Most people think of Silicon Valley and immediately imagine the tech industry. With its start-ups, billion-dollar companies, and constant innovation, it’s no wonder that so many people want to work in tech.
But what is the dress code for a software engineer? What should you wear to work if you want to be taken seriously as a software engineer?
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the software engineer dress code and offer some tips on how you can make sure you’re dressed appropriately for your job.
What Is the Dress Code for Software Engineers?
Let’s start with the good news. There is usually no specific dress code for software engineers. In most cases, programmers can dress however they feel comfortable as long as it is appropriate for the work environment.
For example, many tech companies have a casual dress code, so it is not uncommon to see software engineers wearing jeans or even shorts and a t-shirt to work.
However, there are some occasions where a more formal dress code may be required, such as when meeting with clients or attending company events. In these cases, you may be required to wear formal attire to present yourself and your company exceptionally well.
While the general rule of thumb is to wear casually in most cases, you should be smart and observant about your personal situation and the company you work for.
For example, some non-tech companies may actually have a business casual dress code, where you are required to wear a bit on the formal side while still being comfortable.
Thus, it is best to observe what your co-workers are wearing or even ask human resources or management what is the appropriate way to wear at the office.
As for tattoos, it is considered acceptable for software engineers to wear tattoos as long as you keep a professional look.
What Male Programmers Wear to Work
Most male programmers choose to wear jeans and a t-shirt or polo shirt to work, at least in the warmer months. This go-to outfit is just an expression of comfort and simplicity, which best suits their productivity in the office.
You’ll also see a lot of male programmers wearing hoodies or sweatshirts, particularly when it’s colder or when the office is air-conditioned. Hoodies are perhaps the classic look of programmers “in the wild” that is often portrayed in the popular movies and TV shows.
Finally, many male programmers also choose to wear sneakers or dress shoes that are comfortable and easy to slip on and off.
Overall, comfort is the number one priority for male programmers and you should suit the trend and wear comfortably if your company has no dress code.
What Female Programmers Wear at Work
When it comes to what female programmers wear to work, there are several trends you can choose from.
Some women opt for skirts or dresses, while others prefer pants. There is no right or wrong answer, and ultimately each woman needs to choose what makes her feel most comfortable.
Ladies often want to look good and stylish, so it is not uncommon to see them accessorizing with jewelry or scarves.
What about make-up? This is a personal preference and is not required by any means. However, if you do choose to wear make-up, make sure it is professional and not too over the top.
In general, you may choose to dress whichever way you are comfortable and confident. Your profession certainly allows it.
Is There a Dress Code at Tech Companies?
It’s no secret that tech companies are known for their casual dress codes. While most businesses still require employees to dress in business casual or even business formal attire, many tech companies have eschewed these traditional standards in favor of a more relaxed approach.
Google, for example, is well-known for its “jeans and a t-shirt” policy, and Facebook‘s Mark Zuckerberg is famous for his wardrobe of hoodies and sneakers. Even Microsoft, which is often seen as being more traditional than its Silicon Valley counterparts, has embraced casual dress in recent years.
So, if you’re considering a career at a tech company, don’t worry about stocking your closet with suits and dresses – a pair of jeans and a t-shirt will probably do just fine.
How to Dress for a Tech Job Interview
When dressing for a job interview as a software engineer, you always want to play is safe and dress more formally.
We recommend wearing formal attire (full suit/tuxedo for males) to be ready for any situation, and, if you observe that the interviewers are all wearing casual clothes, you can always downgrade to business casual by removing your tie and suit jacket.
For female developers, remaining in formal attire, such as a business suit or a blouse and a conservative skirt, is acceptable for any situation.
What You Should Wear on Your First Day at Work
Let’s say you aced the interview and got your acceptance letter, and now you are ready to start your new job on the first day at work. What do you wear?
If you were able to have a look at the office during your interview and gauge the general dress culture at your new office, then great! Feel free to wear whatever everyone else was wearing and you should be fine.
