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Dubai: The rise of dressed down software execs like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and late Apple boss Steve Jobs, have led to a gradual easing of workplace norms when it comes to attire, according to Dubai-based etiquette specialist Siama Qadar.

California’s laid back Silicon Valley might have started this revolution, but the impact these west coast firms now have over business and culture in the more traditional corridors of power over on the east coast, is now taking root, with New York based investment firm Goldman Sachs being a prime example.

“Because of these new businesses that have only popped up over the last 10 years, style has moved away from suits and ties and companies like Goldman Sachs have to become modern,” said Qadar, chief executive officer and founding principal of the Institute of Modern Etiquette in Dubai, which deals with corporate business etiquette.

“When client facing it’s important to wear a suit but when you are meeting a software developer and you know that they are likely to be wearing jeans and a T-shirt, you’ve got to modify your business attire so it suits them.

Because of these new businesses that have only popped up over the last 10 years, style has moved away from suits and ties and companies like Goldman Sachs have to become modern.

- Siama Qadar, Modern Etiquette

“If you go in with a suit and they wear jeans and a T-shirt there is an imbalance, it’s not equal and it will be harder to win that client, so they are adapting to what society is throwing into the world.

“Productivity will increase because they will be able to close deals and be a lot more in tune with clients,” adds Qadar, who has covered this subject in her upcoming book Ladies and Gentlemen, The Quintessential Book on Modern Etiquette, which is out this month.

“It’s part of a wider trend and I think it’s just a matter of being more modern and adapting to the world because they don’t want to be left behind.”

Asked if, being an obvious proponent of etiquette, she thought the slipping of standards was a bad thing, Qadar replied: “Etiquette is very much about what society accepts and whether you are being considerate to society.

“If society says wear jeans and a T-shirt then you have got to be considerate. So part of etiquette is about being convenient and considerate to society, but at the same time we have got to do it in a classy, elegant and sophisticated way.

“There is a purpose to why we are going into that meeting, so you can’t forget the purpose if we are adapting to new trends and styles society is throwing at us. Yes, there will be a dilution of etiquette but we have always got to keep intelligence, professionalism, composure and consideration at the highest level with patience and tolerance.

“Etiquette will become a lot more emotional rather than something that is materialistically seen. It will be more about being a good human than materialistic things, so I think etiquette will shift more into emotional intelligence.”

What UAE residents are saying

I prefer a formal dress code in the office. But, by formal I don’t mean blazer and tie. The weather here is harsh for people to wear a proper suit. But, I prefer it to be a bit formal, otherwise people might walk in wearing anything. There should be some standards, T-shirts should not be allowed in a formal work atmosphere, because if we allow T-shirts then other people will walk in later wearing shorts as well. A formal shirt with jeans or semi-formal trousers is fine.

- Balraj Sharma, Indian, Manager

I think the dress code should depend on the nature of job. If you are working outdoors at a site, employees should be allowed to dress casually as required by the situation. Even if a person works in an office and doesn’t need to represent the company anywhere outside the company then there should be some relaxation in the dress code. If you are representing your company somewhere else, however, then I think it is still important to be presentable, as you are still representing the image of the company. Generally, I would want people to dress smartly.

- Fahad Abbasi, Pakistani, Planning Engineer

I have worked with companies that had strict formal dress codes like wearing ties the whole week, as well as other companies who allow you to wear more casual and semi formal clothes every day unless there were meetings or special events and we needed to wear suits. I would like to work in a company where I can mix these dress codes. The bottomline should always be though to dress for the occasion and always be smart, not just look smart.

- Arthur Los Baños, Filipino, Communications Professional

For me casual dressing is more relaxing and preferable. I think it is less stressful to dress casually. That doesn’t mean I don’t like wearing formal clothes. For me if I don’t find anything interesting to wear, I just dress simple and there is nothing safer than formal clothes. Formals are necessary for meetings or if you are visiting clients, but otherwise I prefer casual.

- Usman Al Hadi, Sudanese, Engineer