• The ‘Everyday Jeans’ Policy Backlash Has Begun

    By | February 12, 2016

    As the culture wars in the accounting profession continue, it was inevitable that concerns would arise around the "Don Your Denim" policies. On Accounting Today earlier this week, one worry that was brought up is that the casual dress policy is allowed "as long as you don’t have a client meeting" and that would discourage people from having client meetings:

    Shouldn’t we be encouraging our people to have MORE client meetings, not less? Don’t we emphasize the value of face-to-face meetings as an opportunity to get to know our clients better, understand their goals, add value to the relationship, seek referrals, cross-sell, and achieve trusted advisor status? Don’t we state that perhaps the biggest differentiator between us and our competitors is the strength of our client relationships?

    Shouldn’t we aspire to get out of the office daily and meet with someone, whether this be a client, referral source, influencer, thought leader, trade group meeting, or other person who can strengthen our personal and professional network?

    Don’t we want to send the message to our staff that getting out of the office is an expectation, and is part of the growth of your career, essential to your ability to create a personal network and brand, and ultimately a key component of building a practice?

    To all of these questions, most reply “yes.” So, I think we have to be careful about the possibility that we’ve inadvertently created an excuse for our people to not leave the office.  

    So by this rationale, no accountant should be CAUGHT DEAD wearing jeans in the middle of weekday. I guess?

    Now, I might be wrong, but I don't see where a person's clothes come into play here. I suppose if you work with, say, a lot of financial services clients, they might expect you to show up to lunch in professional dress, but there are plenty of clients who will laugh at you if you show up in a suit. Or just assume that you're stuffy accountant who's less enjoyable than a root canal.

    The comments on this article agree, shall we say, strenuously with the concerns. I won't dwell on it, but here are a few:

    [W]hat happens when a client or a prospective client comes to the office for a meeting or a tour? Is a dress code for the benefit of the individual or of the firm? If it is for the benefit of the firm — as I think it should be — then it seems to me that there shouldn't be different codes that depend on whether a client is present. Contrary to what some may believe, image can and should be important — both to the firm and to the individual.

    And:

    I believe that a good professional should be prepared and probably keep a tie or sports jacket handy in case of a spontaneous meeting.

    Especially the gals, right?! Also, presentation is everything:

    If you went to an upscale steakhouse and your meal was served on a paper plate with plastic silverware and disposable napkins, would you accept the "excuse" that the food would be the same had it been presented properly? I don't think so…

    I think the mistake that lots of people make is to assume that all clients have the same expectations. For some clients, professional dress is NEVER okay (e.g. Peter Thiel types) so you should NEVER wear it to a client meeting. On the other hand, you better be suited up if you're meeting with Ed Asner.

    Mary Barra got it sorta right when she changed GM's dress code to "dress appropriately." At GM, I'm sure there's all sorts of different situations that require all sorts of different clothes. Once employees get the hang of things, they know what's appropriate and what's not. Of course if you don't trust your workforce and want them to treat them like children, then "dress appropriately" will never work.

    Part of the accounting profession's problem, I think, is that things are too binary. The rule is this or that, the estimate is right or wrong, you dress professional for EVERY client meeting.

    That's just ridiculous. Crowe Horwath and Baker Tilly are going to let people wear jeans but also set some expectations as to when not to wear jeans. If those firms hire the worst and densest rather than the best and brightest, maybe they'll run into problems. Otherwise, I think their people will dress appropriately for client meetings, whether that involves wearing a pair of Wranglers or not.

    [AT]

    • Another exKPMGer

      What is the obsession with wearing jeans during the workday. I mean, is everyone buying khaki’s that are so uncomfortable that you can’t stand to wear them? I mean what the fuck? I have no issue wearing regular dressier pants to work. They’re as comfortable as my jeans, actually looser and lighter to be honest, So what’s the big fucking deal? I guess they look better with the stupid shoes associates like to wear now. The thing is, these ugly ass shoes don’t look good with anything, they just look less hideous with jeans. Buy some real shoes. Buy some real pants. Stop being a whiny douche.

      • Another exKPMGer

        I mean, this is the ugly ass kind of stuff the freaking staff from our auditors wear. These are not work appropriate. Stop being stupid.

        • Mose Schrute

          Fresh Kicks, man!

        • FartDude

          This is proper footwear, people.

          • FartDude’s Broseph

            Broseph knows shoes!!!

        • keepin_it_real

          I usually only see older people and IT workers wear those monstrosities.

          • JessterCPA

            Those are proper dress shoes.

            • keepin_it_real

              I’m not talking about FartDude’s example. I’m talking about exKPMGer

        • JessterCPA

          Seriously? People actually wear these in public?

      • N.E.R.D.

