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Old 10-06-2019, 09:19 PM
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Workplaces that allow jeans/have no dress code for when meeting clients


We live in an age when many workplaces that in the past would have required employees to dress up either have no dress code at all or at any rate allow the wearing of jeans and generally casual clothes. However, it is still common even in such places for people to be expected to (or to expect themselves to) dress up at least to the level of "business casual", if not to put on a suit and tie, when meeting clients. I was wondering if anyone here works somewhere where "jeans allowed"/"no dress code" applies in practice even to client meetings? Do any of you have personal experience meeting your company's clients for the first time and scoring deals while wearing jeans or other totally casual clothes?

Just for the record, I used to have a (very small) side business as an immigration consultant. In general, my clients were the people who needed residency permits - typically other young ESL teachers in a certain country, not people for whom one would expect to dress up. I did have a few "corporate clients" in language schools that I cooperated with, in the sense that they referred teachers who needed residency permits to me, so people who knew me and didn't pay me directly. However, once I did have a meeting with a true potential corporate client to offer my services, I.E. the managing director of another language school. Out of personal principle, I did not dress up above the level of the best clothes that I would wear on a normal day; I wore jeans (and probably a collared sweatshirt or polo shirt; this is also what I would normally wear to a job interview). Although I did not get the contract, they did ask me to prepare some potential materials for instructing teachers about residency permits, so perhaps they gave me some serious consideration. Interestingly, I now teach in this school and I get the impression that the director, with whom I have remained familiar, appreciates me.
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Old 10-06-2019, 09:45 PM
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I work at an advertising agency. I'd guess that 90% of the people in my office wear jeans on a regular basis when they're in the office. It's not uncommon for me to be in the office wearing a sweatshirt (with a t-shirt on underneath), jeans, and sneakers, if I don't have a face-to-face client meeting on that day.

When we meet with clients, what we wear varies depending on the clients' dress code. My main client is pretty old-school and formal, and we wear business attire (e.g., suit and tie) when meeting with them.

But, most clients are business casual now, and when we meet with them, it's not uncommon at all for members of our teams to be wearing jeans -- I'll typically be wearing a sportcoat, a dress shirt (but no tie), nice jeans, and casual shoes (but not sneakers).

Last edited by kenobi 65; 10-06-2019 at 09:46 PM.
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Old 10-06-2019, 09:47 PM
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I work as a distillery consultant. I make it a point to wear a collared shirt when I meet clients but that is normally over cargo pants and flip flops or shorts and flip flops unless I'm on location then I'm wearing boots. I've signed hundreds of thousands of dollars of work this way. This includes jobs working as an expert witness, though with one of those I did have to assure the client I would wear a suit to court.
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Old 10-06-2019, 10:03 PM
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My company is weird, I am based in the DC which has the pretty typical DC dress code. HQ is in Vermont and they have absolutely no dress code whatsoever under any circumstances. Most client interactions happen here in DC, so it isn't really an issue.
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Old 10-07-2019, 01:33 AM
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I was wondering if anyone here works somewhere where "jeans allowed"/"no dress code" applies in practice even to client meetings? Do any of you have personal experience meeting your company's clients for the first time and scoring deals while wearing jeans or other totally casual clothes?
Yes, but I've lived for most of my professional life in Europe; we tend to see American etiquette as absurdly outdated. The only places which have detailed dress codes are American companies, and they tend to run in trouble if any of the worker's reps have a backbone (from "if people have to dress a certain way, you need to either provide clothing, give a clothing allowance, or pay above minimum wage" to "nice gender-based discrimination here on page 3, paragraph 5...").

