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Thread: Office dress standards and regional differences

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Office dress standards and regional differences

    Here I sit in my office, reading the thread on interview suits, dressed in a collarless pull-down shirt and a pair of clean, new jeans. I'm not dealing with anybody from the public today, so I dressed down; normally, I'd at least be wearing khakis. Folks are fairly casual around here, although we'll get a bit more dessed up when we have a public meeting.

    I noticed that the day-to-day dress of planners varies from region to region, and also depends on the type of agency one works for. Based on my experience, county government agencies tend to be very casual and informal, where casual business attire (khakis and a tie for a men; the stereotypical "blue shirt planner" we make fun of on here) are requried dress in municipal plannng agencies. Planners working for economic development agencies wear their interview suits to work every day.

    County and municipal planning agencies in non-big city areas in the Rocky Mountain region usually have one "cowboy planner," a crusty but sharp curmudgeons who dress in well-worn ranchwear.

    Here's a typical county planning agency.



    Here's a typical municipal agency planner's planner.



    There's the economic development agency, in the class A office space down the street.



    Of course, there's the planning department for Smithenwesson County, Montana. "So, yer puttin' the $#%&@ pole barn over there, right?"

    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian the north omaha star's avatar
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    My agency doesn't have written dress code. My personal Fall, Winter, Spring dress code is suit and tie Mon. - Fri., khakis and no tie on Thursday, and jeans and polo shirt on Friday. I always wear a shirt with a collar. Summer, it's polo shirt and khakis or lightweight slacks everyday except for interviews and meetings with the head cheeses.
    I am recognizing that the voice inside my head
    is urging me to be myself but never follow someone else
    Because opinions are like voices we all have a different kind". --Q-Tip

  3. #3
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    We don't really have a formal dress code, but basically it's business casual M-Th and casual (jeans) on Friday. The City Manager is the only one to wear a suit on most days. The rest of the men, including the dept heads, usually wear khakis's and a button down. Most of the women wear khakis and a shirt. I would wear khaki's on Friday, but not during the week. We are pretty flexible though, if I know I'm going out in the field I can wear jeans and tennis shoes.

    The admin services dept has an internal policy of no open toe shoes (i.e. sandles). I sometimes wear them on Fridays, but not during the week.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Summer(Memorial Day - Labor Day): collared shirts w/ dress pants. Tie w/ optional jacket for meetings.

    Winter: dress shirt, tie, pants, w/ optional jacket for meetings.

    Fridays: always casual - jeans, appropriate shirts.

    city planning agency
    Last edited by boiker; 06 Jan 2005 at 10:54 AM.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian GISgal's avatar
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    Generally the same in my office. Khakis/dress pants with a nice shirt Monday through Thrusday. On Fridays, we are allowed to wear jeans with a municipal logo shirt. Some carry that to extremes getting plain t-shirts with the Town logo. If I have a meeting I will wear dress pants with a logo shirt.

    If a person wants to brown nose in the office they don't wear jeans on Friday. The administrator frowns upon jeans.

    It was a real culture shock coming into this office compared to the last I worked for. It was button down shirts with skirts or dress pants everyday.
    “I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” - Thomas Edison

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Ties?
    I ain't got no ties.
    I don't need no ties.
    I don't have to wear any stinkin ties.

    (in best Treasure of Sierra Madre voice)
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Floridays's avatar
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    Since only the "top brass" are required to attend County Commission meetings, we don't have to wear a suit here. Yay! It's pretty much business casual...I think that's the norm here in south FL.

    Summer: summer casual dress. This includes jeans, no ties/jackets for the guys.
    Fridays: casual
    Christmas holiday time: casual dress (it's an implied thing vs. a policy)

    One difference here versus my other jobs is that I wear a lot more sandals, and no stockings! And yes, I actually own a Hawaiin shirt now. Also just more colorful clothes here -- don't have to stick to the basic gray, black, etc.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Trail Nazi's avatar
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    I currently work for a regional planning council, so the dress is business casual M- Th with jeans being permissible on Fridays. However, there are a few people who wear t-shirts that have prints on them and really should not wear them. Since I am in Florida, real shoes have never been a requirement of any of my jobs. Most days I get away with nice flip-flops. We only dress up on board days or when we have to go out of the office for a meeting. Pantyhose are only for those really special occasions when you need to feel a little thinner in an outfit.

