Is it true that programmers can get away with wearing pajamas to work? Well, yes, you can, but not always. Your work outfit is less dependent on the fact that you’re a programmer and has more to do with the specific office norms & policies.
A typical programmer’s work outfit is jeans paired with a casual shirt. Most tech companies don’t have any strict dress codes. That said, some non-tech firms mandate in-house programmers to dress formally. You’re also expected to be in business attire during client meetings or interviews.
So, let’s talk about it. I’ll give you an inside look at what programmers are expected to wear based on where they work and when this dress code changes. Following this, I’ll also share some of my thoughts regarding what you should wear and the benefits of going to work well dressed.
What Programmers Wear Depending on Where They Work?
We live in the digital age where programmers are necessary for almost every field of business. With the power to design and structure virtual reality, programmers should be comfortable at work, and most companies don’t care what you wear as long as your work looks sharp.
However, some businesses want you to look professional, or they may have a building dress code that you have to comply with.
Depending on where they work, programmers may wear casual clothing, formal attire, or a uniform. Programmers may work in software companies, law firms, hospitals, or other enterprises. As such, you’ll have to follow your company’s particular dress code.
With that said, let’s quickly take a look at some of the most popular industries where programmers are employed and get an idea of the typical work outfit.
Programmer Dress Code For Software-Based Tech Companies
Most tech companies, especially those with their own app or SaaS, offer their programmers a fun and chill work environment. You’ll rarely find any dress code standards for employees, and you can come to the office wearing almost anything you like. Still, the keyword is “almost.”
Just because a company doesn’t have a dress code is not an excuse for employees to dress inappropriately. Programmers working at a software company will generally come to the office wearing a casual and comfortable dress.
Employees walking around wearing denim jeans, skirts, T-shirts, pullovers, or hoodies is perfectly normal.
That said, some tech companies, especially Silicon Valley startups, are so relaxed in terms of the dress code that you can even come to the office wearing shorts, ripped jeans, Hawaiian shirts, and even pajamas. Want to wear flip-flops to work? Go for it!
The idea is to inspire innovation and creativity amongst the workforce, and allowing employees to dress as they like is a part of achieving this goal. Some tech companies even encourage programmers to dress up as outlandishly as they want – provided there’s no nudity or profanity involved.
Programmer Dress Code For Non-Tech Companies
Non-tech companies like logistics, automotive, publishing houses that don’t directly deal with customers or clients have moved past the formal dress code and gone business casual.
If you’re at any of these companies, you can go to work wearing khakis, slacks, dress shorts, skirts, dresses, sweaters, and the likes. The idea behind the business casual look is to keep things sober and presentable but not too uncomfortable with neckties and suits.
That said, the specifics of your dress code will vary between companies depending on the size of the company and their particular work culture.
For example, larger companies with multiple departments generally have stricter dress codes. That’s usually to help bring a level of unity & order while reducing the contrast between all the employees.
However, smaller companies (<50 employee workforce) and creative agencies generally don’t fuss about what you wear, as long as it’s within reason to wear to a workplace.
To be on the safe side, I’d advise wearing a formal shirt with trousers or business dress on your first day at work. Then, check what other people are wearing to understand the work culture and follow suit (pun intended).
Attire For Professional Service Providers & Consultancies
By professional service providers & consultancies, I’m talking about any company or office with frequent visits from customers, clients, investors, and company stakeholders. These businesses include law firms, account & financing companies, and even IT consultancies that develop software for a client.
In these types of companies, it’s essential to maintain a professional image, so they are usually extremely strict with their dress code.
Programmer or not, you’re expected to show up wearing formal business-appropriate clothing. That means a sober button-down shirt with trousers topped with a necktie, and of course, office shoes. Wearing a suit might be optional, but if you see your colleagues wearing one, then you should too.
In most cases, the dress code for men and women are the same, but female programmers can choose a more feminine attire with a business skirt, a modest blouse, and high heels or loafers.
What Programmers Wear Depending on Special Occasions?
Programmers usually wear formal business attire on special occasions, such as job interviews and investor or client meetings. However, casual dress is typically the norm during parties or remote work.
Regardless of where you’re working, certain important occasions demand appropriate attire. Let’s take a quick look at some of the recurring events you’ll face in your career as a programmer and how you should dress for it.
Are you wondering what to wear to a coding interview? I recommend going business casual, i.e., wearing a sober button-down shirt with a nice pair of trousers and polished office shoes. Female developers can do the same or wear a business dress or an elegant longer skirt paired with an office blouse.
Blazers or suit jackets can also make you look more professional when you want to get hired.
You see, an employer isn’t looking for a programmer that can carry an Armani suit. They are mainly interested in your coding skills and programming know-how.
However, they also want to make sure that the new person they hire fits in with their company’s culture. As such, going business-casual puts you on the safe side, being right in the middle of formal and casual wear.
Furthermore, dressing too casually for an interview gives the impression that you aren’t as interested or you carry a rebellious personality, both of which can affect your chances of getting hired.
As the saying goes – “the first impression is a lasting impression.”
Investor or Client Meetings
Is a client, investor, or stakeholder coming for a visit or meeting? Then you should dress up to look business-ready!