I tend to dress up some when I'm meeting clients in Corporate Central, but even when working for one of those companies that still means nice jeans and a good top (blouse, tunic..., just not a T-shirt). If it's at a factory, it's nerdy T-shirts time. Clients are the IT department in Corporate Central, which in turn is in the company's largest factory? For the first meeting, the T-shirt will be one of those whose nerdy motif isn't terribly in-your-face (this one would work, for example).
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Last edited by Nava; 10-07-2019 at 01:37 AM.
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Old 10-07-2019, 02:43 AM
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I work in a government organisation. Only a few years ago I wore ties and dress clothes to work. Plenty of guys wore suits. On Fridays everyone dressed down. Our dress code now is, in its entirety, "Dress appropriately." I only wear business clothes when I am doing interviewing, because most applicants come all dressed up and I figure they will feel more comfortable if I am. The rest of my meetings I wear what I usually wear which often is jeans.
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Old 10-07-2019, 02:58 AM
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I work at an advertising agency. I'd guess that 90% of the people in my office wear jeans on a regular basis when they're in the office. It's not uncommon for me to be in the office wearing a sweatshirt (with a t-shirt on underneath), jeans, and sneakers, if I don't have a face-to-face client meeting on that day.

When we meet with clients, what we wear varies depending on the clients' dress code. My main client is pretty old-school and formal, and we wear business attire (e.g., suit and tie) when meeting with them.

But, most clients are business casual now, and when we meet with them, it's not uncommon at all for members of our teams to be wearing jeans -- I'll typically be wearing a sportcoat, a dress shirt (but no tie), nice jeans, and casual shoes (but not sneakers).
I work in a brand agency, albeit in the UK, and it sounds like our dress code is similar. If clients come to us, then unless it's a new business pitch, many of us will be in jeans. If we're going to a client we know, then even if the clients tend to wear suits and tie, we wouldn't - we're a creative agency, they don't expect - or want - us to look like them.

If it's a new business pitch at the client offices, for a formal company (think bank or law firm), then we'll maybe ditch the jeans - or opt for black - but ties are a rarity. Maybe the CEO or client services director will wear one occasionally, if only to make themselves look like the grown up in the room.
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Old 10-07-2019, 04:13 AM
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Welcome to the Straight Dope, The Maple Leaf.

It may not be obvious from the forum names, but the General Questions forum is for questions with factual answers. Questions seeking personal experiences generally belong in our In My Humble Opinion forum. It's no biggie. I'll move the thread for you.

Moving thread from GQ to IMHO.

Again, welcome, and we hope that you enjoy your time here.
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Old 10-07-2019, 05:23 AM
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Law office. Suits are required obviously in most cases, but its become common place to dress down when there is a day where no Court or meeting is expected, only office work is done. Its also become acceptable to meet clients in the office while dressed infomally or casually, less so when we go to meet. Hell right now, I am wearing jeans and shirt and joggers for shoes. Will meet a client in half an hour.

5 years ago, would have been figuratively shot even for thinking about this.
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Old 10-07-2019, 06:20 AM
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I was a DOD employee for 26 years. For 16 of those years, I worked in an industrial setting, so the main clothing restrictions had to do with safety - like steel-toed shoes on the production floors. When I first started there, I dressed in nicer clothes, but after the first grease stain, it was much more casual, and washable.

The other 10 years I was a cubicle denizen in a secure facility. We were expected to dress professionally for meetings or presentations, but otherwise, as long as you didn't look like you were headed to the beach, you were OK. At least until a Marine was put in charge of the organization. He declared no jeans, no sneaks, no t-shirts, tho he didn't go so far as to demand ties and skirts.

Some folks decided if they couldn't wear jeans, they'd wear loud, plaid pants and such. It was silly for a while. Sillier still, because the head Marine was based several hundred miles away from us and rarely came on site. Anyway, I just switched to black jeans and black sneaks, and since I rarely went to meetings, it never became an issue. Goodness knows, my attire didn't affect how I did my job, tho the silly rules did lead to a lot of wasted time with folks bitching about it.

Last edited by FairyChatMom; 10-07-2019 at 06:20 AM.
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Old 10-07-2019, 06:23 AM
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Man oh man have times changed.

My first real job was in a supermarket in the late 1970s. I was a "bagger". Job duties included bagging groceries, general clean-up, bottle sorting, and shopping cart shagging in all sorts of weather.

Even for this sort of work we were required to wear a dress shirt - tucked in, top button buttoned - and a necktie at all times. And no jeans, ever. No sneakers either. The rare dress code violators were sent home.
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Old 10-07-2019, 07:05 AM
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Probably not the same level as a customer meeting, but I had a former boss call me up one day and ask if I could come in that afternoon and interview for a position he had open. I told him I wasn't really dressed for an interview, and he said "Don't worry about it, we're pretty casual around here." So I showed up for the interview in jeans and whatever shirt I was wearing that day -- and he was wearing shorts and a Hawaiian shirt.

