- Dress codes depend on a company’s industry and culture.
- If in doubt about company rules, ask HR or your supervisor.
- Your work attire reflects on you and your professionalism.
Business casual is probably one of the least understood descriptions of appropriate business attire in the workplace. This common label is subject to a wide spectrum of interpretation. Business-casual clothing was meant to provide an opportunity to work in a more relaxed, yet still professional, type of clothing. With so many choices, it’s easier than ever to commit a fashion faux pas that’s not only embarrassing, but also detrimental to your career.
So how has the meaning of “business casual” evolved over the years? It was originally defined as no tie, button-down shirt and slacks for men, and a skirt or slacks and blouse or shirt for women. The intention was to get away from the more formal suit or sport coat-and-tie look for men and suit look for women.
In addition, business casual can be a more casual denim shirt for men with a casual tie (madras plaid), and perhaps a blazer or a vest or sweater over a shirt, depending on what is accepted in the particular industry. In many instances, business casual has become even more informal, allowing for a polo shirt or corporate logo shirt and a skirt or slacks.
Business Casual to the Extreme
Sometimes when employees hear that business casual is their company’s policy on dress, some take the opportunity to really dress down. They quickly trade in the slacks for jeans, and shirts for T-shirts.
The summer months can be a particularly treacherous minefield of work fashion don’ts. It’s wise to consider that very few places of business find tank or tube tops, flip-flops or tennis shoes and shorts appropriate business attire. Still, many people take advantage of the looser dress code, especially when the employer does not set a standard. When the options are wide open and the discretion is left totally to individual choice (without written guidelines), sometimes dress standards can drop below the level of acceptability.
While many businesses accept a more relaxed style, a significant number have tightened their reins. Too many people come into work as though going on a picnic or to a ballgame, and employers become frustrated by having to correct behavior and don’t want to take on the role of fashion police.
What’s Appropriate at Your Job?
Businesses are now taking another look at what is acceptable clothing to wear in the workplace. If there is a question about what to wear, ask advice from an area supervisor. Employers should be clear about acceptable workplace attire during employees’ orientations to avoid conflict or discomfort at a later date. Dress will vary by the type of industry or individual work environment.