The rise of ‘business casual’ as the office dress code of choice has caused more than a little confusion! While keeping things less formal in the workplace can encourage creativity and a more relaxed atmosphere, it unfortunately also opens up the door for a host of fashion faux pas that can cause a loss of professionalism. If the trend has you confused, or you’re trying to guide your employees in the right direction, then read on.
Don’t forget the basics
It should go without saying that clothes that are dirty or look like they’ve just been picked off the floor should never be part of your work ensemble. Clean and tidy will always be in style. Ripped jeans might be cool for the weekend, but they’re just not suitable for the office, even on casual Fridays.
Avoid clothes that are too provocative
This is one of those areas where personal taste plays a big role, and it’s important to acknowledge that your perception might not be the same as your coworkers. But in a world where the TV constantly shows powerful women and men making use of more than just their business ‘assets’ to get ahead, where to draw the line can be surprisingly difficult. There are some common-sense basics to act as a guide, however. Items that are sheer or see-through are an obvious no-no.
Whether you can move comfortably in an outfit is also a good indicator of whether it’s appropriate – if you can’t move easily because something is too tight or you’re going to expose bits of yourself or underwear accidentally, alarm bells should be ringing big time. The same goes for short skirts, crop tops or skimpy tops. And guys – if it’s something you’d wear to the gym or to impress the ladies at the nightclub, it’s definitely not work appropriate.
Don’t let your outfit overshadow your talent at your job
There’s nothing wrong with using your clothes to express yourself, but when the message you’re sending with what you wear is that you care more about how you look than how you perform at your job or treat your customers, you’ve crossed one of those subtle lines. Crazy patterns, distracting jewelry, heavy makeup or nail art can all take the focus from where it should be – how good you are at what you do.
The clothes you wear to work should complement your personality and add interest without making you look unprofessional. When in doubt, always tone it down. If your job is largely client-facing, or if you’re hoping for a promotion, then this is even more important – corporate wear should always be your go-to when you want to impress.
Dos and Don’ts of Shoes
Let’s be honest, guys have it a lot easier here, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make work wear woopsies too! If you’d wear it to the beach, it’s not office appropriate. Sneakers are okay for casual Fridays at some offices but take your cue from your boss and managers. If they’re not wearing them, then they probably don’t approve, even if they don’t actually come out and say so.
You need to be in your shoes all day, so comfort does need to be a consideration. Heels that make your feet ache before lunchtime are never a good idea, and heels that clack constantly on the office floor can be incredibly irritating to your coworkers. On the flipside, shoes that are a little too comfortable are making an altogether different statement. Leave the Uggs – or any footwear that is even slightly fluffy – at home.
Shirts with potentially offensive prints or messages
Many offices allow T-shirts on casual Fridays (or even during the week if you’re working at a younger company) but wearing one with a decal that makes a religious, political or potentially offensive statement is always best avoided. No matter how well you think you know your coworkers, you can offend someone’s deeply held beliefs completely accidentally. It’s not worth risking upsetting someone when it’s so easily avoided.
Ease up on perfumes and colognes
We’ve all had that coworker who you dread getting stuck in the lift with because they carry a cloud of perfume, cologne or aftershave around with them. Remember that some people have a very sensitive sense of smell, and you might not be one of them! Ask your partner or a close bud to give you their honest opinion – you might be an offender and just not know it. Subtle is always better when it comes to scent.
In fact, if there’s one word you should use as your guide for what to wear to work, it’s that – subtle. Save the fashion statements for the weekend and let your talent shine through at the office.