    For my other county jobs elsewhere in the state, the attire is pretty much the same except I could wear a county-logo shirt. However, before I left my job in Central Florida, we were being told to wear better attire in the planning department.

    When I worked at a park authority in the DC metro area, it was the most casual of all of my jobs. You could wear jeans everyday if you wanted as long as you did not look like you were slumming it. Wearing real shoes was something I had to do though because my feet would freeze otherwise.

  9. #9
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    I'm usually open-collar dress shirts or polos. I tend to dress pretty trendy, especially on Fridays. I try to avoid ties whenever possible--I have an issue with tieing a noose around my own neck.

    I don't wear suits on a day-to-day basis since folks around here are a little mistrustful of "suits".

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  10. #10
    Cyburbian munibulldog's avatar
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    Khakis, white oxford shirt, brown, beige or black sweater, work boots (steel toe) is my uniform. Blue jeans are not as comfortable as khakis so I don't do the dress down friday thing.

    I used to have a clip on tie for special occasions but conveniently lost it. If the coppers can wear clip ons, so can I.

    Thinking about moving toward plaid shirts.

  11. #11
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Sounds like nobody here is a krusty kountry planner. I've met several in my short career; is it jjist a figment of my imagination, or are they really common in the Rocky Mountain region?
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  12. #12
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    When I interned, the office wore ties. I didn't have to, but I kind of liked it. Plus I bought about 5 ties the summer before and had to where them someplace. On fridays in that office, you could go without the tie, but still couldn't wear jeans.

    At my real job now, during the week is casual. I usually were khakis and a button down. Since we don't wear ties to work, I use the shirts I wear as my color expression. Sort of like Florida meets Colorado I call it b/c my shirts have been pink, orange, many shades of green, blue and other bright colors.

    I will don a tie for Planning Commission, or if I have to go in front of City Council.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  13. #13
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    Most of the places I have worked did not have a dress code per se, but generally it was 'business casual'. At my current job, there seems to be two standards. Development officers (what we call current planners or development review planners in the States) are very casual, wearing jeans and t-shirts most days. The long range planners (myself included) wear nicer clothing... more business casual with jackets/ties for committee meetings. I don't know why there is a bizarre double standard, as we all go to the same committees, have the same amount of contact with the public, etc. *shrugs*

  14. #14
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    Great observational pics Dan!

    I would say you nailed it. Outside of the "Montana Guy" I would have to say ditto for FLA dress codes. Although, there are still a few rural cowboys that put up $#%&@ pole barns around here in the FLA.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I have worked in suburban Chicago, small city Wisconsin, and now large city Colorado. The Chicago area had the highest standards, where a tie was the norm, at least for those who would interact with the public. Wisconsin planners tended to be more casual. Especially if they spent time in the field, jeans were often accepted. Colorado seems to be similar to Wisconsin in this regard. The unwritten standards are always strictor at management levels or when giving a formal presentation.

    The office dress in the public sector tends to mirror the private sector. In Chicago, many businesses expect their cubicle dwellers to wear a tie. I worked for a short time at a place requiring a suit every day. When I moved to Wisconsin I gradually changed my style to reflect what I saw my clients wear. If I knew I would be visiting a factory where the owner would wear Birkenstocks year-round, I went casual. If the owner was a major contributor to the GOP, I wore a tie and jacket.

    I am in the economic development crowd and will echo Dan's comments about the way most of them dress. This is even true in Wisconsin and Colorado. Suits, or at least jackets, are common for most of them. Not for me.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  16. #16

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    There's quite a bit of personal variation in our office dress. There are a couple of metrosexuals in the office, but the overall tone is set by a Director who sometimes walks around the office without his shoes on. Our City Manager is quite a bit more formal, and sometimes directives come down.

    Anyway:

    Planning Commission/City Council-at a minimum blazer, nice slacks, and tie. I usually wear my jacket I bought years and years ago when Eddie Bauer did a brief foray into (very nice) dressy clothing.

    Daily for me: colorful dress shirt (often vertical stripes) and khakis or dress slacks. Almost never a tie. Or, a light dress sweater (solid black with vertical ribbing, for example) over a solid tee. I look horrible in polo shirts, so unless it is 105 that day, I'll almost always wear long sleeves.

