For twenty years, I wore the same mix of what most white-collar workers wear to work: “business casual” on most days and a suit once in a while, depending on the day’s meetings. Maybe even “casual casual” when going into the office on a weekend, when few people would be around and the air conditioning turned off.
In 2014, I moved to Korea and started working for Samsung Group, which has a rigid corporate culture (by Western standards) and dress code to match. I started off wearing grey, navy, and black suits five days a week in the middle of monsoon season, the kind of weather that leaves you dripping sweat down the insides of your suit sleeves and dress slacks. Most people would look forward the office air conditioning at this point, but Samsung adheres to government energy guidelines and its office buildings will not be cooled lower than 26c (79f). Moreover, every day feels like I’m getting dressed for a wedding or a funeral, which is a weird mindset to carry into work. I’m not Big Shaq. Man was hot.
The weather got to me, along with my dry cleaning bill. When the seasons turned, I had to plan ahead for the next round of summer sauna. Well, Steve Jobs was famous for wearing the same outfit every day. I read about Obama and Zuckerberg doing the same. So I decided to simplify things and when I returned to the U.S. for the holidays, I bought five white shirts, five blue shirts, and five pairs of jeans. Two colors of shirt? They look the same to my dogs, good enough for me.
Starting in January 2015, I started wearing the same thing to work (and work functions) every day. Pictures or it didn’t happen?
March 2015, the seventh year in a row and last time I spoke at SXSW in Austin
May 2015, work dinner in Dubai
June 2015, on stage at Cannes Lions
June 2015, at the Samsung seeing eye dog school outside of Seoul
September 2015, Global Network Team photo at Cheil
March 2016, SXSW
October 2016, at LEGO in London
May 2017, spark.me in Montenegro
June 2017, internal digital conference in Billund, using Google Tilt Brush
Any lessons learned?
- Like other people who’ve done this, I can tell you that it keeps everything simple. Fewer decisions to make; it’s easier to get out the door in the morning or pack for business trips.
- The same clothes don’t fit so well if you put on weight — I don’t need a scale to tell me that I should eat fewer bagels.
- I do try to wear a different pair of shoes every day. I once met a podiatrist who told me that shoes need a day to regain their cushioning. So I’ve rotated every day ever since.
- If people care about what I wear to work, no one’s saying anything about it. I haven’t heard a word about this for three years and counting!