While businesses typically want their employees to look professional, many have adopted the practice of having casual Fridays, where instead of wearing business attire, employees are allowed to dress down a bit. This more relaxed, business casual dress code usually includes khakis or similar trousers with an open-collared or polo shirt for men, and similar pants or a casual skirt and top for women. Some businesses allow nice jeans and even T-shirts, although dress codes vary on these points. It's important not to go too casual on casual Fridays and in this regard it's important to avoid athletic as well as worn or sloppy looking pieces.
Tips for Men
For men, casual Fridays usually means not having to wear a tie and jacket. The safest choice is usually an open-collared button down shirt, sleeves rolled up, and nice casual pants, like khakis. In some cases, wearing a polo shirt and jeans may be acceptable, depending on the dress code of the organization. If jeans are worn, darker denim usually looks more professional than light, and the pants should be in good condition — no holes, frayed cuffs, or other obvious signs of wear.
In some companies, even more casual options may be acceptable, but it's always best to check the dress code or with human resources (HR) before going this route. Plain T-shirts, with no logo or advertising, may be OK, for example. It's usually better to layer a T-shirt with a button down or long sleeved T-shirt or sweater, however.
Black or brown casual shoes are usually the most appropriate choice for casual Friday. Athletic shoes are typically not allowed; however, canvas sneakers might be permissible. No matter the shoe choice, socks should always be worn.
Tips for Women
What women can wear on casual Fridays is similar to what would be worn during the week, although a little less dressy. Nice pants with a blouse or sweater could make for an appropriate outfit for work. Women who would rather wear a skirt should consider selecting one that is basic and simple but comfortable and in a neutral color. Dark, fashionable jeans can be appropriate for some offices, especially when paired with a nice sweater or professional-looking blouse.
Make-up and jewelry should be kept tasteful and to a minimum. A pair of heels or flats would be appropriate shoes to wear; some offices might allow sandals, but in many cases, open-toed shoes are never allowed, so it's best for a woman to check with HR.
What to Avoid
While casual Fridays signify a more relaxed wardrobe, there are still clothing pieces that should be left for non-working hours. Sweatshirts with hoods or not, tank tops, and worn T-shirts may look sloppy. Athletic gear, like yoga pants and athletic shorts, should be avoided. Other overly casual outfits to avoid include any shirts with an advertising message, foul language, or which promote drug or alcohol use, as well as Hawaiian shirts — unless the company specifically recommends them, which some do — and other beach wear.
Men and women should avoid wearing open toed sandals or flip flops, as they are more appropriate for after work activities. Running shoes are also usually not permitted. Dressy shoes that are too showy like high platform heels or tall stilettos are probably more appropriate for a party than the office.
Casual but Professional
Even though employees can relax a bit on casual Fridays, they should still be well dressed and serve as good representatives for the company they work for. This means clothing should not be too tight or too loose. Women should avoid strapless — and in many cases, sleeveless — tops or anything too revealing, such as shirts with low necklines or bare midriffs. In rare cases, Bermuda shorts may be worn, but many offices find that shorts of any kind are inappropriate.
Whatever clothing is worn, it should be without holes, wrinkles, and stains. Shoes should look presentable and be clean no matter what they are worn with. In addition, hair should be neatly combed and styled.
Consider the Business Environment
Employees should keep in mind the type of office that they work in and how the other coworkers dress when choosing clothing for casual Friday. More relaxed dress codes tend to be found in creative departments. If there are any questions regarding clothing, employees should consider speaking to the boss or someone in human resources just to make sure of the dress code. In addition, people may want to keep a spare pair of dress clothes in their desks in case an unexpected meeting comes up where professional attire should be worn.
In the past few decades, many companies have relaxed their dress codes during the entire week, and not just on Fridays. There has been backlash against this in some businesses, however, as some office workers take "casual" too far and dress for work in sloppy and otherwise inappropriate clothing. Even on casual Friday, it's important for every employee to dress in a way that looks neat and professional, lest a careless appearance on one day of the week negatively affect how the boss sees that employee the rest of the time.
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