Dress code as values

A friend and former co-worker of mine was recently hired as an executive at a small tech company that has been in business for 20+ years. He asked me for advice in persuading his new boss to drop their dress code. I'm sharing a lightly edited excerpt of the email I sent him as an illustration of how we try to incorporate our values into our policies.

Here's the relevant part from the Stitch Guidebook:

Dress code
Our day-to-day dress code in the office is casual. You can wear whatever you want as long as it doesn't make anyone else uncomfortable. Jeans and hoodies: good. Boxers, see-through shirts, and offensive tees: bad. Use your judgment or ask if you're unsure.

This is the entirety of our policy, and it was either similar or identical at RJMetrics (the company that Stitch was spun out from). In the 10-year combined history of the companies, I can't remember a problem connected to employee attire, or wishing that we had something different. I'm confident that this is the right move for us, for two interrelated reasons.

On a practical level, recruiting is one of the most important (if not the most important) and hardest things we do as a company. I know of lots of people who strongly prefer being able to wear whatever they want. I'm struggling to think of anyone who prefers having a dress code. My sample may not be representative of the rest of the world, but if you want to hire people who care about similar things to those we hired at RJMetrics and Stitch, having a dress code puts you at a disadvantage.

A dress code also sends the exact opposite message that I want to send about our company values. I want our team to care deeply about the things that matter (building a great product, providing great service, leveling up their careers, etc.) and not all about the things that don't. What people wear seems entirely about form and not all about substance, and I want to spend as close as possible to zero percent of my time and our team's time on form. That's why we dedicate three lines in our guidebook to our dress code and a full page to the professional education and development budget we offer each employee (where we sponsor up to $1,000 per year for each employee to do anything that contributes to their professional development).

If these values sound like a match for you, we're hiring.