When casual equals career-limiting

Long, hot summer days… and it’s more casual at work too. But there are many ways that holiday casual differs from workplace casual, writes Jackie O’Fee.

Ah… January. The start of a New Year full of promises and possibility, with all of its associated goal setting and planning seemingly at odds with the long, warm days, relaxed commutes and half-empty offices. 

With a lot of staff taking their annual holidays through January, many professional offices opt to dress more casually before kicking back into ‘proper’ workwear in February. If this includes your office, here’s a few guidelines to make sure that casual doesn’t equal career-limiting. 

• Make sure what you are wearing fits. The tee shirt you wear at the beach, the polo shirt you got free with a box of beers or just the oversized linen shirt that works with your denim cut-offs are probably a bit too baggy for the office. I’m sure they are comfortable but wearing garments that are too big will make you look scruffy. Make sure your casual pieces still fit you: polo shirts and tees should have the shoulder seam sitting at your shoulder, not halfway down your arm and if there’s too much volume through the body of your shirt, you’ll look unpolished. By the way, the same goes for any shirt that’s too tight or too short. 

• Wearing shorts guys? Keep the look tailored and trim by opting for a slim cut in a smart fabric that sits above the knee. Don’t turn up in baggy, multi-pocketed cargo shorts or sports shorts. Also, shorts below the knee are an absolute fashion faux-pas and not just at work. 

• Short sleeved shirts trump tee shirts every single time. These look smarter, feel cooler to wear and are quite simply, a much better option. 

• Faded and worn pieces belong in the backyard, not the boardroom. There are many ways that holiday casual differs from workplace casual and this is definitely one. If your day off consists of reading the paper on the deck over breakfast before relaxing into the day with a book and hardly leaving the house, there’s not much call for your clothes to be on point. In the workplace, you need to make an effort to look as if you are at work.

• Think about your day. Your office may well do casual January but if your day includes meetings with clients who don’t subscribe to this, rethink your garment choice accordingly. It feels so much worse to attend an event or meeting feeling underdressed than it does feeling overdressed and you want to look and feel appropriate. 

• Keep it clean. Yes, a pair of trainers may make the cut in January but ensure these are clean and tidy (and we are talking trainers not shoes for training/working out). Dirty shoes will always let your look down. Check your favourite shorts or shirt for marks and stains which can deepen with time spent in storage.  

• Wearing sandals to the office? Make sure your feet are pedicured and polished – with the plethora of cheap and cheerful nail bars throughout the country, there’s no excuse for gnarly nails and ugly feet. 

• Be careful with logos, slogans or sports teams on tees, branded polo shirts etc. Avoid anything too overt, too political or too silly. Your hilarious tee-shirt could be offensive to others and a beer gut in a sports jersey just seems all kind of wrong. Wear your own shirt – not someone else’s.  

Jackie O’Fee is the owner of personal style consultancy Signature Style. She works with both individuals and organisations. See signaturestyle.co.nz     

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