As a programmer, you’ll occasionally need to attend meetings, primarily if your company builds custom software & applications for clients. If you’re a part of a startup, investors will want to maintain routine communication to catch up on the current progress and status of the project.
You don’t want to push forward the wrong impression, whether you’re meeting with an investor or a client. Putting on formal clothing gives the feeling that you took the extra effort to look good and find the person (or people) important and valuable.
That said, I’d recommend that you wear something that adheres to their company’s dress code.
As such, if your client belongs to a non-tech firm, go into the meeting in your business casual attire. If they are a part of the professional services industry, carry your best formal look.
Now, investor meetings can go a bit differently. The best attire depends on what impression the investor has about your company.
As such, if your team is presented as creative thinkers and out-of-the-box problem solvers, then dressing casually is somewhat expected. Whereas, if your team is known for professionalism and orderliness, wearing formals makes the most sense.
Each product launch or successful completion of a client project usually follows up with a party of sorts. But then again, it’s an office party. So are you supposed to go in wearing a nice suit – tuxedo maybe? Or is it time to show off to your colleagues the flamboyant and bombastic wardrobe you have been building?
Well, it depends on the people invited to the party.
If it’s like a close group office party for employees only, then you should be free to dress up as you like. It’s your time to unwind, have fun, and get to know your colleagues. That said, don’t go too overboard with what you wear. Remember, you’ll go back to working with these people again tomorrow.
On the flip side, if it’s a big party where clients and investors are invited, you should dress up professionally and look your best. These types of gatherings are excellent networking opportunities where you can build contacts, directly talk with stakeholders, share ideas, and so on. As such, bring forth your A-game as it might open many doors for you.
Remote Work-From-Home Situations
Following the pandemic, many companies hire programmers as remote workers in a fully work-from-home (WFH) position without coming to the office. Many more companies are taking the hybrid route alternating between office attendance for a couple of days or weeks, followed by a WFH period.
So, what are you expected to wear when you’re working from your living room? Well, you can wear anything you like – or nothing at all – whatever you’re in the mood for.
That said, during video conferences and meetings, make sure not to show up in your birthday suit. Follow your office’s regular dress code and appear presentable in front of the camera.
And although some people do see WFH hours as pants optional, I’d recommend that you keep yours on. That is unless you want to appear in a WFH fails YouTube video like this one:
Now, on the bright side, as a programmer, you’ll rarely be in too many video meetings – maybe once or twice a week. Collaboration with your team is generally done over a communication app like Slack or your company’s project management software.
Are There Any Benefits of Dressing Better Than Expected?
How many times have you heard these dressing suggestions:
- “Dress two levels above your position.”
- “Wear what your boss’s boss is wearing.”
- “Take on the attire of the job you want, not the one you have.”
Well, I, for one, have heard this one time too many! Do you think the company will promote you solely based on your dressing style?
You need to understand that the office dress code is a part of the office culture. As such, by overdressing or underdressing, you’ll present yourself as an “outsider” who doesn’t belong.
It comes as no surprise that programmers often aren’t in the center of attention at parties. There is a good reason why are so many programmers socially awkward. But can dressing better help with this?
There are some benefits of dressing better than expected, but there are more downsides. By wearing a suit when everyone else is in their tees, you’re not only making yourself more uncomfortable but also looking like a snob. It’s not something that’ll help you socialize with your fellow programmers.
Whereas, on the flip side, by wearing ultra-casual & outrageous clothing, you’ll pop out like a sore thumb. Nobody will see this as the woke and powerful statement as you’re imagining. Instead, the management might see you as a headache or an individual with no regard for company policy.
As such, even if your company has a no dress code, I’d recommend not to push it. Wear something comfortable to you while also being presentable to your boss and colleagues.
What Do I Wear To Work as a Programmer?
I wear jeans, pullovers, cardigans, and hoodies as a programmer. In fact, during the summer I come to work wearing a T-shirt and shorts. Of course, during meetings, I try to keep my look professional and presentable, but it’s nothing too fancy.
A nice ironed shirt with a pair of trousers and office shoes, and I’m ready to talk with clients and investors.
Let me tell you about my story so you can get some context. I started as an entry-level web developer at a travel-based tech startup. We had no dress code, so I came to work in what makes me comfortable.
A couple of years down the line, I got promoted to the CTO of the company based on the work I did, not what I wore. And I still wear what makes me comfortable. Why? Because by being in comfortable attire, I get to be more productive and efficient, which helps me take care of my responsibilities.
Not all offices use this approach, but when you come to work and don’t feel judged based on what you wear, it boosts team morale and helps keep everyone on the same playing field. So, if you’re just starting up, use your co-workers for guidance on what to wear. When everyone looks equal, that’s when teamwork works best.
What you wear to work as a programmer depends on where you work – the particular company or sector.
Most tech firms have a no dress code, so you’re allowed to wear whatever makes you comfortable, albeit presentable.
However, if you’re working at a non-tech company, expect business casual as the norm.
That said, companies that directly deal with clients and customers still have a formal dress code, even requiring programmers to wear suits, boots, and a necktie.
Other than this, what you wear will also depend on any special occasions like interviews, meetings, or office parties.