Doesn’t it seem like a century ago that most businesses abandoned business attire for some sort of prefixed "casual" wear? It seems like that to me. Is it possible that our relaxed dress code contributed to our relaxed attitudes toward business ethics, frugality, and risk? I think so.
Only a decade ago, I was required to wear a tie every day even when no clients were in the building. No one complained because there was no other way for programmers and business people to dress: you wore a tie if you were a man. Women wore pant suits or skirts and never open-toed shoes.
Then the "casual Friday" thing started in some companies. Out in Silicon Valley, companies like Apple made famous the "open collar" and "no collar" worker–highly paid programmers and executives who wore jeans and t-shirts to work. Next thing you know, business magazines and psychologists told us that business dress was a form of slavery. More companies caved to casual. Authors wrote books to teach knowledge workers how to dress casually–an art form much more complex than a suit and tie.
A friend and colleague recently decided to take a stand for tradition. Tim is not an executive. He is not in a position to issue an edict requiring business dress of the whole company. He is a true leader. Risking ridicule and even damage to his career, Tim decided last week to wear a suit and tie to work every day. He decided to stand out like a healthy thumb amidst a fistful of broken fingers. He took a stand.
With the eonomy in depression or something near, perhaps we all need to grow up and start dressing like adults again. While I won’t throw away my jeans, as George Will would like, I will join Tim tomorrow. I want no credit for "leaderhip" on this, because Tim owns the title among my friends and colleagues.
Here’s to you, Timmy. Perhaps you’ve done what Washington cannot–fix the economy with worsted wool and fine silk.