Be Professional, Even if it is Casual Friday!
By Admin

March 5, 2010

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Yeeeyyyy!!! I had been offered my first “big girl job.” It was super exciting…I mean how fun was it going to be? I was now going to wear the business casual clothes that I so admired in the Victoria’s Secret, Anthropology, and J. Jill catalogues. My intention to purchase an expensive suit was justified, because I was going to be in a business casual environment that desired such threads. I had a purpose for going to the expensive department stores and spending lots of money to buy designer shoes, suits, belts, jewelry, handbags, etc. After all, I was now a professional, and it wasn’t all about my Sunday’s best anymore…it was my Mondays best, Tuesdays best, Wednesdays best-you get the picture. I was a recent grad from university—many companies and organizations weren’t down with Birkenstocks, holey jeans, or tank tops. After all, I did grasp the concept of work attire versus non-work attire.

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Work attire is considered to be appropriate clothing for the workplace. This type of clothing is requested to be: wool pants, pinstriped suits, silk blouses, cashmere sweaters, tailored slacks, dresses, khaki slacks, sweater twin sets, golf shirts, A-line skirts, going tie less, leather pumps, wing tips, loafers, chunky boots, flats, and much more. Of course there are variations: not all blouses must be silk, not all sweaters should be cashmere, not all suits pinstriped, not all skirts A-line, etc. Work attire is a mixture of business, corporate, professional, and business casual, corporate casual, and professional casual. It is a combination of classic looks, trendy fashion, often casual.

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Non-work attire is described as inappropriate clothing for the workplace. This type of clothing is reckoned to be: clothes that are too tight, miniskirts, midriff-baring tops, halter tops, see-through tops, shorts, sweat pants, items that reveal too much skin, or flip flops. Again, there are variations of what is and isn’t acceptable from company to company, but the majority of what is listed above is across the board, non-work attire- period.

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And, then, there’s Casual Fridays! God bless! Employees go bananas for them, and now, so do I. We can’t wait! Casual Fridays…blue jeans, sweatshirts, T-shirts, cargo pants…Yee haw!!! TGIF. Casual Fridays are dress down days where more casual dress is accepted, and it’s truly fabulous for some individuals.

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According to the Wikipedia Encyclopedia, Casual Fridays originated in Canada and the United States during the 1950’s. It was originally an attempt to heighten worker morale in the newer white-collar office environments. During this period, Casual Fridays were not widely encouraged nor were they popular. In the 1970’s the production of cheap clothing became widespread outside of the United States. A huge campaign was launched by the larger clothing companies to make Casual Fridays a weekly event, and create more of a market for goods produced in cheap Third World factories. The idea behind this campaign was to oppose the formal clothing from the European industry.

The dot-com boom of the late 1990’s, early 2000’s turned Casual Fridays into more of a daily commonality. Some companies were and still are relaxed enough to allow shorts, sweatshirts, and Hawaiian style inspired button downs as regular work attire. This varies within each company’s standards and policies.

After working at my “big girl job” for more than a year, being fashionably poised and professional became somewhat of a nuisance: the dry cleaning and the cost of the clothing was expensive (which was totally the choice I had made. It doesn’t cost a fortune to accumulate a nice work wardrobe-that was my personal decision). On the other hand, I felt good when I was put together. First impressions are important when meeting potential clients and it gave me a clean, presentable appearance. I noticed that when I felt good about myself I was confident about what I was doing, plus I received more compliments. It showed that I cared for the work I was doing. I did a good job representing the organization, and that is important all the way.

It came across to my boss that I cared for the company, and that I had respect towards my work because of the way I dressed myself. Even if you’re a jokester or the office clown, it’s good to let your boss know you take your work seriously on some level or another. Managers and bosses typically perceive dressing appropriate and well for the job a compliment to the company, and they perceive employees who do so to be more productive and responsible than those who don’t. (Case studies have proven that if several equally qualified, casually dressed employees are up for a promotion, the one that dresses in accordance with company executives will be promoted. Usually that is business professional or business casual attire).

I then was offered another “big girl job” in another highly creative industry (Hollywood). I was working for large studios and production houses. In this industry, we could wear anything and everything, because the type of work we were doing coincided with the fashion industry. Some of the most successful, accomplished people I had ever met wore holey jeans, T-shirts with outlandish sayings on them, sandals, mini-skirts-you name it, they wore these items everyday. The liberty to wear what we wanted was granted due to the flexibility of our jobs-development meetings, moving from location to location, and working fourteen-hour days. It didn’t interfere with our productivity or our outlook on work. We were afforded the luxury of wearing whatever our pleasure, since we worked long hours in an artsy, creative field. It wasn’t an issue, nor did it interfere with our productivity; we were on our A game regardless of what we were wearing.

Contrary to Hollywood, an office environment is much different when it comes to apparel and wardrobe choices. Casual Fridays have become such an issue that there are seminars held within corporations to outline and define what is acceptable, and to reinstate that Casual Friday is on Friday, not Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday!

Many of these seminars make it clear that Casual Fridays are not a day to roll out of bed wearing your pajamas. They are not a day to go braless. They are days to incorporate other articles of clothing you would usually not incorporate into your workweek attire. The idea is to be comfortable and relaxed, without the comfortable and relaxed attitude.

Whether you have a “big girl job,” a “big boy job,” or work in a more conservative environment than Hollywood, computer programming, or the fashion industry, there are some key things to take note of. While the theory behind dressing down is that employees feel more relaxed, creative, and liberated, it is often interpreted by clients, bosses, and whomever else to be sloppy.

For some individuals Casual Fridays can be challenging territory, especially since there are generational shifts in what is and isn’t appropriate. Apply the following blanket rules to Casual Friday and every other day of the week. You will appear sophisticated, professional, behold productivity, and be smashing.

When shopping, ask for help to coordinate colors, fabrics, patterns, and styles.
Make sure that your clothes fit properly.
When in doubt, ask your boss what is and isn’t appropriate.
Check to see if there is a company policy regarding the dress code.
Make sure you look “put together.”
Try to only buy items when they are on sale. You will feel good about the deal, and how your clothing options are growing at a reasonable cost.
Don’t mistake casual for sloppy.
Don’t wear your pink bunny slippers to work.
Be presentable meaning: Don’t wear clothes that are stained, wrinkled, or that smell.
Again, don’t wear miniskirts or sweatpants. You’re still going to work, not the club or yoga class.
If you’re getting dressed in the morning, and you feel what you are putting on is questionable, don’t wear it.
Don’t put your nose ring in or expose your body art, because it’s Casual Friday. You may feel like its Saturday, but remember you are going to work.

There have been several studies conducted that contradict one another. One study states, “Employers feel that productivity is lower from their employees, and they don’t work as hard when they come to work in jeans.” Opposing results, according to research done by the makers of Dockers and Slates, state, “Sixty percent of people polled feel more productive when they feel comfortable.” The study also indicates that second to flexible work hours, casual dress is a favorite workplace incentive.

A great suggestion for Casual Fridays or dressing down any other day of the week is to collect a dollar from everyone that would like to dress down in the office. At the end of the month, this money can put be put forth to a favorite charity. In addition to feeling comfortable and relaxed, participants will feel positively rewarded for helping those in need.

Since most companies do have dress codes policies, the consensus is that employers would like you to come to work clean, neat, and dressed a better than you would dress at home. No matter what kind of “big adult job,” you have or what studies reveal about Casual Friday, the most important thing is to do a good job at work. Therefore, your casual wardrobe won’t make a difference in your productivity and success, and everyone will benefit from this comfort ability.