Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What kind of dress code do you have at work as a systems administrator?

Business casual, casual, some days casual, some days business casual, formal? It's safe to say "it all depends on the type of day we're planning on having" - but what happens if you need to speak to some C level personnel? Do you have a spare set of clothes?


locked by HopelessN00b Jan 25 '15 at 21:46

This question exists because it has historical significance, but it is not considered a good, on-topic question for this site, so please do not use it as evidence that you can ask similar questions here. This question and its answers are frozen and cannot be changed. More info: help center.

closed as primarily opinion-based by HopelessN00b Jan 25 '15 at 21:45

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

What is "C level personnel"? – John Gardeniers Jun 4 '10 at 2:28
@John: CEO, COO, CIO, CTO, etc., etc. – joeqwerty Jun 4 '10 at 2:35
@ joeqwerty - I see, it's language/cultural thing. We have workers, office staff and "Big Nobs". – John Gardeniers Jun 4 '10 at 2:41
@John: Personally, I like Big Nob much better. I'm going to see how that flies with my boss tomorrow. Also, can I use you as a reference on my resume? ;) – joeqwerty Jun 4 '10 at 2:44
We call them "suits". – Chris Nava Jun 4 '10 at 3:00

10 Answers 10

Our office staff have a semi-formal requirement to wear "neat office casual", which is the normal step or so down from collar and tie, with casual Fridays. While I normally follow that trend, mainly because mine is the first office people pass on the way to the boardroom, I'm free to dress pretty much as I like.

I generally try to look reasonably respectable, at least to the point where I don't stand out too much from the crowd, because I figure some one those people walking past my office may one day be interviewing me for a job. ;)

I used to keep a tie in the office in for use in meetings with people from outside the company but I no longer do that, as I've never actually put it on.

+1, I've got a very generic tie in my cube for special occasions. Khakis and button down usually (polo in the warm and slow summer months). Most common staff wear the same; uppers commonly wear suits when meeting with clients. – Chris S Jun 4 '10 at 3:00
+1 for tie in the office. I used to do that too but actually did use it when the "suits" showed up from the head office. – Chris Nava Jun 4 '10 at 3:02
What if you're in the data center or running cables? Is the semi formal attire still suitable? – andyhky Jun 4 '10 at 4:12
I work for a small company, where I have a very small server room with a single rack, so rarely need to go in there (other than to change tapes). As for cabling, these days I get someone in for that, as I'm just slightly past my prime. – John Gardeniers Jun 4 '10 at 5:03
I tend to wear Jeans + T-shirt/Polo shirt to work most days. Special days I'll dig out a dress shirt from my wardrobe (This is quite infrequent). If it's summer, I can wear shorts. (Better than my last job, where shorts were forbidden. Shame, I have rather nice legs. ) – Tom O'Connor Jun 4 '10 at 8:08

Someone told me one day : "Dress for the job level you're trying to reach", and it must be one of the best advice I've ever heard in my professional life.

I must be aiming for that lucrative beach bum job... That said, I'm a programmer not an admin :) – John Barrett Jun 4 '10 at 10:03

I don't have a dress code. Basically I roll out of bed and throw the first thing I see on. This has ranged from pants with holes in them (ok i just didn't notice the holes until i've gotten to work) and t-shirts (although I avoid any of my "controversal" shirts ) all the way to khaki's and a polo. My office is right next to the division president's so no i don't change. When I'm at the corporate offices the dress code is pretty much the same, the "C" levels do at most business casual although they have been known to come in in jeans and t-shirts fairly regularly as well.

Same story here. I work in Higher Ed, so things are a bit more casual to begin with. Shorts/t-shirts/sandals in the summer, jeans/fleece/hiking boots in the winter. – EEAA Jun 4 '10 at 2:10
Same here. I don't have a dress code...sometimes i even dress broken shoes. As Zypher, i dress the first thing I see or i find. Just one thing is forbidden: shorts (unluckily). – Pier Jun 4 '10 at 7:27

I usually dress with jeans and a polo shirt, socks and black "trainer" walking shoes, and usually have my Tilley hat with me. Never shorts or sandals, occasionally t-shirts or button-down short sleeves. My bosses understand that ties double my hourly rates.

I'm fortunate in that for the most part, the people who might care about my appearance both appreciate my ability to get things done and understand the job's potential for having to go digging around in dirty and unpleasant places; if appearance is super important for a particular function, they usually give me the heads up and I'll either make myself scarce or dress up for the function.

Once I had a customer insist on a particular dress code, and I expensed the resulting dry-cleaning bill back to him. When he challenged the expense, I just showed him the particular area I'd been working in, and told him that unless he wanted building maintenance to keep this area a lot cleaner, the cleaning expenses were directly tied to my observance of the dress code.

+1 for "My bosses understand that ties double my hourly rates" – Grant Palin Jun 4 '10 at 17:05

If "clothes make the man" I should be hawaiian by now, because every day is hawaiian shirt day.


Depends on the country and local culture. When working in Ireland, I had to wear trousers (not jeans) and a collared shirt, while in Israel, it's all jeans/tshirt or even shorts+sandals everywhere.

I once worked in a call centre (also Ireland) with no windows. Had to suit up (whole shebang)... on the phone... never met people... no windows... suit. GAH! What was worse was there was no dress code for the evening shift. – John Barrett Jun 4 '10 at 10:05
we had jeans allowed on fridays :) – dyasny Jun 4 '10 at 12:48

One of my first jobs I was disciplined for dressing semi-casual - the boss really didn't want to do that but couldn't convince the other partners that formal attire was unsuitable for my job (lots of climbing under desks to install new desktops or poking my head inside running machines).

These days I dress for what I'm expecting the day to include. I'll wear my corporate-branded sweatshirt if I'm expecting to visit new clients, but generally I dress comfortably and try to avoid dealing with actual people.


The old adage "the clothes make the man" still carries weight as far as I'm concerned. For me it's khakis or chinos with a button shirt or polo. Others in my office wear jeans and t-shirts but for me it's about presenting a certain image to my co-workers and customers. I feel it's my job to present an attitude of confidence, reliability, and professionalism to those that I run across during the work day and the first step in doing that is through my appearance. It really is true that people make judgements about you based on how you look. If you look like the plumber I'm not going to feel good about you touching my network.

No offense to anyone wearing jeans, shorts, or t-shirts. ;)

I surely hear what you're saying. I guess my view is that if someone does pass judgment on my solely based on my attire, I'm not interested in working with them anyway. Might this decision lose me a couple of opportunities during my career? Maybe. Maybe not. I choose to not worry about that. :) – EEAA Jun 4 '10 at 2:55
I fully agree about people passing judgment based on appearance. I have them thoroughly confused by dressing tidy for the office but wearing a longish, and often somewhat scruffy, beard. Of course I would prefer them to judge me on my work, not how I look while doing it but that's not how the world works. – John Gardeniers Jun 4 '10 at 3:34

I tend to dress reasonably smartly - business-casual I guess, I certainly stopped wearing a tie a few years ago anyway.

That said I do have a cowboy hat and a replica hand-grenade on my desk so I may be sending mixed-messages to be honest...


Most days I dress corp casual. Unless I know I have a client meeting or something like that.

Linux sys admins have a bad reputation for dress code and I have to agree. All the great ones I have know have always been a little lacking in wardrobe. But really smart and really cool people.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.