Dress for your day: Just how casual can your clothes be at work?

Wearing casual clothes to work isn't just about looking good or feeling comfortable, it could have an impact on your work ethic (they don't call it relaxed linen for nothing ).

The age-old question "to short, or not to short" comes into the discussion in a big way here. If you decide to opt for a short or any other 'casual' work number, it's important to remember a few ground rules to keep you on track.

The long and the short of it

Thinking about wearing a pair of shorts to work? Keep them tailored. Wear them ironed. Wear a belt. Tuck in your shirt. Wear the right shoes. They're just the basics.

What if you decided to wear something even more relaxed. Like linen. With a drawstring. Is that office appropriate? And, if you did wear them, would you feel more like lounging about and cracking a glass of wine than fronting up to that next meeting? It all depends on your workplace, really.

As more workplaces adapt to modern expectations of staff, the traditional rules of what's 'work-appropriate' have been thrown out the floor-to-ceiling window.

Employees are highly productive when they work from home occasionally. Are they sitting at home in a suit? Are they wearing lace up shoes? And more importantly, have they done their hair? The answer on most occasions is 'unlikely'.

New rules

I remember sometime ago, a former employer had a rule – no denim, and no thongs (flip-flops for the Americans) to be worn at work, and if legend serves me right, none within a block of the office, either. Outrageous? Maybe. Appropriate? Definitely.

We could probably all use a few little style rules to follow at work. Look at all the strongest and most successful leaders around the world – Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama. Both men have a wardrobe rule – wear the same thing. Every. Single. Day.

For Zuckerberg, this was a simple T-shirt, and for Obama, the same suit. It takes one less decision out of the day, but it also keeps you consistent, opening your brain to further thought, not leaving you worried about what to wear.


But it also suggests that at Facebook HQ you can get around wearing a tee, but the White House, not so much.

Mean business

What you wear to work is really about your frame of mind. I know when I pop on a collared shirt, a sports coat, full-length trousers and maybe even a knitted tie – I feel like I can take over the world. A sharp outfit to me means business, so for me – the better dressed I am, the better outcome I get in the office.

I remember years back when I worked on a popular Australian airline publication – our team were decked out in suits, Harvey Specter style (we were ahead of our time).

There were a couple of guys across the floor who routinely looked like they had come directly from the beach. Turns out they worked on a surf rag, and in the end, they looked the part.

So find your style, wear what makes you comfortable, but always make sure you always dress for your audience.