Gail Kasper, Author, Television Host, Certified Fitness Trainer, and Motivational Speaker
Just what exactly are we expected to show up wearing to work these days? What’s okay and not okay to wear? Prior to the 1970’s white collar workers were expected to dress ‘Business Informal,’ which is your basic suit and necktie (also known as International Standard Business Attire). In response to the energy crisis of the seventies, Government mandates to raise temperature thermostat levels in offices across the country led employers to relax the dress code and allow workers to dispense with ties and jackets. Hence, ‘Business Casual.’
Guidelines for Business Casual tend to be pretty standard. For women, a modest skirt or full-length pants combined with a top (dress shirt, polo, or sweater set) is considered acceptable. An informal skirt length dress with is also acceptable. For men, a collared dress shirt (or polo shirt), slacks with belt.
Dress Down Casual
‘Casual Day,’ on the other hand, has no such simple, hard and fast guidelines. Originally an attempt to raise worker morale in the white collar office world, Casual Day (usually Fridays), is generally a step down from the existing more formal dress code expected in each particular office environment.
If there are no universal standards or easy guidelines, then, help! “What exactly am I going to wear on Casual Friday?”
1. Do consult the dress code. The more creative the type of business, the more creative the dress code tends to be. A West Coast Ad Agency dress code tends to be less rigid than that of an East Coast Law Firm, for instance. Thankfully, most business organizations do have a written dress code for casual days. The larger the organization, the more detailed it tends to get (the greater number of people, the greater number of experiments and disasters, I guess). Check with your HR person for a copy. Don’t rely on what you see others wearing. Certain individuals may have been flouting the code for years and getting away with it. Perhaps HR has given up on them or maybe they’re at a higher pay grade where whatever they do is given more of a blind eye than someone at your pay range. Don’t rely on what someone in the next cubicle says it is either. Perhaps they’re going on memory from what it was ten years ago. Get an up to date copy from HR and go from there. If there is no written dress code, then let your common sense and this article be your guide.
2. Do dress to impress – your boss. A good rule of thumb to consider is to dress for the position you desire, not the one you currently hold. Erring on the side of conservatism is a good maxim to bear in mind. Just because it’s casual shouldn’t mean you show up in whatever you like to schlep around the house in at weekends. You’re still on the clock, on someone else’s time. If you’re ambitious in your work, be career-minded in your dress. There is also a perception, which may be accurate, that a lax dress code equals lax professional efforts. It is possible that exceedingly casual clothing contributes to a poorer quality of work. Inappropriate attire can certainly be distracting to your clients and coworkers. A good rule of thumb is dress for the job “you would like to have.” Managers should always dress one step above the employees.
3. Don’t push the envelope. Sometimes when employers make concessions to their employees, subconscious elements of their personalities can float to the top. Some people like to challenge authority, the hitherto silent part of self that wants to be seen as an individual within the homogenous organization. Perhaps it’s why some motorcycle cops will grow a mustache. Perhaps you’ve noticed some fellow workers gradually getting bolder in their dress week by week. If you want to get noticed, have it be for something that propels your career forward and not your diminishing hemline (I don’t care how good you think your long legs look in that skirt!)
4. Don’t express your inner Avatar. People do have a life outside the office. Maybe you golf, ski, fly airplanes, attend raves, go to rock concerts, play guitar. Perhaps your inner fantasy is to be a rock singer or a concert pianist, a cheer leader, or a NFL quarterback. Just don’t dress like one. I would suggest you keep your private life private and don’t use casual Friday to impress or inform your work colleagues of your inner fantasies and your secret alter ego. If your inner coolness must seek expression, why not consider a bumper sticker for your car that says something like, “I’d rather be sky diving.”
5. Do dress appropriately for your age. Gentlemen, if you’re over forty and all week you’re Men's Warehouse, it’s not cool to show up on Friday in head to toe Abercrombie and Fitch. If you do, then, yes, quite possibly those chuckles you hear from the group gathered around the water cooler is all about you. Ladies, same thing. "Forever 21,"doesn't last forever.
6. Don’t dress casually if you don’t want to. Some people only feel comfortable going to the workplace in their work clothes. And that’s okay. For many it’s added stress to wake up on Friday, look into the closet and ask themselves, “What am I going to wear today?” Wearing the safe option can be time saving and less stressful. Many may feel uncomfortable and underdressed when taking meetings with clients who are more formally attired.
Business dress code can be confusing and often leaves a lot of room for error, but hopefully now you won't make mistakes. Knowing what it means to dress smart, yet casual, be more relaxed and approachable by your coworkers while leaving a great lasting impression with your superiors can give you a great advantage in the workplace. No snide comments, odd looks, reprimands or other consequences for breaking the dress code for you! Now, with a little thought and consideration, you know exactly what to wear to look good while still looking professional. With this guide you're that man or woman that manages to make your choice of business attire look sleeker, classier, and sharper than anyone knew it could be.
About Gail Kasper:
Mid-1998, Gail Kasper started her business from a small one-bedroom apartment, with no money and no clients. Today, Gail is the host of the late-night television show Raw Reality, one of the nation's leading speakers, author, Top 1% Club Mentor, advice columnist, Certified Fitness Trainer, Ms. Continental America 2008, and the creator of SAD-T™ (Systematic Attitude Development- Technique™). A former Contributing Editor to Success Magazine with the "Ask Gail" column and host of the "Ask Gail" segment on the Comcast morning show, Gail is the author of her self-help autobiography Another Day Without A Cage: My Breakthrough From Self-Imprisonment To Total Empowerment and the self-help parable Unstoppable: 6 Easy Steps To Achieve Your Goals. With national media appearances that include Inside Edition, The Today Show, FOX Business News, and Oprah and Friends, Gail has earned the ranking of an in-demand national media personality who has been the topic of discussion on Regis and Kelly. Also, the current host of the Philadelphia Visitors Channel, she has also made numerous appearances on network affiliates that include ABC, FOX, CW11, Comcast, and CBS, where she co-hosted the Emmy award- winning America's TVJobNetwork. www.gailkasper.com
This article is courtesy of the Top 1% Club and the Top 1% Club Mentor Gail Kasper. For additional information on Gail Kasper, her television appearances and speaking engagements, please visit gailkasper.com.