down to traditions, upbringing, social influences, etc. which isn't news to anyone I'm sure. What is socially acceptable, be it in workplaces or public, varies for sure but the boundaries are changing daily. Some changes are easily observed and others occur at glacier speeds and require us to look back 10 years or so to draw conclusions.

I have a very open view of what is 'acceptable' when it comes to business attire. Mine is certainly very relaxed and I certainly try not to judge others. I do accept and understand that some business environments have guidelines and rules and would respect them but would, if appropriate, seek to evolve them.

To Mary's specific questions...

  1. Fundamentally "it depends". In other words I don't think my following response will fit all cases. With that said, I have been working in the tech industry since 1982 covering 7 companies and I can say without hesitation that professional attire is not and should not be a requirement. However, I also respect and would support such attire where it influences the business, e.g. client facing where the client has strict guidelines.
  2. Of course not, but again it isn't what a person is wearing but what the other party sees/feels/believes.
  3. That is a huge challenge IMO and key to this discussion. The challenge is that there are so many different beliefs in the world influenced by religion, culture, traditions, etc. that shape many things including acceptable attire. For me I don't see it so much about "inclusive" but more of acceptance by all which IMO isn't attainable because there are humans with different viewpoint involved. However, I will say that in many cases, especially smaller tech companies you have more like-minded people so it isn't quite as challenging. Of course this is a generic statement and if you peel back the covers you will always find differences which is what makes the world great.
Ellie Day Atlassian Team Aug 30, 2018

I personally feel that business attire shouldn't be required but also am aware that even if it's OK to wear something casual at a company, women will be disproportionally be judged for not wearing something more formal.

DING DING DING! Most accurate answer here.

Kat Marketplace Partner Sep 02, 2018

Some dress code requirements are "unspoken" for women too like expectation to wear make-up, heels, and bras.

My 4yr old daughter was putting on her mummy's make up the other day before school and said "I want to look lovely". 

NNNNNNGGGGGG!!!! Er no.....!

I gently told her "You are ALREADY lovely, and you wear make up because you think it's fun and you choose to".

Question to all women.... are bra's even comfortable ? ?

And heels? My wife loves those ridiculous Irregular Choice shoes but that's a fashion statement of her own taste, not because heels are expected by society.

Monique vdB Community Manager Sep 03, 2018

@Andy B - PTC no, no they are not.

My wife's face every end of day confirms this eCard as fact ! :)

@Monique vdB)

Kat Marketplace Partner Sep 03, 2018

@Andy B - PTC They are helpful for some women with generous proportions and some people wear bras to modify the way their silhouette looks.

Alas they are far from optional regardless of whether they serve a function. In high school I received anonymous threats when I tried to go bra-less at an all girls' school.

Linette Atlassian Team Sep 03, 2018

But it has to be the right bra, of course. I remember a group of girls being disciplined at school, as they had the nerve to wear black bras under their shirts. Yes, you had to wear them, pretend like others didn't know (not wearing a bra was also forbidden), but if you wore them and it was hard for others to pretend not to know, that was not allowed!

As long as they are comfortable whilst being helpful ! :o) But anonymous threats? Say what!??


School.... bah. Hated that place.

"School Is The Best Years Of Your Life" = Lies


So many rules... so many regulations... and does it help us evolve and further develop as a species? No, no it does not.

Kat Marketplace Partner Aug 30, 2018

The mantra "casual does not equal slack" was initially appealing but seeing the CEO in the office with t-shirts that had unintended holes in them was a bit much for my liking.

I'm not against all dress codes because there is a feedback loop between what we see (on ourselves and others) and our actions. I am also a fan of the use of jargon and profanity - but I modify the vocabulary I draw from depending on the context - same for clothes.

My general rules for office wear are:

  • Not too tight that I can see what you had for breakfast
  • Enough coverage and support to minimise chances of wardrobe malfunction
  • Clothes should be clean and in good repair
  • Err on the side of caution when it comes to symbols or words that may offend others 
Linette Atlassian Team Aug 31, 2018

I've worked in places that have casual Fridays, and I didn't think anything off it until someone once said to me "If the company believes you can be effective in casual clothes, and that it won't lose them business, then why don't they let you do that all the time? If it does have an impact, then why let you do it at all? Doing it a bit just reinforces that the standard is totally arbitrary and being enforced for no reason."

I quickly left the job I had that mandated that women all wore high heels.

