Factory floor fashions

The Secret Engineer

Tie or polo shirt? Suit jacket or cardigan? Our anonomous blogger contemplates the sartorial srtandards of the modern engineering firm

One of my first jobs after graduating was at a factory very close to home. As I walked home one day a small boy looked at me in my suit, shirt and tie and asked me if I was a ‘businessman’. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but chuckled and said yes. Since then, I always regretted that I hadn’t corrected him and informed him that I was an Engineer.

I think dress codes are a strange thing for engineers. I once worked in a Design Office that recognised that ‘design was creative’ and therefore a strict dress code wasn’t implemented. Polo shirts with logos were issued and a few people wore them but it wasn’t a requirement. Most people decided to wear quite smart clothes most of the time anyway.  Friday was a dress down day, but I preferred to wear a shirt and tie every day, because I didn’t really want to show a dressed down version in my working environment. I started out as an apprentice and I worked hard to become staff.  I was as keen as the next engineer to expect that I should be treated like a professional, so I thought it only fair that I dressed like one.

Where I work now, I am expected to wear a uniform. Although there is a company tie, these are rarely worn. I do tend to follow the no-tie norm, especially as I’m on the shop floor a lot and I don’t want to look like someone trying to enforce an ‘us and them’ stereotype by wearing a tie. If I’m visiting another part of the business or I can justify it in some way, however, I still like to make the effort to wear a tie (my pick, not the company version) so that I look a bit more professional.

Some people like to add their qualifications to their e-mail signatures. I worry that this could also be divisive and prefer to work on the assumption that if people see how I work, they will draw their own conclusions as to how much professional respect I deserve. I do, however, add all my post-nominal letters to my business cards.  I have thought about having two versions (with and without qualifications), but I decided it would be too complicated to work out who should get which.

There is of course, the style of the office genius. A dirty tie, often a beard and usually a smoker of roll-up cigarettes or a pipe, shiny trousers and an ill fitting sports jacket (or cardigan) with elbow patches. I don’t think I’m clever enough to carry that one off, however, so I’ll stick with smartly dressed, a tie when I can, and post-nominal letters on my business cards only.