Would You Still Work with Us if We Wore T-Shirts and Flip-Flops?

business dress code

I always look forward to our summer Open House event at Keen Wealth, and this year’s edition was another big success. We had great food, great music, and lots of great company with so many friends and clients in attendance … But boy, did I catch heat from some of you folks!

You see, our event was outdoors, in June, and as I considered it a work event, our company’s standard business dress code was in effect. It seemed like every hand I shook was followed with a quick, “Bill, why are you making all your people wear business attire out here while they’re eating barbeque and mingling? We wouldn’t mind seeing you all relax a little bit with us!”

Now, in fairness to our policies, I was in a suit and tie myself, and I didn’t think …

Okay, duly noted. I was hot too, and I understand the valid points our friends and clients made! Maybe next year we’ll ditch the tie requirement.

However, “Hawaiian shirt Fridays!” won’t be coming to Keen Wealth any time soon. I certainly understand and respect companies who have found that their employees perform best in casual attire, but I still believe that a business dress code adds real value to the work we do helping our clients invest in their futures. That’s why I continue to “suit up” every day – there’s nothing casual to me about managing our clients’ money.

My team and I have a commitment and a responsibility to do everything we can to get the best possible results for our clients. At times I hear rumblings from my team regarding at least a casual Friday. Still, I firmly believe our everyday dress code indicates to our clients how seriously we take our responsibility to them and their financial futures. I also encourage my children to dress well in business settings, even if they’re just swinging by Keen Wealth to say hi to dad.

business dress code
My son Devin visiting Keen Wealth.

Call me old-school, but I believe that dressing professionally is a privilege, not a burden.

Flip-flops and floppy discs.

In my opinion, here is what I think happened: If you’ve ever watched an episode of “Mad Men” or flipped through an old family photo album, then you know that a business dress code was the norm for most of America’s working history. As with many things in our lives now, computers changed everything. All those computer programmers building tomorrow’s Silicon Valley behemoths in their parents’ garages didn’t care about wearing a tie. They just wanted to be comfortable, and when their companies grew big enough to make hires, they wanted their employees to be comfortable too.

Plus, these new entrepreneurs were children of the ’60s. They saw themselves, their companies, and their culture, as rebellious. A guy who named his new computer after a piece of fruit wasn’t going to make his programmers stick to a dress code while they were sitting alone coding and soldering for 80 hours every week.

The boss wears a hoodie.

The millennials entering the workforce today grew up idolizing Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg – turtlenecks and hoodies, respectively. They see pictures of smiling Facebook and Google employees on social media, strolling through beautiful corporate campuses in jeans and t-shirts, or working from home in sweats. If the biggest, most successful companies in the world have gone casual, is it really so surprising that millennials don’t want to wear a tie to my Monday morning staff meeting?

Apparently, JP Morgan doesn’t think so. A memo they circulated last year that relaxed the company’s dress code made big waves throughout the finance industry. While, in part, JP Morgan was trying to attract millennial recruits, who might view their company as old-fashioned or stuffy, their big rationale for the change was that a casual dress code was becoming the norm for their clients too.

In general, America just isn’t as formal as it used to be, and as we’ve progressed as a society, certain standards have relaxed. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — for example, older ideas about “decency” in workplace dress code affected how women were expected to dress, and even behave, in discriminatory ways.

The benefits of looking your best.

Studies have found that when we dress well, we feel better about ourselves. But I don’t believe that “the suit makes the man or woman” either. Some of the big Wall Street banks and brokerages may hide behind fancy suits and big offices, showing prospective clients lots of sizzle, but in some cases no substance. That’s not Keen Wealth. Our firm operates to the fiduciary standard with credentialed technical experts who put our clients’ interests first. Our dress code isn’t sizzle, it just reinforces the substance of the services and products we offer — in my opinion, the best of both worlds.

In fact, I’m going to close with a prediction: A more formal dress code will come back into favor again. And when it does, that will just be another way that Keen Wealth was ahead of the curve. A little sweaty sometimes, maybe, but ahead of the curve.

About Bill

Bill Keen: I believe that dressing professionally is a privilege, not a burden.

Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 24 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.

Keen Wealth Advisors is a Registered Investment Adviser. Nothing within this commentary constitutes investment advice, performance data or any recommendation that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. Any mention of a particular security and related performance data is not a recommendation to buy or sell that security. Keen Wealth Advisors manages its clients’ accounts using a variety of investment techniques and strategies, which are not necessarily discussed here. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

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