    Friday: Not much different. Maybe I'll wear dressy jeans that day.

  17. #17

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    Cardinal nailed much of what I've seen in the Chicago area as far as planning dress. I would add that with municipal planners, the dress code tends to go from most formal in the City of Chicago to most casual on the suburban fringe.

    I work for a consulting firm, and the dress code is all over the place. Today I'm wearing a long-sleeve polo and dress slacks. I wear a tie once or twice a week, looking much like the municipal planner Dan pictured, and make a habit of wearing a shirt with a collar -- no sweaters or T-shirts.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian ludes98's avatar
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    I have never been one for jeans in the workplace. I usually wear dress slacks (not khakis) and a button shirt during winter months. I rarely wear the tie because it is not common in AZ. Summer here is difficult. I still wear slacks, but my short sleeve attire is too casual. I wear alot of Tommy Bahama style shirts, no prints just cut of shirt/collar.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan
    Sounds like nobody here is a krusty kountry planner.
    They don't know how to use the internet.

    As a conslutant "north of Chicago" every day in-the-office is jeans and a polo or whatever you are comfortable in outside of sweats. Client contact days are "dress to a level that the client is confortabel with". Some small towns where the Board is all 70 year old farmers get uncomfotable with a consultant ina suit. Krusty kuntry planner garb is a hit with them. Other municipalities expect a suit. Go with the flow...

  20. #20
    Cyburbian
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    Pretty dressy here, except for Fridays. I've noticed, though, that as it gets colder, things get more casual, until you've got people clomping around in flannel-lined jeans, huge woolly sweaters, and hiking boots when it hits about 0 degrees F. Not on hearing days, though. Those are suit days. Summers are more casual--Birkenstocks are not unusual and I've even seen a pair of shorts on occasion. So I guess we follow the climate more than anythinge else.
    I don't dream. I plan.

  21. #21
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan
    Here's a typical municipal agency planner's planner.

    This is me here at my new job.

    Last place was more the "County Planning" style.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Plannerbabs
    Pretty dressy here, except for Fridays. I've noticed, though, that as it gets colder, things get more casual, until you've got people clomping around in flannel-lined jeans, huge woolly sweaters, and hiking boots when it hits about 0 degrees F. Not on hearing days, though. Those are suit days. Summers are more casual--Birkenstocks are not unusual and I've even seen a pair of shorts on occasion. So I guess we follow the climate more than anythinge else.
    Quoting you in this thread too....

    It's about 10 degrees, with 8 in of snow on the ground. I donned the hiking boots both today and yesterday.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  23. #23
    Cyburbian GeogPlanner's avatar
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    My boss always says it's up to us to dress appropriately.

    Today, it's black pants and a blue button down. Somedays its jeans and a t-shirt. In the summer, I'll bust out a pair of shorts...however wheneve I dress down like that, I keep a pair of pants, shirt, tie and shoes in the office in case something arises...
    Information necessitating a change of design will be conveyed to the designer after and only after the design is complete. (Often called the 'Now They Tell Us' Law) - Fyfe's First Law of Revision

    We don't believe in planners and deciders making the decisions on behalf of Americans. -- George W. Bush , Scranton, PA -- 09/06/2000

  24. #24
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    I touched on this a little bit in the interview suit thread, but this would be a more appropriate place to ask. How do you feel about visible tramp stamps/bumper stckers/California license plates -- lower back tattoos -- in the office?

    (sorry women with back tats)
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  25. #25
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan
    I touched on this a little bit in the interview suit thread, but this would be a more appropriate place to ask. How do you feel about visible tramp stamps/bumper stckers/California license plates -- lower back tattoos -- in the office?
    No dice here. Even though I'm young, I don't like visible tattoos in a professional environment. Especially if it's some lame-ass tribal art tattoo (sorry lame-ass tribal art tattoo wearers ).

    One thing that influences what I wear here is weather. If it's a really nasty day, I wear jeans just in case I have to help out with setting baricades or something. Also, if the forecast high is below 40, dress code here pretty much goes out the window (we Texans are pretty wimpy when it comes to cold).

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

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