Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Should Chemists 'Dress for Success?'

Chemists: Does your workplace have a dress code? Should it?

Long-time readers may remember that I opined on this very subject waaay back in the early days, noting that long-term bench work does a number on nice duds. Well, I've since switched jobs, and in my current role I'm often called upon to meet vendors, interact with inspectors, and strike up academic collaborations. So, jeans and beat-up T-shirts are decidedly out for me.

I've found that thrift stores (Goodwill, Salvation Army) tend to offer reasonably nice business casual clothes for 20-30% of the original items' costs. And, as Chemjobber has pointed out, proper lab PPE certainly helps to protect any investment you make on the sartorial front.

But out of sheer curiosity, I wonder: does anyone get to wear jeans and T-shirts past grad school?

Let me know in the comments. Thanks!


  1. I had a TA once who would show up in a T-shirt with a circle/slash through stickfigures, um, making the beast w/2 backs. The caption? "No fornicating."

    I've tried to avoid that look, with some minor success.

  2. I wore jeans and t-shirts my entire time in industry (in San Diego). Maybe that's why I didn't get promoted as fast, but oh well.

  3. In grad school, just t shirts unless I was giving a seminar or various special occasions. Wouldn't dress up at all for teaching, though some people did.
    In new job, we'll see...

  4. Really varies with workplace. Most in industry seem to keep at least business casual, but I work for a small consulting firm and regularly wear, if not jeans and t-shirt, jeans and a decent (untucked) button-down shirt or sweater to the office. Tho of course we dress more formally when meeting with clients.

  5. In our pharma process group we still get to wear jeans and collared shirts. In fact, coming in to work "too dressed up" in nice pants, a formal button down shirt, and shiny shoes generally elicits comments about what you have going on that day that is so important you had to dress up.

  6. I feel very fortunate to be able to wear jeans / T-shirts to work. The bench scientists here are not expected to dress up. Despite PPE, bench work can still ruin nice clothes. As far as "dress for success," well, if I had to dress up to go to work I'd consider that failure. Likewise if I weren't allowed to listen to music in the lab.

  7. Working in a consumer products development lab, we stick with business casual.
    Fridays are "casual friday" and jeans are acceptable.

  8. Having worked in large and mid-size pharma, I had a pretty good collection of "business casual" clothes. Now that I'm in start-up mode, it's jeans and t-shirts everyday!

  9. Because we don't talk to anyone who actually buys our product, people generally dress in whatever clothes are around (decent jeans, collared shirts or sweaters/sweatshirts, etc.). The only times that nicer (or different) clothes are required are 1) the CEO/universal overlord shows up to give a "state of [my employer]" address (apparently our company's president got a talking-to when CEO saw at least one person in unnice jeans), and 2) when you are an attractive tall female with a predilection for (relatively) short skirts, someone in management will probably complain that you should dress more modestly (probably the same ones that won't walk a flight of stairs and then can't understand how that might have something to do with their size).