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What is the right dress code in business for project managers?

Every now and then I have the luxury and may fall back on a student for support. I like to do that, because such an internship helps both sides. The student gets to see first hand how project management is lived on a daily basis and I learn new trends and what is taught at the universities. In addition, a fresh, young look at our topics is always very helpful. After all, we have been involved since 2004.

Recently, my intern came to the office and asked for advice on dress code in business. This resulted in an interesting discussion, which was repeatedly checked by Google. I found out again that there are actually two groups:

  • unofficial dress codes
  • official dress codes

Of course you can ask your business partner in case of uncertainty. But the answer is often the biggest trap: "Just put on what you feel most comfortable with". I'm sure the older ones of us have fallen into this trap one or two times or another - I don't even rule myself out of it. Therefore I would like to make a short recommendation today for prospective project managers (and of course also other business people).

Unofficial dress codes

Even if there are no specifications, the choice of the right garment is by no means irrelevant. Especially because project management is used in so many industries, the dress code always depends on the industry. A site manager certainly has different needs for his clothes than a PM in a banking environment. Therefore, here are three personal basic rules, which significantly reduce the number of possible fat cups:

  1. look up: As a rule, managers make it easiest to recognize written or unwritten rules. But beware: even if the boss appears in shorts and a T-shirt, this is by no means a carte blanche for the intern!
  2. look at the crowd: a quick glance at a group of people from a company or a department often gives the right feeling for a dress code.
  3. At the first meeting you are better overdressed than underdressed. I can easily live with appearing in a suit on the first working day and reaping the one or other smile of my new colleagues. This makes for more interesting conversations. It's better than being the only one in jeans.

Official dress codes

Here is an attempt at a definition. Of course you can discuss single details:

  • Smart casual - A casual business outfit. The gentleman wears a day suit with shirt, closed shoes, preferably discreet colours, a tie is rarely used. The lady wears a costume or trouser suit and can combine another top instead of a blouse.

  • Creative casual – in creative industries such as advertising, information technology (especially web design) and television usual variant of sporty elegant. The gentleman wears a shirt or T-shirt, polo shirt and jacket, jeans and closed leather shoes or sneakers. The lady wears a skirt or long trousers to the top.

  • Business casual – A difficult and volatile definition that can mean almost anything between full business clothing and smart casual. On the US West Coast, this can even mean shorts, high-quality sandals and T-shirts; in Europe, on the other hand, it can often only mean temporary permission to do without a tie.

  • Business attire - costume or suit with a tie.

  • Casual Friday comes from North America, where it has been practiced in more and more companies since the 1950s. On Friday, because of the upcoming weekend, casual or sportier clothing may be worn.

After all, I'm like Karl Lagerfeld, who said: "Whoever wears sweatpants has lost control over his life". This applies in particular to business life.

No offense...
Frank Blome
(today on Friday in jeans with white shirt - the so-called 'Zetsche' dress)

Posted by Frank Blome on April 26th, 2019 under Project Management
Tags: friday

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