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What’s Next for Business Attire in the Workplace?

Companies can be vague about their dress code, making it difficult for new employees. For men, business attire is assumed to mean jacket, tie, and dress pants while casual business attire could mean anything from a button down shirt to a cotton polo shirt. With a wider range of clothing options available for women, it is even harder for them to pinpoint what is suitable for both business and casual business attire.

Why is Business Attire Important?

Not many companies require traditional business attire anymore – especially to the degree that is displayed in the hit show Mad Men. Characters act out the lives of the men and women who worked on Madison Ave from the late 1950s to the 1960s. The era of carbon copies in full suit and tie has faded, but the original idea persists: What you wear is an indication of how seriously you take your job, yourself, and your company. How you dress can either earn respect or the disdain of your peers.

Within the last few decades, business attire has taken a casual turn. Many offices have traded in pants suits for denim pants, and “casual Fridays” have become “casual every day.” By the 1990s, many companies came to believe that the traditional suit and tie alienated customers and insinuated that the company was stuck in the past, unable to be creative or cutting-edge.

What Defines Business Casual?

Every company interprets business casual differently and many have exceptions. If you’re not sure what the generally accepted attire is, take note of what people are wearing during your job interview and during your first week. Overdressing is always better than showing up under-dressed.

Here are a few ideas on what is appropriate to wear:


  • All shirts should have a collar, such as a button down shirt with long sleeves.
  • Ties or bow-ties are not required.
  • Avoid denim jeans (unless explicitly allowed by the company) and opt for khakis, trousers, or dress pants.
  • Leather shoes.
  • Clean-cut facial hair.


  • Dresses or skirts that fall past the knee, with modest cuts.
  • Opt for looser fitting khakis, corduroy pants, or dress pants.
  • Heels and boots with a modest heel, or flats.

What to avoid for both sexes

  • Loud or distracting colors or patterns.
  • Sneakers, tall heels, flip-flops, or sandals.
  • If denim jeans are allowed, employees should avoid overly-distressed or faded jeans.

How is Business Casual Dress Changing?

Companies often attribute part of their cool corporate culture to their loose dress codes or lack thereof. Google employees don’t have any kind of dress code, and even interviewees are not required to dress up. Apple employees follow in the footsteps of Steve Jobs’ famed casual attire of jeans and T-shirts. Customers who walk into an Apple store are immediately comforted by young 20-something employees who exude technological intelligence over stiff professionalism. Companies are discovering that some dress codes are a signal to customers that they are cutting edge, creative, and continuously evolving.

More traditional companies are discovering they have an influx of young employees who are used to displaying their individuality through their clothes, hair, and personalities. Companies that embrace this type of individuality are able to set themselves apart from the competition through their employees, who set first impressions with new customers.

Emerging talent wants to work for a company that has a personality they can relate to, and the dress code is a part of that personality. Is it time you evolved?

Image Courtesy of AMC Networks Inc.

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