Here was one of the questions Dan was asked this week in the Wall Street Journal:
I recently started working at a company that requires employees to wear suits, and I find them uncomfortable. Can you help me understand the logic for wearing them?
And here was Dan’s response:
In my mind, suits represent everything wrong with modern society (emphasis added). They’re basically an expensive school uniform. The lack of choice does make suit purchases easier, and since people wearing suits look more or less the same, the clothing works as a kind of leveler in looks, ensuring that no one looks more interesting or exciting.
But suits kill sartorial creativity and individuality (emphasis added), and as you say, they’re uncomfortable. They are a prime example of our tendency to pick the unpleasant, uncreative option as long as it’s easy and makes us all look identical. My advice to you: Rebel, and if you succeed, most of your co-workers will thank you.
I’m lucky; the nature of my job allows me a great deal of freedom in what I wear to work, and I am guessing it is the same for Dan. That may explain our agreement on this issue.
Some days I may wear a suit, other days I may wear a pair of jeans. I like the flexibility and the ability to mix it up as I see fit. But I do also like the sartorial decisions that people such as Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have made – basically the same outfit each day for themselves, but not imposing their style on the entire organization.
I think the best approach to a dress code is to let individuals figure it out for themselves. I’m sure at some point most, if not all, people will soon recognize what range of dress habits are acceptable and what are not, and then dress accordingly.
This allows the individual to feel like they are the ones making the decision, while still fitting in with the corporate culture.