        Disagree.

        You’re welcome to your opinion that khakis are more comfortable than jeans, but that isn’t an ubiquitous truth. Ditto with shoes. My dress shoes suck compared to just about any of my regular wear shoes, including my flip flops. I don’t want to shell out the money to get better dress shoes either (bc I already bought other regular shoes, but I digress – don’t judge.)

        Generally, jeans means no tucked in shirts and looser definitions of “work appropriate” shirts. I wear flannel a lot (almost exclusively) on casual days, but I don’t necessarily count that as “business casual.” Some offices also allow regular t-shirts. That’s my own personal dream.

        I don’t buy into the whole image thing, but I’m pretty sure it’s due to my age and location.

        • FartDude

          You’re also a tax dog. They try to keep you away from clients, don’t they?
          Auditors are in front of clients all the time, and should dress the part.

          • LikeABoss

            Is this a big 4 thing? I’ve never worked for the big 4, but in my experience, clients usually like seeing the tax people (who generally help them solve problems), whereas they’re irritated to see the auditors who just sit around asking them dumb checklist questions all day.

            • Why Can’t I Post as a Guest?

              No, its an accounting thing. No one likes it when their paper gets graded.

              In Big 4, people like us tax folks better than the auditors. Their company is paying us to do work they would otherwise have to do. The auditors are paid to give them more work.

            • FartDude

              Tax partners and some managers may visit clients. Not so with staff, seniors, or most managers. At least not in my experience. They usually stay hidden behind the curtain. Heck, I’ve tried to get a tax senior to come out for lunch with a client. He kicked and screamed and cried not to go. I sent him to the calm down corner and expressed my regrets to the client.

            • LikeABoss

              This is baffling to me. I’ve never had a client (at least not an important client) that I didn’t meet, have field work at, go to lunch with, etc. I guess I just assumed that being able to interact with clients was a prerequisite of any public accounting position…

      • TheSeer

        My big problem with dress clothes are getting them dry cleaned, replacing them constantly, and the lack of insulation. If you live in a cold climate and have to take public transit, you feel my pain.

        • FartDude

          you only need to dry clean pants sometimes.

          Also, if you shell out some extra $$ and get 100% wool pants, they’re just as warm, if not warmer, than jeans.

          • Chris

            True about the pant washing as a general rule but I fear you’re at a higher risk of sharting than the average joe fartdude…

          • FartDude’s Broseph

            You only need to dry clean pants when you shart, Boseph!

        • iamthelolrus

          All of my dress clothes are machine washable, no issues here

      • McValue Meal Audit

        You posted it before I could. I’ve never understood the obsession with wearing jeans to work.

        • Andrew Y

          On friday, it is a beautiful thing. But agree that the other 4 days s/b business casual to business professional.

        • N.E.R.D.

          What’s the obsession with “professional dress.”

          It’s horribly impractical, and only appeases people who judge you by the way you dress.

          Most of the smartest most successful people I’ve met in my life didn’t give a fuck about how they dressed. They knew they were successful and smart; clothes don’t change that. They only create the illusion of such if you don’t have it.

          Most people only dress up to go with the cultural flow; which is fine. But to tout is as better is just silly.

          • iamthelolrus

            I don’t understand how the typical getup of dress pants + dress shirt is “horribly impractical”

            • N.E.R.D.

              Okay, I’ll admit I speak in hyperbole in the above post.

              However, if I got to choose how I could dress (without the cultural norms already established) to spend my 10+ hours at work, it’d be the most comfortable getup I have, not dress pants + dress shirt.

            • McValue Meal Audit

              Totally, Bro. Hey, want to set up shop in my incubator? Free rent I just get a 10% equity stake in whatever you create. Is that chill, bruh?

            • N.E.R.D.

              Is that your attempt to mock me?

              You’re pretty bad at it.

      • MWCPA

        Price point bro. You’re talking about tying up working capital in 1 use wool vs. multi-use denim.

        • Another exKPMGer

          You’re paid well enough to afford multiple pairs of pants. You don’t have to buy the most expensive pants in the world; the cheaper ones might wear out sooner, but shit happens. Cut back one vegan macchiato per week and buy a new pair of pants every other month.

          • MWCPA

            Bitch, I drink Folgers and eat ramen. I’ve got student loans to pay. Having a little extra FCF not tied up in ties and wool would help me to service that debt a little quicker.

      • The Horniest Partner

        Jos Bank buy 1 suit get 7 free sales are going on all the time. Get some professional clothes.

    • crazy_bout_AP

      I’ll take a room full of jean wearing hippies over a handful of millenials with pastel pants and jackets with gingham shirts. I don’t even know wtf gingham is.
      I prefer something I can wear to the range after work, jeans not so much.

