The Beginning Of The End Of Government Suits?

August 22, 2014

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.