Business Casual Drives Mediocrity
As an award-winning technologist in my field, I am surrounded by professionals that wear shorts and flip flops to work. They meet with business owners wearing hoodies and shorts, and if they really want to get fancy expect khakis and a solid color sweater. Although I do believe a professional should be comfortable at work I don’t understand why a professional would want to wear (most of the time) unironed clothes and sneakers to their place of business.
In a discussion with my assistant about what clothes a person “should” wear in my field, she felt as though tech people should be comfortable at all times. They should wear a collared shirt, no tie and a nice pair of khakis. As I listened to her opinion (while wearing a suit) I realized that the perception of people in my field is dreadful. I would not judge the owner of a concrete company that wears a suit to work, I would not think differently of the owner of a fast food restaurant that wears a suit to work. I would look at that individual as a person of influence, and I would automatically assume that they were the owner. Peter Thiel authored a book (Zero To One) where he discusses what he has learned investing in tech startups, Peter’s motto is “never invest in a tech CEO that wears a suit”. Although I respect Peter Thiel’s business knowledge having invested in Facebook and Napster I believe the general characterization of tech CEO’s is wrong on many levels.
I strive to be the best in my profession, I analyze trends in my industry and always innovate my methods. The most successful technology professional in my industry is Bill Gates. Worth an estimated 78.6 billion and donating over $28 billion to charity, what better example of a successful technology CEO exists? Essentially Peter Thiel is saying he would not invest in Microsoft if when he has a meeting with Bill Gates because he wears a suit?
Steve Jobs was another innovative technologist that wore suits to work and meetings. Should I dress down like the newer tech CEO’s or dress like the best technology CEO’s that have ever lived? My brand is not mediocre so why should I visually represent it as such? I want to be the person in the room that people notice for a professional style and attitude.
There’s a reason why the most successful people in the world have the same dress code. It shows that you care about your image and your brand when you dress professionally. I dress up to stand out, I can always take my suit jacket and tie off in my office to get comfortable. I like to be ready for an important meeting at a moment’s notice, the military taught me to always be prepared and to use all the tools in my toolbox. The military also instilled in me to have pride in my personal appearance. The Army cares about appearance so much that they have a special regulation for it titled, AR 670-1 Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia.
The next time you negatively judge a person wearing a suit in the tech field understand that you are missing a perfect opportunity to connect with the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.