      • FartDude

        What’s wrong with gingham, partner?

        • Here in Denver, that’s actually not an unexpected way to dress

          • Caleb Newquist

            I can confirm.

        • FartDude’s Broseph

          Broseph, GC deleted a fart-load of awesome comments!!! I hope they shart themselves!!!!

          • FartDude

            Freaking lame, Colon…err…Colin.

    • kissmyirish

      Call me old fashioned, and maybe it’s because I work in NYC, but I find the idea of wearing jeans to work everyday in a professional environment fucking ridiculous.

      I’m still in public, but placing myself in a client’s shoes I don’t think I’d be happy about shelling out $ to a bunch of people dressed in street clothes. Let alone a firm who who lets their associates work remotely (i.e. like whatever that dipshit firm it was on here a few weeks ago).

      • Cheryl

        Calling you old fashioned. I worked in one of those places that had a “dress code.” The younger women wore dresses alright, but they were skin tight and showed just about everything, and I kept praying one of them would not drop something and have to bend over in front of a client. The men were too busy ogling and flirting to work half the time, and the conversations centered around where happy hour was that night, and who was drunkest the night before. But they were in dress code… In regards to working from home, all of the office politics, “dress code” and flirting, as well as phone calls and other distractions that happen in an office hinder production and performance, not enhance it. If someone were working for me and timeliness and accuracy were requirements, I would have no problem with the telecommuter (who may even be wearing pajamas and a robe!)

    • dumpus

      aside from the “shirt with a collar” being a preferred general societal rule, i’m not sure that a work dress code is relevant anymore. i don’t take anyone wearing a suit more seriously than someone who doesn’t, especially when i know that they’re required to wear one by some old crusty white guy who still cherishes the time-honoured look of wallpaper. in fact, when i see someone in a suit, my first ponderment is generally along the lines of “how many poor proletariat must one keep underfoot to afford the brooks brothers 1818 collection nowadays?” uniform is uniform, so to speak.

      if your clients are making snap judgments about your employees’ competency based on the way they dress, there are two things at play: 1) you are a shitty relationship manager and have no business selling your firm’s services, and 2) your client is a shitty client and you should probably fleece them for every billable hour you can due to their offensive superficiality.

      if cheetos stained jeans and firefly tee-shirts are good enough for the IT dorks who hold the keys to the kingdom, surely denim pants and a decent button-down are good enough for the spreadsheet jockeys.

    • Chipman69

      I bet that DYNAMIC GT will be next to make week-long dungarees its CHOSEN MARKET, now that DYNAMIC Mikey McGuire with his DYNAMIC pornography mustache is in charge!!!! Dungareed GT professionals will feel an INSTINCT FOR GROWTH watching the WHOLE SELVES and behinds of more attractive employees move around in these tight form-fitting garments!!! Hopefully these DYNAMIC professionals will be able to channel this increased INSTINCT FOR GROWTH into their work, instead of trying to penetrate a hot co-worker as a new CHOSEN MARKET!!!

    • Janet Berry-Johnson

      I had this same thought after reading the backlash. I used to work for a small firm in Incline Village (Lake Tahoe) and we had a casual dress code. That didn’t mean I wore sweats and flip flops. I wore nice jeans with a blazer or sweater and and appropriate footwear. My millionaire clients popped in to the office regularly. Most of them were in shorts, having just got off their boat (or ski jackets in the winter).

      Now I’m in Scottsdale, AZ. I’m sure not wearing pantyhose and a suit when it’s 110 degrees outside. Most of my clients are physicians and show up to meetings in scrubs.

      Part of being a professional is knowing how to dress for the occasion. I would never show up to work in something I would not want a client to see me in, even on a Saturday. I dress up when I have an important meeting where clothing matters, but the rest of the time, I don’t think any of my clients would be appalled to stop by my office to find me in jeans and an office-appropriate blouse.

      • Spectrum

        I think certain areas are different, however. People who work in stuffy locations (such as Wall Street, or in the courts/legal) are used to seeing people in suits. Those people DO form judgements about seeing people in something other than professional dress, unless there is an obvious explanation like “casual Friday.” On the other hand, I recently moved to industry and for the first two weeks at my new job, barely anyone spoke to me because I was wearing slacks and soft suits, and they all thought I was an auditor. As soon as I started wearing jeans, everyone was friendly. So the environment counts in dress decisions.

      • Cheryl

        The most intelligent post I have read yet.

    • cpanum31

      Cloths are extremely important. People judge other people by their appearance and they expect a “Professional” Accountant (whatever that means these days) to look like a “Professional.”

      Other than the “Dress for Success” look, you put yourself in peril.

      I guess Accountants no longer have to study Group Behavior in College to get a degree any more.