In the last ten years or so, the way people dress for work has changed dramatically from a generation ago. If you take a look around a typical downtown city center in America these days, more than half the people are wearing business casual clothing, such as jeans, tee shirts, and sports shoes. While there are still those professionals who wear classic corporate clothes such as suits, more and more people are enjoying the buttoned-down look of casual business attire.
Like any other cross section of humanity, people wearing casual business attire vary in style. Whether you are going to meet up with a potential client at the local coffee shop or enjoy a nice celebration dinner with a favorite colleague, there are some good rules of thumb to consider when considering your casual business attire.
1. If you like jeans, Choose ones that are free from tears, rips, studs, chains, or other decorations. Save these for a night out with your friends at the dance club. Also, make sure they are not too low cut. Showing off the thong while dining with important clients is not the message you want to send! While jeans are becoming more and more accepted in business situations, common sense still should be your guide when looking for a pair to slip into for your day at work. There are a variety of sophisticated washes and styles now in jeans to meet just about anyone’s business taste.
2. Business casual clothing should be presentable, but that does not mean it has to be boring! Remember that many creative and freelance professionals enjoy expressing their personalities through their clothes. What to wear to work should be a reflection of what you do, so it is okay to jazz up an outfit with a pretty scarf or a fun jacket if you are more artsy, or put together a more tailored look with a blazer, turtleneck sweater, and slacks if you are more conservative.
3. Think about who you will most often interact with throughout the day when selecting your business casual clothing. Choose key foundation pieces that can be dressed up or down depending on your schedule and events. I always like to have a good supply of dressy tee-shirts in my closet that I can pair with a beautiful coat or leather jacket or even a cashmere cardigan. For guys, tee shirts are fine as long as they ares void of offensive images or language, unless you happen to be in the kind of business that encourages that sort of thing. Also, it is best to leave the sleeveless muscle tees at home unless you are meeting clients for a game of beach volleyball.
4. Business casual clothing also includes footwear, and once again, common sense prevails here. There are so many great choices these days for both men and women that extend beyond the proverbial wing-tip and pump. Boots, flats, even athletic shoes pass as acceptable footwear in today’s casual business attire climate. They key is to choose shoes that fit well and allow you to walk comfortably, especially if you work in an urban environment.
5. Finally, business casual does not equal sloppy or anything goes. Humans are quick to judge each other on how we look, so it is worth taking the time to choose a basic workable wardrobe and invest accordingly. A very good friend of mine who is a professional fashion consultant suggests that no matter what, every business casual professional should own a really good coat or jacket. This goes for both men and women. Again, the style is not as important as is the quality and the fact that you feel good when you wear it.
When trying to make money in a competitive business world, knowing what casual business attire is and is not can do wonders for your bottom line. In general, use the wisdom of the 3 P’s my Mom passed on to me when I was getting ready to enter the professional world: Would my Parents, Principal,and Priest give me the thumbs up about what I have on? Perhaps a bit old-fashioned to some readers out there, but in all fairness, those age-old ideas last for a very good reason. And with so many choices today in business casual, it’s better to be safe than wish you had checked to make sure your underwear wasn’t showing through a hole in your jeans when trying to land that lucrative client!