postheadericon TECH TALK: Do Clothes Matter?

I began this week’s Tech Talk writing about my vast cable collection, which is stored in a huge closet drawer – the cable drawer – that must have over 1,000 different cables by now, collected in just six years of computing in Nepal. But then I ran across this headline on Orange News.uk: Software Firm Wants Naked Web Coder.

Chris Taylor, the company spokesman for Nude House, a UK-based software house, says:
“As far as I am aware this is not only the first UK office job for naturists in web-coding or web-selling, but is also the first worldwide facility for naturists to earn substantial sums of money from work that incidentally provides them with the capability to work entirely without clothes.” 
Mr Taylor follows that up with a reminder,
“Sex does not play a part in naturism” and customers “...never know that our providers are nude.”
Apparently, what is “natural” in Europe is much different than what is natural elsewhere, as I remember starting my tech career wearing a suit, tie and jacket that conformed to the Company colours: Big Blue. And here of course we have the Daura-Suruwal... Up until about 1987, IBM had a strictly enforced dress code, and one that had been around since the 50s or so. In the 70s, the corporate attire even included a hat, which, as kids, we would enthusiastically try to knock off the heads of IBM commuters, employing huge snowballs from the banks of slush amassed at each carpool point.

The IBM men, and they were all men back then, would stoically scofflaw our immature behavior, but deep down inside I suspect they wished they were the ones throwing slush balls instead of commuting to work like well-dressed robots, to spend eight hours or more behind a cold and formidable terminal, in a hermetically sealed computer room with a raised floor and lined with whirring disk drives.



I left IBM long before the coat and tie did, but I did return to a programming center in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1999, to find my old work chums all programming in temporary cubicles (private offices that have long been replaced by hotel-style workspaces) and everyone was dressed down to shorts, t-shirts, and gym shoes. I felt way overdressed with my Friday casual wear: Dockers, button-down shirt, and penny loafers. So in the course of a few decades, software development had gone from a stuffy conformity to a loose wear-what-you-like environment, and one in which the change of dress can be correlated to the very products produced.

For example, compare a 1995 Lotus Notes or Outlook to Facebook in 2011, and you can see that informality has become the standard in software interfaces as well as employee dress. Perhaps it was Steve Jobs that set this trend with his signature black turtleneck and jeans, but there is no denying that what we wear to work is somehow connected to what we produce while we are behind the computer.

Could Euro-naturalism be a further most-extreme extension of this trend? Or perhaps the trend in fashion-wear and software (informal, comfortable, and homey) is just an outcome of the mobile worker bee that hatched in the 80s, when the workforce began extending itself from the traditional office to the new-age home office.

I had almost forgotten my own elation over being part of IBM’s work-at-home experiment back then, as I could just connect my terminal to my phone line and then telecommute wearing nothing but my boxers and fuzzy slippers. And 30 years later, little has changed except that now my home is my office and I am now the boss.

But naked? Never.

I would dismiss Nude House’s work environment as a click-grabber and publicity stunt, if it had not been for my trip to Amsterdam a few years back, where I was attending a Filipino Independence Day Picnic that reminded me of any mela back home. There were food stalls, grandmas and grandpas on blankets eating lunch, and the teens were all listening to some really bad pop music blaring from the stage. Then, lo and behold! Amid a few hundred Filipino families, comes riding the Dutch Naturalists Bicycle Club – single file on bikes of all descriptions, and all riders were buck-naked. Young and old, even toddlers in bike strollers, all sans attire.

The shock and clash of cultures was chilling... the Filipino picnic went dead quiet while the Dutch nude bicyclists shouted out their freedom calls.

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Jiggy Gaton
lives in Kathmandu and is an aging technologist - has been since the days of Woodstock - so in the words of Roland The Gunslinger "he is from a world now gone by." However, Jigs is extremely up-to-date on all things tech and is also available for hire.
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