“Business casual” on the increase among start-ups
Helen Bakewell, who heads research firm Directional Insights, says the rise of technology is eliminating the need for face-to-face meetings as more people communicate via email, video calls and mobile phones.
This has led to an increase in more casual work wear, particularly among tech companies, with Bakewell stating: “It’s more Blackberry than Burberry”.
Casual business attire, also referred to as “business casual”, has been embraced by tech leaders such as Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg; the respective CEOs of Apple and Facebook.
Zuckerberg is often pictured wearing jeans and T-shirts, while Jobs consistently dons a “uniform” consisting of white sneakers, jeans and black skivvies.
Phaedon Stough, co-founder of Australian investment network Innovation Bay, says start-ups are becoming increasingly more relaxed about the way they dress when pitching to prospective investors.
Innovation Bay aims to facilitate business opportunities for tech companies and investors via angel breakfasts and dinners.
“At our last angel dinner, only two guys [who were pitching ideas] wore ties... There were 38 angels and not one was wearing a tie,” Stough says.
“Those particular guys felt confident in a tie and perhaps wanted to differentiate themselves. But in the tech sector, it’s common not to wear a suit and tie.”
Stough says entrepreneurs could be more inclined to embrace casual dressing as a way of rejecting the corporate background they may have come from.
“It’s almost like, I’m not at school anymore so why should I have to? Also, tech guys typically don’t work nine to five; it’s more like seven until 10 so they simply can’t be in a suit for that long,” Stough says.
“They’re not pitching to audiences all the time; they’re normally sitting in an office and coding all day... It’s not about the clients’ perception – it’s about what their building.”
Stough says casual dressing can often inspire prospective clients because it shows that “I don’t need a business shirt to give me credibility”, citing Steve Jobs as an example.
However, he says entrepreneurs should ensure their clothing – however casual – is still presentable, which means nothing old or dirty.
Stough says while it is becoming increasingly acceptable for tech start-ups to dress down, the concept of professional attire is still expected among “sales and marketing guys, and the corporate end of town”.