Dress codes are funny things. Everyone in Silicon Valley likes to make out they are super-relaxed, and you can wear whatever you like. “We don’t have a dress code.” But that’s not really true. There are still rules about what you can wear. People who say “we don’t care what you wear” very much do care if you wear the wrong thing.

Here’s some examples of dress codes from well-known Bay Area tech companies:

From Google:

What to wear: For most of our interviews, the dress code is casual, but your recruiter will let you know what’s most appropriate. When in doubt, be yourself and wear what makes you comfortable.

From Twitter:

What should I wear to my interview?

We have a very relaxed, welcoming, and fun environment. While we don’t have a strict dress code, we also wouldn’t recommend pajamas. Come comfortable…

At Facebook:

What is Facebook’s dress code? There isn’t one. Wear what you are comfortable in.

When I started work, I wore a suit every day. That changed over the years, based upon where I was working, and broader industry trends. These days it’s dress shirts, trousers, and nice shoes. I like to mix the shirts up a bit - it’s unusual to see me in a traditional business blue or white shirt. More likely to be a combination of patterns, colours and styles. Definitely not branded shirts, or polo shirts.

This works pretty well across a range of business environments, but it’s a step up on the typical attire in the Bay Area. And here’s the funny thing: In a world of ‘no dress code’, people sometimes struggle with that. The public message is that they don’t care what you wear, but if you turn up to an interview at those companies in a suit, they will form a negative opinion of you. “It doesn’t matter what you wear!…as long as you dress like us.”

People will make assumptions that I’m the sales guy, or they might think I’m off to an interview, or they find it vaguely threatening. Sometimes people will say “you should be in t-shirt and jeans”..but hey, no dress code, right?

It’s not that big a deal, and mostly I wear whatever I like…but it is funny how “no dress code” doesn’t really mean that.

Just a random observation.