That said, I know in casual dress companies, there is still a pressure to confirm, people will police those who choose to dress more 'fancy'. I've heard some women in ‘Jeans and tshirt’ companies that make a big deal that "dress code isn't a thing", who didn't feel they were allowed to wear dresses. :(

carolyn french Community Leader Aug 31, 2018

Your comment about high heels makes me think of the flight attendant that sued United because she had to wear orthopedics and they made a stink about it (hello, disabilities if you wear high heels at your job for years). Also, Serena has had life-threatening blood clot issues in the past, and her compression suit was for that, so the whole "appropriateness for the sport" argument is absolute rubbish IMO.

There is definitely a pressure to conform even if no dress code. For shyer people (myself included), we don't like to call attention to ourselves by what we're wearing, especially if that means our clothing being the topic of conversation all day.

carolyn french Community Leader Aug 31, 2018

In tech, jeans and t-shirts are totally acceptable by now, right??

In college, I knew a few people who would come to their exams dressed formally. While this seemed like overkill to me, and I preferred to be in something massively comfortable that wouldn't take my mind away from focusing on the exam, dressing up seemed to have a positive effect, so that they could focus. I say, to each their own. Companies should really all pay attention to how the "Dress appropriately" dress code is working. Stop wasting everyone's time with these strict policies, and let humans be humans. 

Linette Atlassian Team Sep 03, 2018

Depends where in tech you are. I was once turned down for a *phone only* tech support role, as I was not well dressed enough. My crime? My suit had a standing/mandarin collar, not the standard lapels. Still I'm pretty I didn't get that job all things considered!

Kat Marketplace Partner Sep 02, 2018 • edited

Here is a dress code story I think may amuse some of you.

I worked at a call-centre with a 'business casual' dress code. As an incentive, if we met our weekly targets in a particular month we would earn the privilege to wear what we wanted as long as it was at least "tidy casual" on a day of our choosing for each weekly target met (mufti days).

I had no problem "earning" 5 mufti days. I found this reward patronising and as this occurred shortly before I was due to leave the company so I decided to have some fun. On my second to last week I wore:

  • A ball gown and heels, with my hair up, and full ball make-up
  • A tie-dyed green 'gypsy' dress
  • An outfit reminiscent of a school uniform (not the naughty kind - I was not pushing my luck that far!)

During that week, a manager asked me to be considerate on my last Monday as a new senior manager was starting and they did not want her to get an incorrect first impression.

So in my 'following the letter of the law" ways I turned up on Monday in a business suit - they could hardly complain about that could they? Even if only me and the senior manager were the only people in suits.

I can't remember what my fifth "mufti day" outfit was this many years later but at least I amused myself.

Monique vdB Community Manager Sep 03, 2018

@Kat this is epic. Ballgown and heels! 

Linette Atlassian Team Sep 03, 2018

Hahahah, @Kat that is hilarious!

Kat Marketplace Partner Sep 03, 2018

Oh - the other outfit was a purple velvet dress with long sleeves that had points that fell past my hands.

Good times! 

"Mufti day" ! ! Those were days. Love that saying. Trying to explain that to Europeans is the best:

"Yes... Mufti. It's when we go to school not in regular uniform. Yes... uniforms. One set of clothing for the whole school. Yes... It is like the military. Yes... we do get our asses handed to us by the institution on a daily base."

When I was at Walmsley House in Bedfordshire, UK we still had caps ! ! ! NERD !

The below is a random pic from internet, but pretty close to what I wore as a 6 year old.


@Kat - I love everything about this story. My favorite ways to undermine rules are by following them EXPLICITLY. You know you've done a good job when they later change the rule. 

I think it depends upon the company. Working in IT for a medical organization I am allowed to wear jeans and a collared shirt while in the admin building, but if I go to a patient facing building I need to be in at least business casual (slacks, business shoes, collared shirt). So, I keep a change of shoes and pants in my desk and if I have to travel I change. I don't think its a bad thing for businesses to require a certain dress code. Especially if it is customer facing. The business wants to portray that the people working there are professionals I think attires can help in that. So, long as it is reasonable. For instance I don't think it would reasonable to expect all women to wear high heels or require that all men be clean shaven. I've never worn high heels but I understand from my wife that they aren't terribly conformable, they can be hard/treacherous to walk in, and they aren't terribly great on your back. I did work for a company once that required all the men to be clean shaven and honestly it was terrible. If I shave two days in a row I will quite literally nick myself about 30 times. It's NOT fun. I was happy to not have to do that again after leaving that job.

So, if the requirements are reasonable I have not problem adhering to what the company requires. They are after all the ones paying me.


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