(And no, I didn't get the job, but it wasn't because of how I was dressed.)
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Old 10-07-2019, 09:18 AM
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I work for a Silicon Valley tech company (in the NYC office) where most people work remotely. Around the office people may wear T-shirts, jeans and sneakers. But for client meetings or conferences, I will generally adjust my wardrobe to what the client wears. Usually at a minimum, a typical "Mr Midtown" look of dress pants and dress shirt from Brooks Brothers or Thomas Pink or some such place (maybe with a fleece vest or sports jacket if it's chilly). I may dial it up to a suit with no tie or dial it down to jeans, shirt and a sports coat.
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Old 10-07-2019, 09:36 AM
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Probably not the same level as a customer meeting, but I had a former boss call me up one day and ask if I could come in that afternoon and interview for a position he had open. I told him I wasn't really dressed for an interview, and he said "Don't worry about it, we're pretty casual around here." So I showed up for the interview in jeans and whatever shirt I was wearing that day -- and he was wearing shorts and a Hawaiian shirt.

(And no, I didn't get the job, but it wasn't because of how I was dressed.)
Last time I went in for an interview I had adequate notice and I was still told to just wear "a button down and jeans". I was flabbergasted. I'm relatively used to a more casual office (golf shirt and jeans), but wearing it to an interview? I was stunned. I ended up getting the job too.

The only other time I was too casual for an interview was just like in Shoeless's situation. They asked if I could come right then. I said I was in no where near interview ready (hadn't even shaved!) but they said they didn't care. Didn't get that job, but it wasn't a good one anyway I don't think.
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Old 10-07-2019, 09:42 AM
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We have a ping-pong table in the common area. When a client is coming in we'll get an email about keep noise down in that area (since it's right next to the big conference room); there's nothing about dress a bit nicer.

I usually wear chinos/khakis/Dockers M-Th & jeans on Friday but when there was a MNF (Thursday edition) football game I wore jeans & a jersey. The only comments were positive ones. My boss wears jeans more often than I do.
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Old 10-07-2019, 12:57 PM
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I wear jeans to meet clients any day I'm not in court. One of the perks of being self-employed.
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Old 10-07-2019, 01:54 PM
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In academia (staff), the men still wear ties every day. Women have a little more leeway, but it's still business casual at minimum. Our particular division grants one "jeans" day a month, but only if you have no meetings. Hilarious, because most of the faculty are in jeans on a daily basis.
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Old 10-07-2019, 03:03 PM
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In academia (staff), the men still wear ties every day. Women have a little more leeway, but it's still business casual at minimum. Our particular division grants one "jeans" day a month, but only if you have no meetings. Hilarious, because most of the faculty are in jeans on a daily basis.
I'll confirm that most of the faculty wear jeans. I guess I never noticed what our support staff wear.

My wife used to work for a translation company whose owner enforced a dress code despite the fact that the translators never met the clients. Come winter days with temperatures south of -20, she simply wore slacks. He made comments but never did anything about it. The company was later sold to the Mormon church and they apparently didn't care. Imagine someone more uptight than the Mormons.
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Old 10-07-2019, 03:17 PM
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I work in a brand agency, albeit in the UK, and it sounds like our dress code is similar. If clients come to us, then unless it's a new business pitch, many of us will be in jeans. If we're going to a client we know, then even if the clients tend to wear suits and tie, we wouldn't - we're a creative agency, they don't expect - or want - us to look like them.
Yes, very similar. Generally, clients do sort of expect us to look a little more "creative" than they do , and our creatives, in particular, tend to dress a little funkier than the account executives. (I'm a strategist, so the expectation for my attire is somewhere between "crazy professor" and "cool older guy.")

