Office attire: How casual is too casual?
Office dress codes are becoming more casual. For many people that is a blessing as we wave goodbye to the need for a suffocating tie and stuffy jacket. For others, the crisis of how casual is too casual is causing added stress to their morning routine. Workers just aren’t sure what to wear to work anymore.
Increased choice always leads to increased decision paralysis. If you are a new to workplace it can be difficult to decide how to present yourself. There is a thin line between casual and unprofessional. How are we to know what is appropriate?
This may seem as though a lot of thought is being put into something quite commonplace but it is important to remember that you will be wearing your office attire Monday to Friday for the foreseeable future.
This is something you want to get right.
Go with the flow
Some valid advice I was given once was to take a look at what your boss is wearing. If the idea is to dress for the job you want then dressing up to the standard of your superiors is a good starting point.
Equally, keeping an eye on what your colleagues wear is a sure way to make sure you are fitting in with the company average. There’s nothing wrong with making it your own and putting your personality into your outfit. No one wants to slavishly adhere to a corporate norm. Yet, knowing what is most common for staff in your team can help make sure you aren’t standing out for the wrong reasons.
Fit your brand
Every workplace is different; no advice on dress codes is ever going to fit every company. What suits a fresh-faced media start-up might be very different to what you are expected to wear in a Law firm with a hundred-year heritage.
Make sure you understand your organisation’s brand and choose your attire to fit in with that. First impressions do matter to customers and, with nothing else yet to go on, you will be judged in part on your appearance. Sure, it is not fair to judge based solely on what you wear, but the way you dress reflects how you choose to present yourself and it is natural for customers to draw conclusions from this. Your outfit can help make sure they draw the conclusions that fit in with your ethos.
Bear in mind that the outfits that you pick for work are ones you are likely to wear for the bulk of your week. Whatever your job, you need to feel comfortable doing it. Your outfit needs to be practical for what you do. It needs to be something you can sling on in the morning when you have slept through your alarm and are already running a half hour late.
Clothes breed confidence. Once you put on that smart outfit for an interview, you feel the part as much as you look it. It can be the same for your workplace. Even Superman needs to change into his suit to fight evil. Make sure your clothing choice gives you the confidence to face your work day.
There are a few items of clothing which are obviously inappropriate for most offices. Anything you would wear to the gym is a firm no. Leggings are usually only appropriate if worn like tights under a skirt, dress or tunic. Anything too revealing is probably frowned upon.
You may adore that college or university hoody but chances are your boss won’t appreciate it. Although comfy, hoodies generally give you that dishevelled look. The same goes for artfully ripped jeans and distressed materials. Your fashion choices at home are your own but unfortunately most offices aren’t as fashion forward as you are.
A good yardstick for offices is to start out smarter and then go more casual if you notice that trend in your colleagues’ clothing choices.
Some organisations will have jeans days or Casual Fridays so you won’t always be stuck in the same outfit. Your wardrobe can be adaptable.
Remember: you can always ask. Your workplace is not out to trick you. If you are unsure about the dress code for a particular event or function, ask a colleague what they plan to wear. Everyone was new once.
Cat Dennis is a history graduate living and writing in Canterbury. For more, visit Cat’s blog.