Working in Silicon Valley for twenty-five years, my work uniform has been jeans, casual shoes, and tasteful T-shirts, oxford shirts, or mock turtles — depending on the season. I’ve had maybe two suits my entire career. No need for them. For special occasions, I’d switch to chinos and add a blazer. I haven’t been the odd one out. The emphasis has been on business casual in the engineering cultures I’ve been in.
There’s even Sun folklore about our CEO, Scott McNealy, going on a customer visit years ago. The customer came into the conference room, and began talking rather openly with the folks there. After a while the customer asked, “Where’s McNealy? Should we start without him?” Little had he known, Scott had been sitting there listening the whole time, disguised in his standard oxford shirt and jeans.
This week, my engineering VP wore a suit and tie to an all-hands meeting. It was a little scary. VPs tend to wear nicer clothes, thanks to more frequent customer and press meetings, but suit and tie is still pretty rare. It was a clear sign that things are changing.
When the EU concludes its investigation, and Sun disappears into Oracle, there may be sadness for the end of an era. But something tells me that the Brooks Brothers and Nordstrom sales associates have something to look forward to — a little green ray from our sunset.