IT's fashion legacy is no image winner

When it comes to the fashion stakes IT professionals have had to endure an ugly legacy that covers a mix of pony-tails, T-shirts, facial hair and vests. A style that could be politely termed 'inappropriate'. But does this reputation really hold true?

One industry professional who says it's all true is FocusCentre's managing director Mike Jones.

He recommends dressing for the position you want, higher up the corporate ladder, rather than the position you are in today.

Admitting that IT has traditionally had a poor dress code, System Administrators Guild of Australia (SAGE-AU) president Andrew Hennell said some organisations have a company policy that involves suits and ties.

"It is all about presenting to a client and what the employer expects; many IT folk are very much back-office staff who rarely come into contact with clients or partners and therefore it isn't of great importance," he said.

"But IT staff will find a change in client and user attitude if they do improve their dress; it means being treated more as a professional. "If you come in looking like a builder's labourer then your knowledge of IT systems may be questioned and you have lost ground before you begin."

However, Hennell said, "clothes do not maketh the man or system admin" but they do create perceptions which is sometimes just as important. Once a high degree of knowledge, credibility and professionalism is established, he said it is easier to get away with dressing down and still be regarded as the expert.

IDC's end user program manager Peter Hind reckons Australia's informal approach to fashion is an endearing quality.

Australian executives, he said, respect individuals and this quality can be maintained.

"Perhaps wear the suit, but keep your earring, which might say who you are," he said.

City of Cockburn's manager information services, Tony Manno, said that while he believes that "office workers - especially those that have regular contact with other staff or the public- should look smart", he also believes that a suit "does not make the IT professional".

"I prefer managers to wears ties as it looks professional and will probably remain the standard in the foreseeable future," he said.

"Some IT professionals bring it upon themselves to be known as nerds or geeks by their approach to their attire. Perhaps we should have a code of attire that has "techies" dress in jeans, T-shirts and propeller hats and if they wish to progress into management, change the dress to ties and suits," Manno said.

Linux Users of Victoria vice president Kim Oldfield said most programmers don't enjoy wearing a suit and tie particularly when coming from an open source background.

"Most of these people are not trying to market their software in the corporate world so dressing to impress just isn't on their agenda; they prefer to dress comfortably for coding in front of the computer," Oldfield said.

"Fellow coders and users are contacted through the Internet so many developers don't see the people they work with on projects; it isn't important because the focus is on the quality of code produced and a programmer's ability cannot be judged by the clothes they wear."

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