In the particular case of my main client, their expectation (explicitly told to the head of the account when we started on the business) was that we were to be in business attire whenever we met with them at their offices. Interestingly, on the rare occasions when we've met with them elsewhere (either at our offices, or at a "neutral site"), they dress in business casual, and have no issue with us being in casual attire, either -- it seems to be part of their culture that "in the office, we wear suits."
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Old 10-07-2019, 11:28 PM
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I worked in a Silicon Valley company. I wore khakis, but I was always overdressed. People wore jeans or often shorts.
I noticed that sales people who called on us used to wear suits, but in the past 5 years or so stopped and wore more casual clothes. Not jeans, but khakis.

When I started at Sun Microsystems in 1997 we got a handout about how Scott hated ties, and had to be convinced to put on a suit when meeting with the premier of China, so you can see what the culture was.
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Old 10-08-2019, 10:02 AM
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When I worked for a state agency there was no formal dress codes, a lot of the techs and journeyman engineers wore jeans but most of us engineers in the middle ranks wore dress pants and shirt. Managers wore ties with or without jackets.

Now working at home for a consultant, I can wear whatever I want which at the moment is sweat pants and sweatshirt.
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Old 10-08-2019, 01:08 PM
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I'll confirm that most of the faculty wear jeans. I guess I never noticed what our support staff wear.
Yep, I teach in jeans. I wear a collared shirt for the classroom, but field classes (I teach in a Geology/Hydrology program) are as casual as it gets. I'm actually on the formal side of the faculty - there are more than a few who wear shorts and t-shirts to work regularly. We're primarily a research institution though, so they're seldom in front of students. For meetings with project sponsors (the academic equivalent of clients), we all tend to dress the way they do.

Support staff here vary. Financial services and HR are relatively formal; but the departmental admins who interact directly with us most often generally dress like the faculty.
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Old 10-09-2019, 10:34 AM
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Yes, very similar. Generally, clients do sort of expect us to look a little more "creative" than they do , and our creatives, in particular, tend to dress a little funkier than the account executives. (I'm a strategist, so the expectation for my attire is somewhere between "crazy professor" and "cool older guy.")

In the particular case of my main client, their expectation (explicitly told to the head of the account when we started on the business) was that we were to be in business attire whenever we met with them at their offices. Interestingly, on the rare occasions when we've met with them elsewhere (either at our offices, or at a "neutral site"), they dress in business casual, and have no issue with us being in casual attire, either -- it seems to be part of their culture that "in the office, we wear suits."
One of my clients is a law firm and behaves like this. The managing partner is a stickler for dress code, and we all make sure we're suited and booted when he's in town. But he's the only one of my (many) clients who's so traditional.

