In our article “Dress for success in Brazil” we gave a general idea on what to wear in the Brazilian corporate environment. In this article we would like to give some more details about the Brazilian dress code and how it may vary according to the industry.
Men in black
Anyone looking at Avenida Paulista by lunch time will see hundreds of businessmen wearing black suits and ties under a heat of 37 degrees. This was how a businessman was recognized about 10 years ago. However, with the advent of startups and the rise of a younger businessman, the corporate dress code has started to change.
Just to give an example, some Brazilian companies that were known for having a strict dress code have allowed their employees to wear jeans on Fridays or promoted events like “Casual Day”, in which employees can go to work wearing more comfortable clothes.
If men were suffering to wear suits in the summer, women were suffering with uncomfortable shoes and suits or dresses that were not confortable or made it impossible for them to do simple things, such as reaching under their desks to plug their computers.
As more women were entering the market and occupying different positions from mere secretaries, the fashion industry has started to change in order to adapt to this new kind of professional. As for men, well, unfortunately, many of them are still stuck with suits and ties…
Between ties and flip-flops
The way a professional dresses has much to do with his job position. If he is a sales representative or a secretary, for example, he is representing the company, he/she embodies its image and everything a client or partner will know about the company will come through him/her, so it is important that his/her clothes manage to somehow express a serious and firm attitude.
Also, there is the concept that suits and ties are expensive, so they can only be worn by professionals who (supposedly) make more money. So, in theory, a boss wears suits and ties because he represents the company and also because he wants to look different from other employees, he wants everybody to know that he is the boss just by looking at him.
Hierarchy is reinforced by the dress code that is directly linked to the projection of a successful career: in theory, if you wear a uniform (with rare exceptions), you are a worker who does not make a lot of money and who has very little or no influence in the company’s decisions; if you wear suits, then there is a high chance that you are an educated and successful professional, and probably the boss.
Between these two poles are the ones trying to acquire a better position in the corporate world. They would be the interns you see at the metro station changing their flip-flops to heels before entering the building where they work or carrying a shirt and sneakers in a backpack.
Legal and Finance
The strictest of all “industries” in terms of dress code, legal and finance professionals are easily recognizable. If you go to a bank in Brazil, you will never see an employee wearing sneakers. The same works for lawyers and accountants.
A couple of years ago, OAB, which is the Lawyer’s organization in Brazil, had proposed that the use of suits and ties in Rio de Janeiro would not be mandatory during Summer time, when temperature reaches 40º C degrees.
OAB had then proposed that lawyers working in cities with very severe summers were allowed to wear only dress-pants and dress-shirts, however, many of them were not allowed to enter the court without the traditional outfit.
As an attempt to solve the situation, the National Council of Justice (Conselho Nacional de Justiça – CNJ) has decided that lawyers must wear suits and ties while on court, unless there is an exceptional authorization from the local court.
Marketing and Business General
Professionals working in these two areas are not obliged to wear stricter clothes, however, in many cases, they are expected to. It depends greatly on the job position: if you are an assistant at the Market department, then you will probably be fine with a dress-shirt or dress-pants and women with dress-pants, skirts, dresses or a nice shirt. Suits, in this case, would be more directed to managers and directors.
As for business, in general, apart from managers and directors, sales representatives are also expected to be very well dressed, as they represent the image of the company.
Both managers and commercial representatives are expected to:
- Wear a formal suit with a tie
- Make sure dress-shirts are neat and free of wrinkles
- Wear clothes that fit well (not tight or baggy)
- Give preference to dark colors
- Use good quality accessories (bracelets, earrings, necklaces, etc)
- Manicures are expected
IT and Mobile
IT and Mobile companies do not have a strict, determined dress code like Finance and Legal companies. They transit between the casualty of creative industries and the formality of lawyers. Companies like Google and Microsoft adopt a more casual line, banishing the use of suits, ties and dress-pants. Other companies, like British Telecom, rely on suits and ties.
What you wear depends on the company and on the kind of job position you occupy. If you are a manager, you will probably be required to dress more properly than the employees who work for you, what can mean a stricter vestment. However, if you are a developer you will be fine with dress-shirt and dress-pants.
The best way to find out what to wear is to observe your colleagues or to ask directly what is the dress code for that particular company. This way, you avoid showing up on a meeting wearing jeans and sneakers when everybody else is wearing a tie.
Due to the nature of the profession, it is rare to see an engineer wearing formal suits, unless he occupies a manager or director position. Those who work on the field are more likely to wear jeans with a polo shirt. In some cases, they can even wear the same uniform as the workers.
In general, engineering companies adopt a more casual dress code, allowing jeans, casual shoes and polo shirts. If you do not occupy a manager or director position, than you should reserve your dress-shirts and dress-pants for formal occasions, such as important meetings.
This is where things change radically. A person wearing a formal suit in an advertisement office in Brazil will probably feel out of place. The same works for publishing houses, schools and other establishments in which professionals are more expected to develop creativity rather than representing an image.
To be able to wear whatever you feel comfortable with is very positive and helps keeping the employee motivated. It must be hard to create that amazing ad when your feet are killing you. However, some people actually enjoy wearing dress-pants and do not feel comfortable wearing flip-flops to go to work and believe it or not, in some companies they are mandatory.
In this area professionals are allowed to wear clothes and accessories that really match their personalities, such as sneakers, scarves, jeans, shirts and even piercings and tattoos.
Tradition gives room to youth
Last April, Banco Itaú announced that as part of the introduction of a new business culture in the organization, their executives are no longer required to wear suits and ties (it used to be mandatory).
Also, with changes in the relationship between employers and employees and with a more horizontal hierarchy, employers have tried to stay closer to their employees and one of the first steps was to wear clothes that were more similar to what employees were wearing in order to avoid an intimidating first impression.
Formal clothes are giving room to outfits that denote more personality. There seems to be a tendency in valorizing the personality of the employee and giving him more room to express himself. It seems that employers are getting more interested in knowing his employees and how they can effectively contribute to the company growth.
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