There is no doubt about the fact that the dress codes for workplaces have transformed significantly over the past decades. Today, there are a lot of celebrated CEOs seen in casual clothes.
Office policies can be said to have started changing since late 1960s with the introduction of ‘casual Friday’. Also, the culture of corporate shifting together with the rise in individualism (the freedom of individual to carry out an action i.e. being self-reliant) among employees has contributed to the increase in the informal dress codes.
As much as the increase in the relaxed dress code makes employees to be more comfortable and make room for flexibility, it has resulted to different interpretations. Owing to this, it is of importance to be informed about what business casual means.
Stephanie Naznitsky, the executive director of OfficeTeam said: these days, business casual does not really have any hard and fast rule (a fixed rule or definite facts). However, it can be mastered so far the factors at play are known.
The first thing to take note of is the industry. For instance, technology firms and creative agencies are associated with more casual atmospheres thereby resulting to a less formal work wear. Some professions like the finance and the legal still has the tendency of buttoning up, even when dressed down.
Secondly, what is seen as casual business wears differs based on the role and experience, either as a junior staff, a prospective hire, or a seasoned manager. Often, what will be considered appropriate is specified by the employer.
Therefore, the problem that has been spotted so far was that, most people don’t have a clear understanding of the different dress codes today. This is all because there is no general agreement on the definition of the term “business casual.” Although, clothings do not describe one’s credibility and competence, however they influence others’ perception of these qualities. Often than not, this reality has effect on career opportunities.
In order to help you with the right choice of business casual clothing for women and men, some examples has been highlighted below.
Business casual for women
Deciding what’s right when it comes to business casual attire for women can be somehow tricky. However, if it happens that you’re not sure about what is recognized as acceptable, it’s better to play safe by sticking to the well-known business casual outfits, which include:
Shirts and tops – Buttoned or collared blouses, short and long-sleeved sweaters or tops that cover the cleavage and midriff. Backless tops as well as tank tops should be avoided. In informal settings or a non-customer facing roles, sweatshirts or T- shirts may be permitted. However in most cases, it’s advisable to stick to the solid color shirts rather than those with graphics.
Jackets – it should be noted that jackets are not required. Moreover, if you like to wear one, then suit jackets, cardigans, twinsets and blazers are still good options.
Skirts – Depending on the specific role you are undertaking, skirts that are slightly above the knee may be acceptable e.g. in fashion and retail settings. But, miniskirts or the skirt types with a high slit need to be avoided. However, knee-length skirts are the most appropriate in most business casual settings.
Dresses – Unless you are working in a fashion industry, it’s advisable to avoid extremes such as mini or maxi dresses and slip dresses. Ideally, dresses should be knee-length as stated above, and can either be worn alone or together with a jacket, cardigan or blazer.
Pants – Chinos, cropped pants, khakis, and dark palazzo-style pants may be worn. Denim pants are also permitted in some workplaces.
Shoes – flat or closed-toe shoes are better chosen. Also, classic loafers, courts, ballet pumps, oxfords and brogues are nice. However, it’s better off to avoid flip-flops, and sandals.
Heeled shoes – Heel styles like stacked and tapered heels that are not higher than three inches are acceptable. But platform heels, stilettos, wedges or block heels are better avoided.
Socks and hosiery – putting on pantyhose socks is not accepted as a business casual dress code in a workplace. However, if you have the thought of wearing them, it’s advisable to go for opaque or nude pantyhose (not patterned or with colors except black or navy). Among all these, dark-colored socks are the standard.
Business casual for men
The business casual attire for men can be said to be straight forward unlike that of women. This is because, the acceptable options for their clothings lie between a full suit and jeans. Listed below are the most business casual outfits for men.
Shirts – Polo shirts, crew neck or V-neck sweaters, collared or buttoned shirts are good choices. Likewise, sweatshirts and T-shirts may be permitted in informal settings especially with non-customer-facing roles. It should be noted that it is best to stick to solid color T-shirts rather than the ones with graphics or logos.
Jackets – Those that are accepted include Blazers, cardigans or suit jackets.
Pants – Dress slacks, dressy khakis, corduroys, or chinos are nice outfit in this regards. Some workplaces may permit denim pants, particularly when paired with more formal clothing like a blazer. But sweatpants are tagged as been too casual to fit as business casual dress.
Shoes – Closed-toe shoes like Oxfords, brogues, derby shoes and monk shoes are fit to use. More so, some workplaces may permit slip-on loafers but, except it’s specifically stated then it’s best to avoid wearing tennis or running shoes.
Socks – Brightly colored or athletic socks should be avoided. But the dark-colored dress socks are best fit.
Ties – The wearing of a tie or preferably a bow tie is optional and in most cases is seen as formal.
The aforementioned guidelines above are very germane as touching business casual outfits either for men or women. Nevertheless, they shouldn’t be totally seen as hard-and-fast rules.
When you are not sure of a company’s dress policy, what could be done?
When getting set for any job interview, there is need to decide what exactly constitutes the company’s business casual even when you have little or no clue provided from your employer. When you happen to find yourself in this state, it is however preferable to err on the safer (conservative) side.
This is because being overdressed is less problematic than to be underdressed. However, putting on a three-piece suit repeatedly to where jeans and T-shirts due to the nature of the workplace may negatively affect the relationships at the workplace.
In order to lessen these bottlenecks, some key tips have been listed below for you to bear in mind whenever you are not sure about any company’s dress code:
Do your research: Endeavor to find out either from the company’s social media profiles or their website to know what their employees are wearing.
Choose clothes that are coherent with the image of the industry you work in: Certainly, your dressing should be consistent with your personality and that of the organization. As a result, you may have to ask yourself what your section is known for, whether it is forward-looking and innovative or poised and discreet.
Colors matter: Use a solid, matching and coordinating colors, otherwise, stick to neutrals such as white, black, gray, navy or brown. Most of the times, pastel colors are safe as well.