(I'm a creative, and female, so get away with more. Our strategists tend to lean more towards 'scruffy professor' than older cool guy. Not that I'd say that to their face, as clearly they think they're super cool).
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Old 10-09-2019, 10:49 AM
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I'm a software developer. I don't meet clients that often, but I don't dress up when I do. The first time I went to a client's office, I asked my manager if I should wear a suit. He said "No. Wear jeans, or we'll lose our geek cred." I'm not meeting with the business guys. I'm meeting with the technical guys. And they (generalizing wildly here) tend to distrust people in suits and trust those jeans and tshirts.
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Old 10-09-2019, 11:34 AM
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I wear jeans to meet clients any day I'm not in court. One of the perks of being self-employed.
Yep, I'm self employed as well, and wear whatever I damn well please. I once had an employee "turn me in" to my business manager because I wasn't following the dress code.
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Old 10-09-2019, 12:17 PM
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I work in the video game industry. I usually wear slacks and a dress shirt to work - no tie. When I started my current job, a producer took me aside and told me that I didn't need to "dress up" every day.
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Old 10-09-2019, 01:29 PM
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One of my clients is a law firm and behaves like this. The managing partner is a stickler for dress code, and we all make sure we're suited and booted when he's in town. But he's the only one of my (many) clients who's so traditional.
Several former colleagues of mine are now at another ad agency down the street from us; one of their big clients is a major hospital. Apparently, hospitals are another industry where senior management is often still very old-school (and most of them are doctors); the CEO at their client is a stickler for suit-and-tie. Anyone at that ad agency who works on that account learns to keep a jacket and tie in their office just in case they have to go to the clients' offices for a meeting -- they have told me about instances where someone didn't have a tie on, and they ran into the CEO, who unfailingly would then make a comment about, "that must be one of those new invisible ties." You would think that the CEO of a major research hospital would have better things to worry about...
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Old 10-09-2019, 04:44 PM
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In my function, when meeting with outside parties, I'm typically the client, so I wear pretty much what I want. We have no official dress code. I expect my team to dress in clothes that are not ratty, worn out, a collared shirt for men, etc. If I'm meeting with bankers and I'm asking for money, I typically will put on a blazer, etc.
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Old 10-11-2019, 04:50 PM
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I work in a government organisation. Only a few years ago I wore ties and dress clothes to work. Plenty of guys wore suits. On Fridays everyone dressed down. Our dress code now is, in its entirety, "Dress appropriately." I only wear business clothes when I am doing interviewing, because most applicants come all dressed up and I figure they will feel more comfortable if I am. The rest of my meetings I wear what I usually wear which often is jeans.
Would you have the authority to tell your interviewees that they don't have to dress up when they come to interview with you? If so, may I make so bold as to invite you to change your practice and, instead of dressing up better when interviewing people, to wear what you normally would, and to inform candidates before the interview that they can wear whatever they want, or that it's OK for them to wear jeans, or whatever? If you were willing to do that, you would, IMO, be doing them more of a favor than if you dressed up for the interview. If there's no serious dress code, then why not explicitly release them from the artificial societal duty to "dress to impress"? OTOH, by dressing up yourself, you may confuse the interviewees into thinking there is a strict dress code and it may take them longer to figure out afterward that there is not (this actually happened to me once. One of the few interviews for which I didn't wear jeans, for my last summer job before I left home, probably beacuse my mother made me dress up, my future boss did dress up quite visibly, whereas she would wear, at times, jeans and a t-shirt later when I was actually working for her. I actually found it a bit intimidating. As I saw other people at the workplace wearing jeans, I came in jeans on the first day, hoping I wouldn't be censured for it. No one said anything, but I was confused for a long time afterward if I had acted appropriately and wondered if I shouldn't have asked whether there was a dress code). If "dress appropriately" is the sum total of your dress code, then I think it would be a nice gesture on your part to inform interviewees of this in advance and let them know how they may come dressed to the interview; dressing more formally than you normally do yourself when interviewing may confuse or intimidate some interviewes.

This is exactly what I did years ago. I had a brief stint at a part-time HR position in a language school I worked for about 13 years ago. I helped hire other native speaker teachers, and would always tell them before they came to interview with me that I didn't care if they dressed up or not. Interestlngly, one French-Canadian girl [I'm Canadian, by the way] nevertheless came well-dressed, in a skirt, boots and with her hair pulled back. I deliberately asked her what she thought of my comment to her that she could come dressed as she pleased. She replied that she thought it was appropriate to dress up for the interview (which IMO she was at complete liberty to do - I hadn't told her that she had to wear jeans ). I proceeded to ask her if she would refuse to hire someone who came to an interview conducted by her casually dressed. She replied that she would care at the person's qualifications rather than their dress, but that speaking for herself, she thought it appropriate to dress up for an interview. I did hire her one way or the other.


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Originally Posted by iamthewalrus(:3= View Post
I'm a software developer. I don't meet clients that often, but I don't dress up when I do. The first time I went to a client's office, I asked my manager if I should wear a suit. He said "No. Wear jeans, or we'll lose our geek cred." I'm not meeting with the business guys. I'm meeting with the technical guys. And they (generalizing wildly here) tend to distrust people in suits and trust those jeans and tshirts.
LOL, that still sounds like a dress code. You're adapting your dress to what you think will impress the client, not to what you want to wear (that said, probably more people today would want to wear jeans than a suit and tie anyway).

Last edited by The Maple Leaf; 10-11-2019 at 04:53 PM.
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Old 10-11-2019, 04:55 PM
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I wear jeans to meet clients any day I'm not in court. One of the perks of being self-employed.
Indeed. When I was knew a partner asked me why I had a suit on in the office. I said a new client was coming in. An injured Alaskan fisherman. He asked if the guy fired his old client for wearing a suit.



