Are you interested in knowing what is appropriate for employees to wear in a business casual work setting? If you're like many employees, the worlds of casual and business casual work attire are a leap from the days when business formal was the norm in most workplaces. Wearing a suit and tie or a dress or skirted suit was once the norm in workplaces.
Gradually, however, the norm has become business casual in many workplaces especially in settings where customers and clients don't often visit. Formal still rules the day in many client-facing, trust-engendering industries such as law firms, banking, and investment advising. But, employees in offices, department stores, manufacturing, and retail industries dress in business casual clothing.
Employees Want to Wear Business Casual Attire
When it comes to office attire, employees want to dress more casually. In a survey performed by OfficeTeam, a subsidiary of Robert Half, 56% of employees surveyed said that they prefer more relaxed dress codes.
However, four in 10 employees (41%) also admitted that they’re at least sometimes unsure about whether a piece of clothing is office-appropriate.
"As work attire skews more casual, the rules about acceptable office wear aren't always clear-cut," said Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam. Besides following official company policies, employees should pay attention to the wardrobes of managers and colleagues. If you're uncertain about whether it's okay to wear something to work, it's best to play it safe by skipping it."
Additionally, in another survey, OfficeTeam found, "Dressing up for work continues to go out of style. Half (50%) of senior managers interviewed said employees wear less formal clothing than they did five years ago. In addition, nearly one-third (31%) of office workers stated they would prefer to be at a company with a business casual dress code; 27% favor a casual dress code or no dress code at all.
Senior managers surveyed said the two most frequent violations of their business casual dress code policy are that employees dress too casually (47%) or that they display too much skin (32%).
If you want to eventually earn a promotion and become well thought of in your company, you do well to honor the prevailing dress code.
What managers and senior employees wear does set a standard that other employees will want to emulate.
Additionally, many employees keep articles of clothing at work that will elevate the professionalism of their business casual attire when appropriate for clients or customers. A common example is to dress business casual but keep a jacket hanging on the back of your door to wear when appropriate for events.
Business Casual Attire for Work
Here's a sample dress code for a business casual work environment. Use these guidelines as you dress for work or prepare your own work dress code. Employees appreciate knowing your expectations—if they exist, don't keep them secret.
As mentioned in the OfficeTeam survey results, employees are genuinely interested in wearing appropriate business attire for work. These detailed guidelines provided in this business casual dress code will help them make these decisions.
Here's what you can do to make the new dress code succeed.
A Sample Business Casual Dress Code
Your Company's objective in establishing a business casual dress code is to allow our employees to work comfortably in the workplace. Yet, we still need our employees to project a professional image for our customers, potential employees, and community visitors. Business casual dress is the standard for this dress code.
Because all casual clothing is not suitable for the office, these guidelines will help you determine what is appropriate to wear to work. Clothing that works well for the beach, yard work, dance clubs, exercise sessions, and sports contests may not be appropriate for a professional appearance at work.
Clothing that reveals too much cleavage, your back, your chest, your feet, your stomach or your underwear is not appropriate for a place of business, even in a business casual setting.
Even in a business casual work environment, clothing should be pressed and never wrinkled. Torn, dirty, or frayed clothing is unacceptable. All seams must be finished. Any clothing that has words, terms, or pictures that may be offensive to other employees is unacceptable. Clothing that has the company logo is encouraged. Sports team, university, and fashion brand names on clothing are generally acceptable.
Certain days can be declared dress down days, generally Fridays. On these days, jeans and other more casual clothing, although never clothing potentially offensive to others, are allowed.
Guide to Business Casual Dressing for Work
This is a general overview of appropriate business casual attire. Items that are not appropriate for the office are listed, too. Neither list is all-inclusive and both are open to change. The lists tell you what is generally acceptable as business casual attire and what is generally not acceptable as business casual attire.
No dress code can cover all contingencies so employees must exert a certain amount of judgment in their choice of clothing to wear to work. If you experience an uncertainty about acceptable, professional business casual attire for work, please ask your supervisor or your Human Resources staff.
Slacks, Pants, and Suit Pants
Slacks that are similar to Dockers and other makers of cotton or synthetic material pants, wool pants, flannel pants, dressy capris, and nice-looking dress synthetic pants are acceptable. Inappropriate slacks or pants include jeans, sweatpants, exercise pants, Bermuda shorts, short shorts, shorts, bib overalls, leggings, and any spandex or other form-fitting pants such as people wear for biking.
Skirts, Dresses, and Skirted Suits
Casual dresses and skirts, and skirts that are split at or below the knee are acceptable. Dress and skirt length should be at a length at which you can sit comfortably in public. Short, tight skirts that ride halfway up the thigh are inappropriate for work. Mini-skirts, skorts, sundresses, beach dresses, and spaghetti-strap dresses are inappropriate for the office.
Shirts, Tops, Blouses, and Jackets
Casual shirts, dress shirts, sweaters, tops, golf-type shirts, and turtlenecks are acceptable attire for work. Most suit jackets or sports jackets are also acceptable attire for the office if they violate none of the listed guidelines.
Inappropriate attire for work includes tank tops; midriff tops; shirts with potentially offensive words, terms, logos, pictures, cartoons, or slogans; halter-tops; tops with bare shoulders; sweatshirts, and t-shirts unless worn under another blouse, shirt, jacket, or dress.
Shoes and Footwear
Conservative athletic or walking shoes, loafers, clogs, sneakers, boots, flats, dress heels, and leather deck-type shoes are acceptable for work. Wearing no stockings is acceptable in warm weather. Flashy athletic shoes, thongs, flip-flops, slippers, and any shoe with an open toe are not acceptable in the office. Closed-toe and closed-heel shoes are required in the manufacturing operation area.
Jewelry, Makeup, Perfume, and Cologne
Should be in good taste, with limited visible body piercing. Remember, that some employees are allergic to the chemicals in perfumes and make-up, so wear these substances with restraint.
Hats and Head Covering
Hats are not appropriate in the office. Headcovers that are required for religious purposes or to honor cultural traditions are allowed.
If clothing fails to meet these standards, as determined by the employee's supervisor and Human Resources staff, the employee will be asked not to wear the inappropriate item to work again. If the problem persists, the employee may be sent home to change clothes and will receive a verbal warning for the first offense. All other policies about personal time use will apply. Progressive disciplinary action will be applied if dress code violations continue.
Additional Resources About Dress Codes
More images of appropriate dress for work in various degrees of formality.
- Smart Casual Photo Gallery
- Industrial—Construction Photo Gallery
- Casual Dress Photo Gallery
- Business Formal Photo Gallery
Please note that the information provided, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality. The site is read by a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct for your location. This information is for guidance, ideas, and assistance.