Sweet Developer Style

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A sweet style is something I’ve been trying to attain for about two years. I just kind of decided one day that I cared about how I look, since it not only affects how other people see me, but also affects how I see myself.

Traditionally, software developers grow beards (I’m physiologically incapable of this) and dress down to the bear minimum of whatever dress code they’re forced to adhere to by their employer. Since employers are generally getting more lax about formal dress codes, software developers are getting more and more casual every day.

I started my new job 6 weeks ago. Other devs started on the same day, and came dressed with a shirt and tie, dress pants, and formal shoes. Over the next month, they slowly shifted to jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers.

There’s nothing wrong with this at all - I think the most important thing about your style is that you’re comfortable in it. However, being someone who wants to have a sweet style in my work sometimes puts me out of place.

A common conversation I have with salespeople is something likech:

Salesperson: “You just moved to Toronto? That’s great!”

Me: “We love it here.”

Salesperson: “So you’re looking around at our sales racks. What do you do for a living?”

Me: “I’m a software developer.” Salesperson: “Oh.”

I think they’re used to people who come in who have to  dress up, where I choose to. Most days, anyways. This week was particularly hard on me, so I tended to wake up late and throw on whatever I could.

This highlights why I consider myself pretty lucky to be in the field I’m in. I can choose one day to wear chucks and jeans and the next day choose to wear some slick chinos, a nice plaid shirt, knit purple tie, and sweet shoes. The option to dress up is really nice.

I think my aversion to the standard dev style of t-shirt and shorts is grounded in not only standing out (maybe local companies will come to know the legend of “Ash Furrow, Toronto’s Best-Dressed Developer”), but also grounded in the fact that I’m a bigger guy. Computer nerds are stereotyped as chunky slobs, and I think there are a lot of us who try to dispel this in their own ways. I have nerd friends who are into skateboarding, or hip-hop, or cycling, or who also dress more than the bare minimum. I’m not saying we’re trying to break away from the stereotype, but I also notice these nerd friends who do break the stereotype are also exactly* the ones who are uncomfortable with it. (*this is mathematically precise, which I know they’ll all appreciate.)

Now that I’m out fo school, I can afford nicer apparel to build my sweet developer style, but have to be careful not to go overboard. Ashley has helped me develop a sort of litmus test for determining if I should buy something. Maybe I’ll detail it next time.


Posted on August 6, 2011