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Dress to Smell Well

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Letters Do you BoFHs smell? Is the cost of a bar of soap and some natty threads too much? Such weighty questions were provoked by our recent letter "OK - I smell a bit" - but leave us BoFHs alone! from a sysadmin who resented being relegated to the smelly underclass by know-nothing IT types.

Here are your views.

I just read the reply you got from a Mr. Angry, and I do need to voice a bit of support. However, I'd like to voice a more balanced opinion about the issue of IS/IT staff members and their personal appearance, as well. As a member of this group for over 7 years, I feel I've got a fairly good handle on this.

While it's true that the general impression of us lowly techs is less than fully desirable in the typically formal office environment, it's also generally accepted that the people who do the "dirty" work of crawling underneath/behind desks and into the guts of a typical office building can deviate from the traditional formal or semi-formal (read: business casual, whatever that's supposed to mean) office dress-code.

I'll use myself as an example. In my early days of office life, I was required to be dressed in a button-down shirt, khaki or black pants, and dress shoes. Obviously, working underneath desks is more difficult in that type of attire than it would be in a t-shirt and jeans. I wore out 2 pair of khaki pants within one week of working like this and approached management for a compromise. Jeans and t-shirts were them permitted specifically to myself (the only IS/IT staff member at the time) as long as it wasn't disruptive to the other office staff. That meant no holes and no obscene words or images. I even found that a good, relatively heavy, button-down shirt worked well with jeans and made a good impression on management.

Since that first experience, I've made sure to place expectations on a potential future employer during the interview that formal office dress will not work for the type of work that I would be hired for, and most have been accommodating. It's more important to be able to do one's job than to look good doing it, which seems to be the point Mr. Angry makes. However, there's a happy medium that should be reached with the policymakers if the existing policy hinders one's ability to do one's job.

I've often said that to change the mind(s) of management, you'll need to make a solid business case for them to do so. Explaining why a formal dress-code hinders your ability to do your job should be easy enough if you're worn a hole through the knee on a pair of pants. If your manager is unwilling to grant you an exception, simply request that the company reimburse you for clothing that is consumed while on company time. Shoes can be a safety issue, especially if they're slippery on carpet. Is the company willing to accept the risk that you'll slip and fall while lifting "up to 50 pounds" as most companies seem to require of us techs? It's less expensive, and makes more business sense, to allow you to deviate from the dress code than to force you to follow it to the letter. Instead of looking like they want you to look, you'd be a safer, more productive employee that costs the company less money. Most managers are more likely to see it your way if you were to explain it to them in terms they understand: the bottom line of their budget and productivity charts.

Todd Lynch

So you must dress to get well. Or is it that simple?

To The Smelly Techies:

Listen up guys, wake up and smell....well you're own armpits.

I too am a techie, and I too was once the mug crawling around vents trying to figure out what the hell the obviously drunk cable contractors did when wiring up the building.

I completely agree that the ideal clothing, as far as practicality goes, is loose fitting casual lothes.

However, have you thought about how long you really want to be in your current position?

Do you really want to be shouting down aggressive members of the sales team who cannot work out how to switch their projectors on?

Do you think your patience may one day run out when yet another director drives off with his iPaq left on top of his car?


Get yourself into a suit, shirt and tie. Keep a spare shirt and trousers in the office for when you get grubby. So your stuff is going to get dirty, so what? It almost always washes out. Hell you can even get machine washable suits from M&S these days, that will cut down on your dry cleaning bill.

Get a hair cut, and buy some shower gel. Keep deodorant in your drawer at work (not in the server room, it's flammable).

The only way management is ever going to start making good decisions, with sound technical knowledge, is when the grubby techies clean themselves up and get promoted.

You'll also find that talking to your users becomes easier. Let's face it, half of what we do is basically telling people that they're being stupid. They take it a lot better by someone who has made some sort of effort to look professional rather than like one of their teenage kids.

Mr Ex Smelly Techie, now IT Manager.

Doesn't the last paragraph invoke Godwin's Law?

Phil Payne

It probably does, Phil. But what threads? The conensus overwhelmingly favors having a wash&

Aah, Angry must be one of the ones who gives the rest of us a bad name. Have you ever heard of comfortable dockers and decent polos? Loose fitting, and still able to crawl on the floor (which I just finished doing with a printer) and in the rafters.

Only 8-12 hours a day, and you can't take a shower, or keep a toothbrush at your desk, or at least a box of mints?

Get a clue!

Ed Roden Senior Network Engineer

Thanks Ed.

The most damning critique as ever comes from the Nordic region:-

That people can't make 15-20 minutes a day to s**t, shower, shave (goes for women to) and brush their teeth (let's all be honest, no-one flosses) is beyond me. I work from home and I still choose to wear casual slacks and good dress shirts probably half the time (why? because they are comfortable, and a dress shirt breathes better then most T-shirts).

Buy a suit and shirt that actually fit and chances are you'll stop complaining about how uncomfortable they are. Same goes for fabrics, real fabric (i.e. high quality cotton or wool with a tight weave) does not itch. Or maybe you should see a doctor about it.

Kurt Seifried,

OK, that's decided. Wear loose clothes. It works for me.

Now can anyone find us a Bluetooth headset that doesn't make you look like you've just been Borged? Bluetooth headsets are very handy. They're the future, I just don't want to look & like& a twat. ®

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