Suits you, sir! The change from corporate to casual
I’ve just joined the Xero UK team as the new marketing communications writer in our UK marketing team. It’s been a mind-boggling few weeks, learning all the new systems, finding my feet and meeting all the great people that make up the UK team.
But one thing that’s really stood out is the dress code at Xero – or to be more exact, the lack of one. It’s definitely been a change from corporate to casual. I’ve come from a big, professional services organisation where ‘business casual’ still means ‘you can take your tie off if you’re feeling really daring’. But at Xero, and in the tech world in general, it’s much more of a jeans and t-shirt kinda vibe – and that’s truly been a breath of fresh air for me.
Wave goodbye to the suit and tie
There was a time when a suit and tie was a prerequisite for doing ‘serious business’ in most industries. If you wanted to create a professional impression, you put on the old ‘whistle and flute’, got suited, booted and attired with your most impressive neck tie and prepared yourself to deliver a very serious handshake.
But times have changed. In the 21st century the monopoly of the suit and tie and the power suit has been well and truly challenged. Some of the world’s biggest companies are in the software and tech sectors. And the relaxed, informal influence of Silicon Valley hasn’t just been limited to how we use technology on a day-to-day basis – it’s also influenced our expectations of what suitable business attire is.
We love the t-shirts!
When I first met Gary Turner, our UK managing director, he was sporting a Xero t-shirt, jeans and jacket – and that’s pretty much the way we roll here. There are no suits, there are no ties. The informality and entrepreneurial spirit of Xero is reflected in the way we dress – and that’s a great way to define our brand in an accountancy industry that can sometimes be a little reluctant to ditch the formal business suit.
To underline this, Gary even joked recently on Twitter that he was wearing a suit to an awards ceremony, only for clients to react in mock horror. ‘But we love the t-shirts!’, they responded. So clearly this laid-back approach is one that resonates with our customers.
Dressing down and loving it
So, do I miss dressing in a formal way? Hell no! The suit still clings on for life in some industries but it was never a look I felt comfortable with. You only have to take a commuter train into the city to realise that the suit is still alive and well in some industries. But there’s a definite shift amongst forward-thinking business to move away from rigid dress codes, and Xero are certainly leading the charge.
We’re increasingly working with C-suite level people and entrepreneurs, of both sexes, taking a more informal, casual approach to their clothing. And a relaxed view towards clothing says as much about a company’s brand as their advertising, marketing and PR does – seeing a successful, ambitious CEO building an empire whilst wearing jeans and t-shirt sends out a very powerful message. Steve Jobs’ jeans and black polo-neck sweater signature look was as instantly recognisable as the Apple logo. And the informality of his clothing told you a lot about the culture in his organisation.
A new wardrobe, a new outlook
So, I think I’ll be clearing out my wardrobe in the near future and consigning the business trousers and plain shirts to the bin. I’m really enjoying being more informal about what I wear to work – and it definitely feels more ‘me’. I’m no longer working to a template – I can choose to wear whatever I’m comfortable in, and that’s a real bonus in any job.
I might draw the line at wearing a tiger-print onesie to the next meeting, though…
Steve Ash is the marketing communications writer in our UK marketing team. If you’d like to come to work in a t-shirt, why not look at our careers page.