Who among us hasn’t wished at least once that we could go to work in our pajamas? But according to an article in last week’s New York Times, there are plenty of people in Silicon Valley wishing for the opposite. The hi-tech start-up sector is famous for its casual dress code and disdain for formality and for women who enjoy fashion, there’s just as much pressure to conform as there is for the rest of us to wear business casual.
The women quoted describe the taboo against dressing fashionably saying that it can be hard to get taken seriously if you look like you care too much about what you’re wearing. For some of us, this catering to the lowest possible fashion denominator would be very helpful but I can appreciate the other side. There is always someone whose personal style is hard to express within a dress code, no matter how formal or casual and whether or not it’s official policy or just socially enforced.
For people starting small businesses or working from home, this can be particularly confusing. On the one hand, it’s a chance to let loose and work in the environment that you create and clothing that’s comfortable for you. You get to set the dress code. But there are a number of downsides.
First of all, there’s the old saying “dress for success.” Traditionally, that’s meant that you should dress like you mean business and you’ll make a more serious impression on others. But it goes deeper. What you’re wearing can have an impact on your mindset. Just like it can be easier to feel romantic in an evening gown or a tux, it can be easier to get work done in work clothes. If you insist in staying in pajamas and slippers while you work, it can make you feel relaxed or sleepy. While being relaxed is a good thing, if you’re too relaxed you may get distracted more easily or forget to pay attention to details.
However, there’s more than just the mental impact. It’s also hard enough to keep up with fashion when you are in an office every day. If you work from home, or don’t meet regularly with colleagues it’s important to try to keep on top of some basic trends in business dress. That way, when you do meet clients or business partners, you’ll be sure to look up-to-date, put together and professional.
And then there are the days you just feel like dressing up. When that happens, don’t hold back.