Why you should dress up for work, even at your startup.

Chris Algiere
March 14, 2017

As far as startups go, LaunchSource is a little different. Not necessarily because of the technology we use, the hours we work, or the close knit team we've cultivated, but in a visual way: we dress up for work.

To a lot of people working at tech startups, dressing up for work is a relic of the 80's corporate culture, and a practice that was left behind for good reason. But by changing the expectations of dress, did the startup tech companies throw the baby out with the bathwater?

Today I'm going to address a few business-impacting reasons why you should consider dressing up for work.

Preface: No Suits

Before we dive in I want to say that I'm not advocating for making everyone wear suits. That's not the point. Suits aren't very creative and can feel like a prison uniform if everyone's wearing them. I'm advocating for something more like business casual attire.

I'm also not a stylist, but to illustrate the point I'll give a simple example:

A shirt tucked in to nice jeans or slacks. Add a sport coat if you want to. Leave the sneakers at home or in your gym bag. Forget a tie.

And one tip for those of you who hate ironing: go to a dry cleaner. It costs less than $4 per nice dress shirt to be cleaned, pressed, and put on a hanger for you. For a week’s worth of shirts, that costs less than 3 beers at a bar in Boston.

Change your mindset early in the morning

When you dress up there are a couple of changes to your morning routine. First - there's no rolling out of bed, throwing on a t-shirt and running to catch the bus all within 10 minutes. If you're going to look good, you're going to iron your shirt, tuck it in, find a belt that matches your shoes. All these things put you in a good mental place early in the day that will set you up for success.

It tells your mind and body "I'm going to work, get ready". If you wear the same thing to work as you do when you're drinking beer and playing lawn games with your buddies, your attitude has the potential to slip between the scenarios. The reminders are there throughout the day. When that 3:30 feeling hits, you look down at your shoes, remember that you've got professional standards, and power through.

You're not Mark Zuckerberg

Zuck seems like a cool guy. He created one of the most valuable companies in the world, he gives a lot of money to charity, and he's known to wear a hoodie to board meetings.

There are a few key differences: billions of dollars, few people he has to directly answer to, and very little (if any) potential career progression - he's got the job he wants.

If you had a billion dollars, you probably wouldn't have much to gain by dressing up, but most of us do have something to gain.

I’ve heard the Steve Jobs argument, that wearing the same thing everyday allows you to focus on more important things. That makes sense if you’re doing CEO work at 4am, but for someone new to the workforce, thinking about what you wear might be the right thing to get your brain cranking in the morning.

Teach professionalism to your young workers

If you're a Sales Manager, I actually recommend making new SDR hires follow a stricter dress code for the first month on the job. Look, a lot of college grads aren't sure how to act in the real world. Help them get into the professional mindset by having them dress up.

They'll probably go home to their apartment and hear it from their unemployed roommates, but eventually they'll take pride in their appearance, their company, and the work they do.

Last idea: make it a team thing - your SDRs will bond over it and everyone in the company will know who the people with the toughest jobs are. They can thank them for serving on the front lines of sales.

You never know who you are going to meet at a food truck, co-working space, or a bar.

As I'm pitching the idea of this blog to our CEO, sitting at a small table in WeWork Saint James, a well-known VC approached our table to say hello. He was with his marketing counterpart and we had a nice introduction. I dressed up for no reason today, but I'm glad I look good.

The point is that you never know who you're going to meet whether it's at the bar after work, on the T, in a coffee shop, or in an elevator.

Wherever it is, as a young professional, brand yourself as someone worth talking to.