If you had not yet had a chance to visit your office and see your colleagues at work, the second option is to ask someone from management who you have gotten to know through the interviews, if you feel like you have already established a trusting bond between the two of you.
If, however, you don’t have someone you could comfortably ask about the dress code, the next best thing to do is to “potentially overdress” and wear business casual (slacks, office shoes, and a shirt for males; trousers or longer skirt with a blouse for females) the first day at work.
This way, even if you wear more formally than the others, it’s your first day and you are not wearing something over-the-top. Also, if it so happens that your company is a bit on the formal side, business casual should fit just fine.
An exception to this would be client-based positions, government jobs, or law offices, where you or other developers are expected to wear a suit to work on a daily basis.
The second day to work you can start wearing whatever you have observed other people in similar positions wear on your first day at work.
Dress Code at Different Types of Companies
Our review of the software engineer dress code wouldn’t be complete without discussing what types of software engineer outfit is expected at different types of companies. Let’s take a look into what they are.
As we mentioned before, tech companies are known for their lax regulations on dress code. Most commonly, if you are a software engineer at a tech company, you are free to wear whatever you feel comfortable in when you go to work.
Most engineers wear casual outfits, which include jeans, t-shirts and sneakers. There are no strict rules, but you should always try to keep it neat and presentable.
Startups are even more relaxed when it comes to the software engineer dress code. At most startups, jeans and t-shirt is considered perfectly acceptable.
However, it is important to remember that you are still representing your company and should try to look professional whenever possible. Even though the dress code may be relaxed, it doesn’t mean that you have to be sloppy.
IT consulting, law firms, financial and government bodies
Law firms usually require software engineers to wear more formal attire. This often includes any kind of business casual clothing, such as trousers and a collared shirt.
Many institutions in this category, especially those that regularly deal with clients, expect engineers to even be dressed formally, meaning a suit and tie.
Above all, it is important to keep in mind that the software engineer dress code should reflect the company you work for and be appropriate for the situation. Whenever in doubt, it is always best to dress professionally as you never know what might come up.
Other non-tech companies
Non-tech companies may have more conservative dress codes and often require software engineers to wear business casual attire. This can include slacks, collared shirts, and dress shoes. For women, you may expect to wear dresses, skirts, and blouses.
Make sure to check with the company regarding their dress code before deciding on an outfit.
Above all, make sure to wear something that is comfortable and that makes you look professional. This will help you to feel your best as well as make the right impression with your colleagues.
When You Should Dress Formally
There are several occasions on which you are expected to wear formal attire even if your company culture is free and casual. Here are some of such situations.
Interviews are one of those occasions when you should look your professional best. Pick out a good-looking suit and don’t worry about being overdressed. After all, it is expected of interviewees to be dressed formally.
However, make sure you are not depriving yourself of reasonable comfort, as wearing suffocating clothes or shoes will only make you more anxious.
If you are presenting your work to a client or colleagues, it is best to wear formal attire. This will give off a good first impression and help you to appear more confident and professional.
In cases of smaller presentations, you may also choose to wear business casual, which includes trousers and a collared shirt.
Client, investor, stakeholder meetings
When you are going to be meeting with clients, investors, or stakeholders, it is best to stick to the formal dress code.
Make sure to look your best and wear something that will make you represent your company in a good way.
Meetings with important clients, investors, and stakeholders are very important events, so make sure to dress appropriately and leave a lasting impression.
Many companies host formal events that require the attendees to dress in formal attire. These could be dinners, fundraisers, conferences, or other important events.
Make sure to look presentable and polished, as these are the perfect opportunities for networking. Also, these events generally require you to look your best as they are a representation of the company.
Office meetings that involve senior management require formal attire. Beforehand, it is always a good idea to double-check with your colleagues or manager about the expected dress code for the meeting.
If the meeting only involves your team and immediate supervisors, it’s acceptable to dress more casually.
