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Hey Sid!

The Tech Uniform

Hey Sid!

You ask, Sid answers

Submit a question at heysid@sidmashburn.com

"I love to dress up, but I don't want to look stuffy or overdressed for my office. I'd be curious what you recommend for a more elevated casual look at a tech office where the common denominator is well below business casual?” – Matthew V.

Hey Matthew - thanks for writing in. First off, we talk a lot about how dressing for your surroundings is good manners. So the fact you're already considering that puts you ahead of the game.

Second - you're not the only one. We've gotten a tonnnnn of similar inquiries around dressing for the modern office, the post-pandemic workplace, or super-relaxed environments. Even within your industry, there's a lot of range – entrepreneurs may not dress like VCs may not dress like in-house IT. It can be confusing out there! Our approach is always on the quieter side: going less for a splashy first impression and more for a quiet "second look." And as much as I love tailored clothing, a suit in a sea of t-shirts and jeans is definitely not that. But the strategy is pretty simple, no matter your industry: dressing down can look elevated when you lean into the details and focus on quality.

In short: embrace the local uniform, but take it up a notch. (When in Rome...)


trying out the tech uniform

If everyone else is in jeans, get yourself a couple of pairs, one dark, one light, and if necessary, have them tightened up. And denim is just a starting point – we make 5-pockets in a bunch of colors and fabrics. You could wear a different pair every day of the week: canvas, moleskin, cords (cool for year-round and a bestseller.) All of those are going to feel like a more grown-up take on jeans without standing out in the office.

If t-shirts are the standard, just sub in a polo, which is just as comfortable but has the polish of a collar. And, again, it won't stick out too much. And with the Fall upon us, it's easy to layer. On the other hand, if you are in the sport shirt and vest crowd, there's plenty of room to get some personality in with your love for dressing up. Just let the shirt be the lead singer – you've got a lot of patterns to play with. A sport shirt in a special fabric can feel elevated, even without a tie. And if the vest is your thing, keep it! But you could also add a wool puffer to the rotation, which is kind of like a hybrid of a tweedy sport coat with a tech-bro fleece vest. We also make a lighter-weight, insulated nylon version, which is just as sporty as fleece, but sans corporate branding.

We'd be remiss not to mention the hoodie... there is no piece of clothing more synonymous with "technology company." While we actually make one, a first for us this season, a sweater is going to be softer and a lot more versatile, like you could wear it to dinner or drinks after work and feel appropriately put together. They range from cotton to fine-gauge cashmere. If you like playing with color, it's an easy way to get that in, although the navy/grey/black range is great, too.

And don't sleep on accessories! A quietly interesting belt (think bridle, shark, or matte alligator) will go a long way, and swapping in a brass or silver plaque buckle will allow you to flex a bit while still being understated. No surprise that loafers are my personal go-to for dressing down, but if that feels too out-there in your office, sneakers can also look nice if you keep them clean, while moccasins are never a bad choice (any of them).

To sum up: polos, sport shirts, and 5-pockets are your staples. "Elevated casual," as you said. Think of this as a creative challenge, almost a sneaky way of dressing up, by wearing refined versions of what your colleagues are in.

One last thing, I have to at least mention tailored clothing, although I know this can be tricky in tech. You have to know your spot in the company, and if wearing a sport coat will make you "that guy," forget about it. But funny enough, our head of Technology didn't know how to tie a tie when he started with us, but he found wearing a suit really liberating... so much so that he started wearing one for his other consulting meetings, out to dinner, etc. Only you will know whether this is right for your office, but a casual blazer, no tie, with 5-pockets, is a great look, and will take you almost anywhere. Unless, of course, you're in a sea of t-shirts. Then maybe go with the polo.

From Sid

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