dressed down

Video: Innovation in government is not going to come from a guy in a suit

August 21, 2014
August 21, 2014

The Obama White House has been more lax than most administrations when it comes to dress code in the West Wing, having done away with the tradition of wearing a jacket in the Oval Office at all times and allowing staff to dress down on weekends. But a newly launched division of the executive branch is taking the White House’s business casual look to a whole new level.

Mikey Dickerson was part of the team responsible for smoothing out healthcare.gov and is now the face of the new US Digital Service, which will fix up other government websites. The 35-year-old former Google engineer ambles about the White House in rumpled khakis and wrinkled button-downs; he considers the style a step up from his old look, which apparently involved t-shirts. And though Dickerson has donned a jacket and tie for at least one meeting with the president, he didn’t insist that his team do the same.

We know all this because the White House released a video this week of Dickerson’s first few days in office as the US Digital Service’s administrator. We see him sitting in an orientation session, preparing for a press conference, and trying to create a password for his government-issued smartphone. The video also includes a conversation Dickerson has with Jeff Zients, the director of the National Economic Council, about the issue of dress code. (Zients, who wears a tie, is all for Dickerson keeping things casual.)

If the government wants to deflect criticism for expanding bureaucracy, it probably doesn’t hurt to showcase an accessible hero at the helm, an everyman trying to create an environment in which ideas and innovation flow freely. Ties restrict more than your neck, apparently—an observation that Dickerson said he heard about from many who contacted him through social media wanting to know how he planned to dress for the new job.

“That’s just he quickest shorthand way of asking ‘Is this the same old business as usual, or are they actually going to listen?'” Dickerson explained in the video.

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Mikey Dickerson is the one without the tie.

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