Sometimes I'll wear jeans to a deposition at a big defense firm, just because I know the big firm gang will be jealous of my freedom.
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Old 10-12-2019, 09:20 AM
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Several former colleagues of mine are now at another ad agency down the street from us; one of their big clients is a major hospital. Apparently, hospitals are another industry where senior management is often still very old-school (and most of them are doctors); the CEO at their client is a stickler for suit-and-tie. Anyone at that ad agency who works on that account learns to keep a jacket and tie in their office just in case they have to go to the clients' offices for a meeting -- they have told me about instances where someone didn't have a tie on, and they ran into the CEO, who unfailingly would then make a comment about, "that must be one of those new invisible ties." You would think that the CEO of a major research hospital would have better things to worry about...
Having worked in 2 major Boston teaching hospitals, I can confirm that this is true here. It was a huge deal when guys were allowed to ditch ties in the office, even if they rarely or never saw another soul. Jeans were not allowed except on charity days (pay $5 to this charity and you can wear jeans on the specific day) or maybe a skeleton crew day like the day after thanksgiving.

Other ways that I found the healthcare industry to be behind the times is a reluctance to evolve learning and development to online classes as opposed to in-person (people by and large struggled with new technology. I once tried to do a webex class and spent 25 out of the 45 minutes taking people through engaging with the platform. It was a disaster). Also, working from home was the exception and not the norm in the two hospitals I worked in, and this was as recent as January of this year. If there's a blizzard and you can work from home to avoid using PTO (all hospital employees are considered essential personnel and are expected to get to work, even if the governor had called a state of emergency), then ok. But otherwise, it's a very butts-in-seats culture.

Last edited by lorene; 10-12-2019 at 09:20 AM.
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Old 10-12-2019, 09:41 AM
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I'll confirm that most of the faculty wear jeans. I guess I never noticed what our support staff wear.


Pretty sure that means support staff have a dress code and they're adhering to it.

As a "support staff" person myself (IT at a very, very large law firm), I get a bit more leeway than most people at law firms (khakis and button-downs are basically the uniform of the IT drone), and nobody (meaning lawyers) notices me. But I guarantee you that if I showed up to work in violation of the dress code, I'd get noticed.
  #33  
Old 10-12-2019, 03:45 PM
Hilarity N. Suze is offline
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I was the managing editor of a weekly newspaper, and everybody on the editorial side wore jeans. Everybody in the composing room wore jeans. One reporter dressed in a suit on occasion, I think because his jeans were all dirty. On occasion when we went to things like governmental press conferences we were encouraged to dress a little more formally but there wasn't blowback if we didn't. Like, one day a reporter was supposed to go and meet with a congress person, only that reporter was sick that day so I went, and I was dressed in jeans. I might have dressed up a little bit, had I known, but maybe not, because I feel it is not really the job of a journalist to suck up in any way to a politician.

The advertising people dressed up. The publisher came to work in fancy velour sweatsuits.

However, in my last job, as a book editor, we rarely--and by "rarely" I mean once in three years--faced one of our writers, or our suppliers, or anyone except the UPS driver, and yet we had a dress code. No jeans, not even on Friday, and no open-toed shoes. Weird.

Last edited by Hilarity N. Suze; 10-12-2019 at 03:46 PM.
  #34  
Old 10-12-2019, 10:32 PM
skdo23 is offline
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My experience with several large law firms is that jeans are/were ok on casual Fridays at places that otherwise require suits during the rest of the week, but when firms switch to a “business casual” dress code they are prohibited even on Fridays.
  #35  
Old 10-17-2019, 04:43 PM
Kovitlac is offline
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I work at a B2B job where client meetings are almost always conducted remotely. We have a main office, of course, and I wear jeans/jean leggings every day. While there is a dress code, I've never actually seen it. Everyone dresses pretty
business casual'.

A client is looking at stopping in sometime in the next couple weeks. So far no one has said anything to me about needing to step things up, so I assume how I dress is just fine.

Really I just try to stay away from graphic tees (I love gaming, so for me that means mostly geeky/nerdy themed shirts, lol) and sneakers. Although I did wear a pair of funky pink tennis shoes the other day and no one batted an eye.
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