Casual Dress Codes are Great, No Dress Codes are a Disaster


“Dress for the job you want, not the job you have!” is advice that many have heard time and again, often by mentors and parents, to encourage dressing up for the workplace. Read these guiding principles for the casual office…

The thinking is that it’s the executives making an impact with the big ideas and deals that are dressing in sharp and stylish business attire. But for a growing number of people in the workplace, the response to that question is, “The job I want would let me wear what makes me comfortable!” And start-ups and others companies looking to attract emerging talent are taking heed with more casual dress codes than ever.

Companies with casual dress codes can absolutely thrive but the key is to not let “casual dress code” inadvertently translate to “no dress code.” Below are some guiding principles for the casual office.

Get It in Writing

Only verbally communicating that the dress code is ‘casual’ allows employees to consider the way they dress a ‘non-issue’ in the workplace. Everyone has a different perception of what’s casual right? This opens up a host of potential human resources headaches. Sure, T-shirts might be acceptable in the office, but what about T-shirts with offencive slogans on them? Or what about that employee who wants to show off his pecs in a low cut T-shirt? These types of examples can get a lot worse and tend toward the outrageous, but demonstrate that having a dress code in place can prevent issues from arising and empower you to act if they do.

“Casual” Does Not Mean “Sloppy”

One of the valuable things about the casual dress code is that it does not put an undue cost burden on your employees who might not have a wardrobe full of expensive suits for work. For the most part, your work force is going to have a collection of casual attire that is work appropriate in which they feel comfortable. It also saves on a monthly dry cleaning bill. But when casual descends into sloppy, you get a workforce coming in their lazy Saturday morning best pyjamas and unwashed clothes. It should be clear that your dress code requires a level of presentation and hygiene that not only makes the employee look more professional, it makes their colleagues comfortable too.

Dress Up for Guests

Even the most buttoned-up firms are warming up to the fact that creative workplaces are not full of suits and ties. So if your company has a big client meeting, there is no need to rush to a high-end department store tailor. But dressing in a smart and stylish way will impress clients and inspire their confidence, so employees should be advised to ditch the over sized sweater for a blazer and the ripped jeans for smarter jeans on such days. Depending on the size of the firm and the number of client meetings you host, there should be a policy of the whole team dressing up a bit when clients are in-house, even if they aren’t part of the meeting. This adds to the client’s confidence and gives you a good opportunity to take group photos where everyone looks a little more fabulous than usual.

Andy Selway is the Founder of ‘Your HR Consultancy’ which provides HR & people solutions to start-ups and SMEs. Andy also runs Corporate and Cocktails, which is fast becoming one of London’s biggest growing HR communities with over 1,700 HR members.