You just started a new job and reading up on the employee handbook you come across the dress code where “business casual” is listed – and not much else. That kind of seems like an oxymoron doesn’t it? Business…casual…hmm, how do the two work together? Well, save yourself the trouble of looking it up. Dictionary.com offers this vague advice:
Business casual – n informal; a style of casual clothing worn by businesspeople at work instead of more formal attire
Business casual – n attire that is acceptable for an office but quite casual, varying depending on the type of business and workplace
Cool, no more information than you started with, except maybe that last little bit about “varying depending on the type of business and workplace.”
It’s true, business casual can change from job to job, state to state, and culture to culture. Don’t you think you’d get a completely different answer as to what’s acceptable if you asked someone from California compared to someone from Texas? Someone from a small accounting firm vs. someone from a multimillion-dollar computer software company? And let’s not even throw those working for places like Google, Facebook, and Groupon into the mix!
I’m writing this from a higher education environment located in Colorado, so your thoughts may definitely differ, but I think we’re pretty average around here. I think we have a wide variety of “business casual” interpretation and I think it’s pretty standard – so I’m sharing.
I’ve spent the last few days snapping shots of people around our office to give you examples of business casual. What do you think? Agree or disagree? What makes these outfits work or what doesn’t? No worries, I’ve protected everyone’s identity by only showing from the shoulders down. You can check them out on our Facebook page.
So my advice after this little experiment – dress better than you think you should start, then get a feel for the place and adjust from there. However, the best rule of thumb I came across when researching business casual: “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” It’s true what they say about your clothes – when you feel good in them, you come off as more confident and positive, and people notice that. So dress to impress, regardless of your business casual dress code.