This topic has been bouncing around my head for a while, but an article I stumbled across on Digg brought it to the front. In this article the author states:

My favorite variation of this is the concept that your pants make you a better programmer. If I wear khaki pants to work it makes me a better worker then if I wear denim pants. Though I don’t have a client-facing position, it still makes me more effective if my pants come from Banana Republic.
–Sara Chipps

I work for an east coast, software services company that has yet to realize that breaking the spirits, creativity and individuality of their programmers is not a good thing. Conceptually, I love my job, or at least what I do, however it has nothing to do with where I work. I have no problem with rules, in fact I realize in most cases they are a necessity. However when the rules exist because it’s how it’s always been done, I start to get a little annoyed.

We have a dress code, it’s business casual. On Monday we can wear jeans, as long as they fit properly and are not torn or frayed. Casual day is on Monday because that’s the day the country club is closed, so the bosses can wear jeans and not have to change before they go to lunch. In the “summer” (a vague term not actually defined anywhere) we can wear khaki shorts. Until this year, shorts were only allowed on Tuesdays and Thursdays, had to be crisply ironed, and cargo pants were unacceptable (good luck finding those any place your grandparents don’t shop). During the “summer,” casual Mondays no longer apply, you’re allowed to wear khaki shorts so why would you want to wear jeans in an office that averages a temperature of about 64 degrees fahrenheit? Although, I guess it is nice that I will be comfortable walking twenty feet from the door to my car after work. On occasion a big new customer will be brought into the office and we’ll be asked to dress extra-nice for the resulting dog-and-pony show, further proving that the standard day-to-day business casual serves no purpose.

So, an entire whiney paragraph about our dress code, boo-hoo, poor programmer how will you ever survive?

This is not a question about surviving, it’s a matter of thriving. I’m as much an artist as I am a scientist or a mathematician, and scientifically speaking I’m a better, more creative artist when I’m comfortable than I am when I’m not. A collar does not make my code faster. Brown shoes do not make me a better designer. Khaki pants certainly don’t make me a better programmer. I’m not going to say that my code will be directly improved by wearing a t-shirt, sneakers, and jeans, but wearing them will improve my morale and enhance my creativity, and that has a chance of improving my code, or at least my desire to be here.

But I digress. This is not about a dress code, it’s about a mentality, both management’s and employee’s. They call it herding cats for a reason. Programmers are a different breed, and if you think you can prove otherwise you’re not dealing with the right kind of programmers. Look at the companies out there making a fortune in this sector. The ones that attract the best and the brightest developers. Is there a dress code at Google? Facebook? Apple? I don’t think so. These companies provide creative benefits like free lunch, dinner, snacks and sodas, interesting and non-conformist workspaces and places, car washes, dry cleaning, and bike repair to name a few. They think outside the cube. If you keep your talent happy there is a higher chance of keeping your talent, unless of course you enjoy nurturing rock stars until they’re good enough to leave you in the dust for a greener pasture.