At the same time, it is important to be comfortable with your outfit, as this will affect your confidence and performance during the meeting.
When to Wear Casually
Similarly, there are also times when casual attire is appropriate and even expected.
Many companies have company parties or events that involve a more laid-back dress code.
If you are going to a company party or event, you can feel more comfortable dressing in casual clothes like jeans and t-shirts. Just make sure they look presentable and appropriate for the situation.
Coffee meetings with colleagues
If you are meeting with colleagues over lunch or coffee, it is generally accepted to wear casual attire. This could include jeans and a nice shirt or blouse.
It is important to remember that these meetings still require you to have an overall professional appearance, as this is likely to be the way your colleagues will remember you.
Many companies also have casual days when employees are allowed to dress more casually. Typically, this means wearing jeans with a nice blouse or shirt.
It is best to avoid overly casual attire like pajamas, shorts, and flip-flops on such days, as this is still considered inappropriate in most workplaces.
Overall, it is important to remember that what you wear matters. Whether you are attending a meeting, presentation, or formal event, it is important to be aware of the expected dress code and act accordingly.
This will ensure that you make a good impression and represent your company in the best possible light. After all, how you dress reflects who you are!
How to Dress when Working from Home
These days, many software engineers are working from home. While this can be a great way to stay productive and comfortable, it is still important to remember the importance of dressing professionally when in video meetings or client calls.
If you are working from home off-camera, feel free to wear home clothes, pajamas, or whatever your heart desires.
However, when you are on camera, wear something you would otherwise wear for this occasion in person. If you are in a regular weekly meeting and your company dress code is casual, wear something comfortable like jeans and a shirt.
If you are attending a more formal event such as a client meeting or a meeting with higher management, you should dress appropriately, including a collared shirt and suit pants.
We absolutely advise against not wearing the appropriate bottoms as this may result in catastrophic accidents. You may have to stand up and answer the door bell or a phone call and not know what to do considering you are wearing joggers or shorts with your ironed shirt on top.
Play it safe and dress up fully, even if you will most likely not be showing off your stylish pants.
Junior vs Senior Developer Dress Code
It is often a good idea to differentiate between junior and more senior developers when deciding on what to wear to work.
As a junior engineer, you may still be learning the ropes and not necessarily worry about looking your best.
At most companies, you may observe junior programmers wearing khakis, T-shirts, hoodies, and sneakers. This is perfectly fine and expected of juniors.
When you have a few years of experience behind your back, however, you may want to think about dressing a bit more classy to fit the role of a senior engineer.
This could involve wearing more formal attire such as polo T-shirts or shirts, jeans or slacks, and maybe something more classy than sneakers. The idea is to look neat, professional, and confident.
Why Do Coders Wear Hoodies?
We will finish off our review of software engineer dress code with something that comes up surprisingly often: why do programmers wear hoodies at work?
Well, the answer is not so straightforward. Many software engineers wear hoodies simply because they are comfortable, especially if the company dress code is casual.
Others may wear hoodies because they are a symbol of the tech industry, and it is often seen as a way to show off their identity as a software engineer.
Yet others may wear hoodies because they are a practical way to keep warm in air-conditioned offices.
Whatever the reason, you may often see software engineers coding away in their best hoodies when working at the office. Remember, do not disturb programmers in their natural habitat – they may be solving a complex problem!
In conclusion, the software engineer dress code varies from company to company. However, a general rule is to look neat, professional, and confident in whatever you wear. Remember to dress up appropriately for formal events and meetings, but feel free to be more casual when appropriate. Good luck!
Elmar Mammadov is a software developer, tech startup founder, and computer science career specialist. He is the founder of CS Careerline and a true career changer who has previously pursued careers in medicine and neuroscience.
Due to his interest in programming and years of past personal experience in coding, he decided to break into the tech industry by attending a Master’s in Computer Science for career changers at University of Pennsylvania. Elmar passionately writes and coaches about breaking into the tech industry and computer science in general.