Mandate - - Trend - By Ja­son Di­a­mond

A new dress code for the West Wing’s Tech Team has us won­der­ing

just how ca­sual we, as a so­ci­ety, can be.

We’ve all come to know the tech guy ‘look’: re­laxed, in­for­mal, yet icono­graphic. Steve Jobs had his turtle­neck, Mark Zucker­berg has his zip- down hood­ies. The strange thing is that many of th­ese guys could lit­er­ally wear a new suit from a Sav­ile Row tai­lor ev­ery sin­gle day, throw it out after one use, and it wouldn’t make a dent in their fi­nances. But they don’t.

“I wear a pair of jeans and a black T- shirt almost every­day,” Erik Sch­naken­berg, co-founder of Buck Ma­son, a start-up that sells ba­sic ca­su­als for men. “It’s one less thing to think about.” Sch­naken­berg also ad­heres to the idea of a man wear­ing a uni­form, much like Zucker­berg and the di­sheveled Sil­i­con Val­ley lot. It’s im­por­tant to point out, though, that none of th­ese men are also re­spon­si­ble for help­ing run the coun­try.

But now, with news that the White House—where the Leader of the Free World both works and re­sides—will let the US Dig­i­tal Ser­vices Team es­chew suits for short- sleeves, un­tucked shirts, and rum­pled khakis, we’re at the point where we have to ask just how ca­sual we, as a so­ci­ety, want to dress for work. Is ev­ery day be­com­ing Ca­sual Fri­day?

Hawaii first in­sti­tuted ‘Aloha Fri­day’ in 1966 as a way to kick start the de­clin­ing (now hand­somely back in style) Aloha shirt mar­ket on the is­land. By the ’90s, in an at­tempt to cre­ate a more re­laxed en­vi­ron­ment, the Hawai­ian idea evolved into more of­fices grant­ing ‘Ca­sual Fri­days,’ as em­ploy­ees be­gan shed­ding grey flan­nel suits and wear­ing khakis and polo shirts to their cu­bi­cles more of­ten dur­ing the work­week. For one day a week, some work­places al­lowed jeans and T- shirts in lieu of slacks and ties.

Now of­fices are more tol­er­ant of em­ploy­ees leav­ing the ties and sport coats at home nearly ev­ery other day of the week. Mikey Dick­er­son, ad­min of the US Dig­i­tal Ser­vices Team, said he’s at least made some con­ces­sions. He’s will­ing to wear col­lars and but­tons, and he even donned a suit and tie for a meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Obama, who said it made the team look ‘more of­fi­cial.’

“This is lit­er­ally only be­cause you’re here, Mr. Pres­i­dent,” Dick­er­son re­sponded. We get that a dress code is an old school con­cept that doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily work for a new gen­er­a­tion, and that peo­ple are in­di­vid­u­als who want to ex­press them­selves through their ap­pear­ance and want to be com­fort­able in stress­ful sit­u­a­tions.

Go to an of­fice in Mumbai, London or Brook­lyn and you’re likely to see peo­ple work­ing be­hind lap­tops, sit­ting on yoga balls, and wear­ing T- shirts, flip-flops, and cut- off denim shorts in meet­ings with clients. It might not be the norm ev­ery­where, but if it’s hap­pen­ing more in the big ci­ties, and if the West Wing is now ac­cept­ing wrin­kled slacks and but­ton-up shirts, how much more ca­sual will the rest of us be­come? And is it a bad thing if the an­swer is ‘more’?

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