If casual dress codes have done anything, they've made it harder for a select group of stakeholders in the employment process to figure out how to dress. Take these two examples from my life last week:
Me (to candidate): "Hey, the other thing I wanted to let you know is that we're business casual to casual in how we dress in the office at Kinetix. I'm probably going to be wearing jeans, so do what you need to, but keep that in mind."
Client (to me): "Hey, we've got a casual dress code at ACME. You don't have to wear a suit and tie, if fact, it'd probably be better if you didn't."
Simple, right? Not so fast. If anything, it can make it harder. You've got a casual to business casual dress code. Great! That's attractive for you to have as an employer, but it's hell on the people who want to work with you/for you. Thoughts that go through the mind of the candidate/potential partner:
1. No tie - got it. What about the jacket? If I go shirt with a jacket, is that too much? Do I get penalized for that?
2. OK - I'm going no jacket. Do I go button up dress shirt? Polo? Hmm...
3. If they're casual, do I go for the full monty and wear jeans? That's who they are - do I get penalized in the "getting to know you" phase for wearing jeans like the rest of the company does? Is that good or bad if I do it?
It's tougher than it looks. And just in case you don't think people are judging you every step of the way, consider this video from Larry Summers (former president at Harvard), where he talks about the Winklevoss twins at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference. For those of you not in the know, the Winklevoss twins were featured in the movie The Social Network - the movie about the creation of Facebook - they claimed that Facebook founder Zuckerberg stole their idea and created Facebook.
"One of the things you learn as a college president is that if an undergraduate is wearing a tie and jacket on Thursday afternoon at three o'clock, there are two possibilities. One is that they're looking for a job and have an interview; the other is that they are an asshole. This was the latter case.”
Here's the video. Take a look....
Great stuff. My advice? Always go business casual. The extremes, regardless of what's been reported as acceptable, will probably kill you. Pick the middle option and hedge your bets...