How to dress for work if every day is casual Friday.
Those who work in corporate environments tend to know the score when it comes to dressing for the office, but what about those who work in more relaxed environments?
Personally, I’ve worked in all of them and each has its own specific freedoms and suffocating hells.
The worse things about being booted and suited are the stifling heat and humidity of an Australian summer and the endless cleaning bills and juggling your schedule to ensure you get to the dry-cleaners before closing. Beyond that it’s pretty much a cakewalk.
Navigating the casual or creative workplace is decidedly trickier. Being spoilt for choice is not always a good thing, especially when you’re running late the morning after a night on the turps and managing a shower was obstacle enough.
Here, then, are some simple suggestions when it comes to dressing down.
A casual approach
While most guys look great in a suit, not having to wear them day in and day out can be a blessing when it comes to comfort and the budget of those who can’t afford having more than one in their closet.
But if you’re punching in at a casual office it’s still good to create a cyclical wardrobe, with a range of items that are kept for work and only work. Not only does it make it easier when choosing what to wear, it helps to make a distinction between the real you and worker-bee you.
A few dress shirts on rotation are always a safe bet. You can team them up with jeans – always dark blue or black – and either dark-coloured sneakers or boots. You can also wear them with pants or chinos when you want to feel a little more dapper or have that performance review coming up.
T-shirts are fine in some environments, but make sure they’re clean and pressed. It’s also better to wear them with boots if you’re working in a semi-corporate environment. And if your boss is a suit wearer, a T-shirt and trainers might be kicking it down a notch too far.
Ditto for thongs. Never wear them. It’s not the beach and your workmates don’t want to see your hairy toes.
If you want to dress to impress, go for gold. It might signal that you’re serious about your job and can never hurt promotion opportunities. Though it’s best not to jump from T-shirts one day to shirt and tie the next, because you don’t want your manager wondering if have a lunchtime job interview.
Working in a creative environment doesn’t mean you can slouch around in tracksuit bottoms and old T-shirts – unless you’re under a certain age and both are clearly designer and cost the better half of your weekly wage. No, you need to up the ante considerably in what is basically a fashion forward twist on corporate wear.
Though you may get away with a T-shirt that looks as if it’s the accommodation of choice for moths, it should be contrasted with a smart, tailored jacket and modern take on a dress pant.
Basically, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to an art-directed wardrobe. From baseball caps to trilbies, hi-tops to brogues, as long as it’s considered and offset with something that ensures you don’t look like you’re off to the gym or taking part in an old-timey, historical reconstruction you should be fine.
This is also a good choice for casual Fridays in corporate jobs, sans the hi-tops and baseball caps. A friend who works in finance once told me: “No one actually dresses casually, it’s more of an opportunity to show everyone how stylish you can be outside of a business suit. At my office we wear casual suits and nix the ties.”
Working from home is a whole other beast entirely. Considered the Holy Grail among disgruntled office workers, and rightfully so, being liberated from the eyes of the public can lead to some interesting fashion and hygiene choices.
Some days you’ll fire up the laptop to “check a few emails” before showering and all of a sudden it’s seven pm and you’re still in your underpants when your partner gets home and looks at you with mild disgust.
Other times you’ll have washed and started dressing when you get a work call that distracts you and it’s only later that you realise you’ve been wearing shirt, socks and a fetching 'towel dress' for most of the day.
So here's rule number one - head straight to the shower upon waking.
It’s also a good idea to remain groomed at all times: shave daily, trim your nails and wear cologne if that’s your bag. Of course, most won’t at first, but get back to me in six months when you catch sight of yourself in a mirror and see what looks like to be a greasy-haired yeti staring back at you. It’s better to maintain a little dignity from the get-go.
The best advice I have to offer for fellow at-home freelancers is to dress like you would if you were meeting your grandmother for lunch. Not necessarily fancy, but at least resembling someone who has their lives in order. Not only will it be better for your self-esteem, you’ll also be more productive as a result.
Do you have any tips or tricks when it comes to dressing down?