Image is Everything

This editorial was originally published on Feb 13, 2009. It is being re-run as Steve is on vacation.

Image is everything.

Or is it?

I received an email recently from someone that said they liked the editorials and newsletter, but that my T-shirt was unprofessional and I should wear something else. This was from an HR professional, and they mentioned that image matters.

In some sense I agree. When I interview, speak, present, I want to put forth a good image, but I don’t necessarily agree that the clothes I wear need to be more formal to do that. I wear clean, neat clothes (for the most part), but I don’t adhere to a suit, shirt-and-tie,  or any other formal business attire.

So for a Friday poll, with one of my beloved SQLServerCentral Friday shirts:

How much does your attire matter?

Now I have worn a suit to work before. One of my early programming and DBA jobs was at a small company where suits were required. So I wore a clean, pressed shirt, tie, and suit coat, not sport coat, every day. And every day at lunch I’d go to the gym and come back with my tie undone, or at least loose. And most days my boss would remind me to tighten it up by 2:00.

After a year of making arguments and lobbying, we progressed from casual Fridays with jeans to khakis and polos every day. Productivity didn’t fall, our customers weren’t offended, and the business prospered. And I was happier at work.

Attire does mean something to me, but it’s not an image that I want, it’s comfort. I want to be comfortable and not feel restricted or bound up by my clothes. It’s a little immature perhaps, but it’s something that matters to me and it’s something I ask on every phone interview. I am not against a company that requires a tie to be worn, but I’m not working there.

I’ve seen people work with clients, present on stage, and handle all aspects of their business wearing any sort of clothing you can imagine. From jeans and a t-shirt to three piece suits. The effectiveness of the person has never seemed to be related to the attire, and while I agree you can go too far, clean, un-torn clothing of any sort works for me.

But I’m curious about the rest of you. How much does attire matter in your business?

Steve Jones

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2 Responses to Image is Everything

  1. Tammy says:

    I think that clothing matters relatively little, so long as you look presentable. One of my C-level executives is as likely to be found in jeans and a sweatshirt as he is in khakis and a button-down shirt (which is as dressy as my company usually gets). I often wear a dress or skirt to work, but that’s because those are clothes I’m personally comfortable in, not because I think it matters in terms of how other people see me. Comfortable employees are productive employees, and if the employees are productive and successful, so is the company. That’s the bottom line as I see it.

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