Monday, July 19, 2010

Cottoning To Change

When I started working in San Francisco the standard office uniform was suit and tie for the men, and subdued skirts or pantsuits, which had recently become acceptable, for the ladies. Wool, not cotton or polyester, was the norm.

Silicon Valley had a completely different sartorial ethic. Its workforce consisted of blue-collar laborers, convention-flouters from Sixties cultural battles, and fresh-faced kids who had never grown accustomed to wearing a suit. They didn’t see the necessity of dressing up. It also didn’t hurt that company founders who showed up every day in jeans, tee-shirts, and running shoes became well-publicized successes.

It took a generation, but Silicon Valley won. Business casual has become the norm in West Coast office towers. Many companies still draw the line at denim, but short-sleeve shirts on hot summer days are now permissible.

Lately I’ve been breaking out the aloha (Hawaiian) shirts, and I’ve noticed that more Californians are joining in wearing colorful tropical garb. Whether it’s due to the rising popularity of Latin, South Asian, or Hawaiian influences, that’s change I can believe in.

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