The Beginning of the End of Government Suits?

Despite my advice in yesterday’s post, sometimes you can wear whatever the hell you want to a job interview. Wired calls attention to a the White House’s attempt to recruit IT talent to its new U.S. Digital Service—a project led by ex-Google engineer Mikey Dickerson. A point this video returns to over and over is the government’s accommodation of coders’ traditionally lax dress code: Dickerson seems to favor nondescript, untucked cotton button downs and khakis, while most of the President’s men are all suit all the time. In one segment Dickerson is wearing a jacket and tie—he jokes that it’s only because the President is in the room; Dickerson’s dress shirt appears to be made of denim.

The often-stereotyped uniform of the computer programmer/IT guy/coder is really the politician’s “can’t look like I care too much” uniform taken a step further: politicians won’t wear clothes that might be perceived as flashy because they could signify vanity, conspicuous wealth, or a lack of seriousness. They want you to know they have more important things to worry about. The Silicon Valley aesthetic’s rejection of, uh, aesthetics is more about, as Jesse put it, creating the facade of meritocracy: “Whoever hacks best wins.” Politicians want the approval of everyone, or at least 51% of everyone, and enough people still believe that SERIOUS BUSINESS requires a suit and tie to justify them. Tech guys’ attitude is a rejection of needing any approval at all. “This is what I feel like wearing. You need me. Take it or leave it.”

The implication of the video is great: that the government is worried its missing the opportunity to hire the best people for the job because those people wouldn’t even consider taking a job where they’d have to wear a suit.

-Pete

Above: A page out of a 1960s dress code book for high school students. Found via Threaded, who has an article on the subject. 

Above: A page out of a 1960s dress code book for high school students. Found via Threaded, who has an article on the subject

Q and Answer: What Is Cocktail Attire?
Kyle writes: When one is instructed to wear cocktail attire, what is appropriate?
Cocktail attire doesn’t have a strict definition - it’s a way of requesting clothes that are appropriate for the evening, more formal than casual clothes and less formal than evening wear (like black tie or white tie).
What you should put on when the invitation says “Cocktail Attire” depends to a great extent on context. Cocktail attire at an after-work event for the warehouse workers at a paper company will likely be less formal than cocktail attire at a reception for the Metropolitan Opera. You’ll have to know your own wardrobe and have some idea of what sort of event you’re headed to if you want to make educated choices.
No matter how formal the event is, you’ll want to be appropriate for the time of day, which will almost certainly be after dark. That means favoring dark solid colors, wearing black shoes rather than brown and choosing suits over sport coats. Navy blue, dark gray and black are especially appropriate for evening. (Yes, I really am recommending black.)
On the casual side of the spectrum, you might wear something as simple as a sharp pair of pants, a pressed shirt and a v-neck sweater. You may even be able to get away with dark jeans. Remember when going casual after dark that your goal should be to look sharp. This means avoiding anything that looks sporty or outdoorsy and focusing on fit.
The classic cocktail attire for men is simple: a dark, solid suit. This can be worn with or without a similarly simple tie, depending on the formality of the event. A plain white or blue shirt and black shoes completes the look. If you wish, you can be a bit more fashion-forward in the styling of the suit in this context - you’re not at work. No pinstripes, please, those scream “business.”
Remember that this is one of the most flexible dress codes you’ll encounter. The key here is not so much formality as tone. Think of Sinatra or Bond in their black tie - that’s the tone you want to create, whether you’re wearing jeans and a sweater or a suit and tie.

Q and Answer: What Is Cocktail Attire?

Kyle writes: When one is instructed to wear cocktail attire, what is appropriate?

Cocktail attire doesn’t have a strict definition - it’s a way of requesting clothes that are appropriate for the evening, more formal than casual clothes and less formal than evening wear (like black tie or white tie).

What you should put on when the invitation says “Cocktail Attire” depends to a great extent on context. Cocktail attire at an after-work event for the warehouse workers at a paper company will likely be less formal than cocktail attire at a reception for the Metropolitan Opera. You’ll have to know your own wardrobe and have some idea of what sort of event you’re headed to if you want to make educated choices.

No matter how formal the event is, you’ll want to be appropriate for the time of day, which will almost certainly be after dark. That means favoring dark solid colors, wearing black shoes rather than brown and choosing suits over sport coats. Navy blue, dark gray and black are especially appropriate for evening. (Yes, I really am recommending black.)

On the casual side of the spectrum, you might wear something as simple as a sharp pair of pants, a pressed shirt and a v-neck sweater. You may even be able to get away with dark jeans. Remember when going casual after dark that your goal should be to look sharp. This means avoiding anything that looks sporty or outdoorsy and focusing on fit.

The classic cocktail attire for men is simple: a dark, solid suit. This can be worn with or without a similarly simple tie, depending on the formality of the event. A plain white or blue shirt and black shoes completes the look. If you wish, you can be a bit more fashion-forward in the styling of the suit in this context - you’re not at work. No pinstripes, please, those scream “business.”

Remember that this is one of the most flexible dress codes you’ll encounter. The key here is not so much formality as tone. Think of Sinatra or Bond in their black tie - that’s the tone you want to create, whether you’re wearing jeans and a sweater or a suit and tie.