The term Business Casual is a misnomer – it should have been labelled Relaxed Business and how you wear it is very much dependent on the kind of industry in which you work.
Generally businesses such as Finance, Law, Banking, Accounting, Insurance – or anything where other people’s money is involved in a major way – you are unlikely to get a business casual dress code. On the occasion of a Casual Friday – what is the code? Because these industries are in their very nature conservative, your jeans, combat pants or shorts are not an option, this is too casual for such an environment. Tailored separates are really your best option and for women you can relax the collared shirt to a knit top and for men a more relaxed (though well ironed) shirt, no tie. Women can wear either skirts or trousers with a jacket or cardigan, men should only wear a jacket or sports coat in cooler weather – no jumpers please. Open toed shoes are generally not appropriate in these industries for either men or women.
Remember – the higher you’re position on the company ladder, the less casual you should appear as it takes away your authority and if you want to be taken seriously and get that next promotion, don’t dress down too much on casual Friday.
This look is appropriate for many industries, from teaching to many manufacturing businesses. A safe bet for men is heavy cotton (not denim) or a lightweight wool trouser with a open necked or button down collared shirt. In winter, a sports coat or a fine quality woollen jumper is appropriate. Women should stick to trousers or skirts (to the knee please) and can wear knit tops with jumpers or cardigans, or a non-suit jacket. Men’s shoes should be lace-up or quality dark leather slip-ons, no sandals or sneakers. Women in this group can wear open-toed shoes in the warmer months.
If you work in advertising, publishing or somewhere in the arts sector, you’ll probably find the dress code much less restrictive and you may be expected to dress more for your personality. Here jeans or chinos may be appropriate, depending on the department you work in and who you are expecting to meet with that day, or you may be in the kind of environment where everyone wears black separates or more innovative clothing made from knit fabrics. The most important factor to remember when you have the choice and dress codes are very relaxed is that short short skirts, midriff and plunging necklines (for both men and women) are never appropriate in a work situation, you don’t want to look like you’ve come straight to work from a nightclub. Keep your tattoos and any body piercing under wraps too please.
Before you get dressed to go to work, consider what you’re doing and who you’ll be meeting that day – if you are meeting with clients (or with the Managing Director), or even work in a department where visitors walk past and can see you err on the side of more conservative dress as it’s a sign of respect. If you’re really not sure what is appropriate check with your HR department or manager.
A business casual dress code is not an excuse to be sloppy, wear un-ironed or torn clothes and forget about good grooming. The more client-facing your position is within the company, the better dressed you should be. Many studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between how you are dressed and how you feel, think and behave and how others react or respond to you. There is a push by management in many companies to go back to a more formal dress policy as too many employees have taken the word ‘casual’ too literally, and forgotten that they’re in ‘business’. So to keep your business casual dress code, think about it as a ‘relaxed business’ dress code and forget the word ‘casual’, otherwise it may soon be gone for good.
© Imogen Lamport 2010
Reprint This Article
If you would like to reprint this article, please feel free ensuring you credit Imogen Lamport as author, include my webs address www.bespokeimage.com.au and email to let me know where you are publishing it.