As Lady Bird Johnson said “I’ve really tried to learn the art of clothes, because you don’t sell for what you’re worth unless you look good.” To that point, if office attire isn’t done right, intelligent, well-qualified people run the risk of being overlooked because their appearance alters others’ perception of their qualifications. However, there’s a reason many people are confused about the term business-casual.
It’s logical to assume that business attire should be professional and crisp, while casual wear is associated with the slouchy, comfy weekend tees and sweats. These two terms seem to be at odds with each other. So how do we blend the two?
First, and foremost, don’t leave the “business” out of business-casual. Regardless of the industry, every business is a professional organization that expects its employees to dress with respect. What does that mean? Simply stated, it means no one should come to work looking like they just finished mowing the lawn or came directly to the office from last night’s party. Clothes should be clean and shoes should cover the feet.
Appropriate business casual dress typically includes:
- Men: Slacks or khakis; dress shirt, open-collar or polo shirt; optional tie or seasonal sport coat; loafers or dress shoes
- Ladies: Dress or skirt at knee-length or below; knit shirt, sweater or tailored blazer; casual or dress shoes that cover all or most of the foot
Of course, depending on the industry, some companies may have more relaxed standards that include jeans or sneakers, but even those should be clean and tasteful.
Finally, when companies contribute to the business-casual wardrobe of their employees by giving shirts, sweaters or jackets with the company logo, it’s particularly important to keep in mind that these clothing items are meant to represent the brand as well as the office dress code. When selecting the next trade show shirt, remember that you want the associates representing your company to sell your company for what it’s worth.