Call off the fashion police.

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In what smells to me like more of a publicity stunt than any sort of rational study, a <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Sydney consultant has claimed that male IT workers are the worst dressed professionals.

 

Putting aside that in the article there is no mention of the study methodology or which group of workers actually attracted the best dressed (or least worst dressed) people, I briefly pondered the possibility of truth in this vile slander. Are male IT workers so badly dressed? Were cardigan wearing accountants not a survey option? What about plumbers? Is someone seriously saying that the standardized outfit of dockers and a polo is less fashionable than plumber’s cleavage?

 

I will admit, some guys in IT do have a bit of a vendorwear problem.

 

For the uninitiated, Venderwear, coined in Douglas Coupland’s book Microserfs, relates to someone who will only wear clothes that they’ve obtained free from vendors at IT trade shows.

 

Is vendorwear unfashionable? No! Cardigans are unfashionable! Acid wash jeans are unfashionable! Hawaiian shirts and board shorts worn in the datacenter in the middle of winter a thousand miles from the beach are unfashionable! Compared to these atrocities, a vendorwear polo shirt coupled with a pair of cargo pants that have enough pockets to store PDAs, USB flash drives, mobile phones, a red swingline stapler and a soda for lunch is relatively benign. IT fashion is functional!

 

Just because most IT guys don’t read the glossy magazines and would rather spend two hours at the dentist’s office than two hours browsing for the perfect shirt doesn’t mean that we are unfashionable. In general (despite the fact that I’m blogging about this article) most guys in IT don’t care about fashion. It isn’t just IT, most professional guys don’t care about fashion. How can IT workers stand out of the pack as the worst dressed when we naturally aim towards the middle of the road? Vendors know this, that’s why vendorwear is in fairly neutral middle of the road colors. When was the last time you saw a tie dyed polo shirt sporting a router manufacturer’s logo?

 

Guys in IT departments quickly learn that if they stand out, they end up with the shonky jobs: taking minutes at meetings, washing coffee cups and spending Friday afternoon wiping the cruft out from under the server rack. When it comes to the assignment of these sort of jobs, managers stalk their prey like lions in the African savannah. If your manager is stalking the cubicle range looking for someone to plonk an unpleasant task on, you don’t want to be the one that’s dressed differently to your comrades. Guys in IT implicitly know this. Being overly fashionable or overly unfashionable is just like being a metaphorical gazelle wearing a day-glo orange velour jacket. The lion will notice. Dressing out of the norm is like painting a big sign that says “I love scraping junk from the filter in the server room’s air conditioner” on your back. Besides, does any IT company give away have day-glo orange velour vendorwear? I think not!

 

The guys in IT may not dress as snappily as those guys from marketing do, but I’m pretty sure that we aren’t the bottom of the barrel.