Around this time every year, as we stand on the precipice of warm, summer days, human resource managers around the nation send their hard working employees an email with the obligatory reminders about proper summertime office attire.
“Ladies, no spaghetti straps, and gentleman, no sleeveless t-shirts…”
While I see the concern about an over exposure of bare female shoulders and knobby male knees under the harsh glow of fluorescent office lights, I’d like to take this opportunity to distribute my own set of suggestions, but not just for the months of May through September. I’d like cubicle conquerors around the nation to look deep inside and truly consider the following guidelines as they apply to Casual Fridays nationwide.
That’s right, you heard me, I’m coming at you, Casual Friday.
Now look, before you try to write me off as a stifling stuffed shirt, I enjoy Casual Friday just as much as anyone else. Friday is truly my favorite day of the week, because with it comes the relaxed attitude of knowing that a week of boring meetings and Excel spreadsheets has wound down, and the optimism of knowing that two full days of personal leisure lay ahead. I am not championing that white collar offices around the country debar casual Friday attire. I just want to put a framework around it, leverage some synergies, look at the low-hanging fruit, and circle back on Monday. In other terms, business buzzwords aside, I’d like to make some suggestions for how we can all enjoy the less onerous atmosphere of Friday, while still presenting ourselves as professional adults.
All on board? Good. Then follow me into the conference room. We brought donuts and coffee.
1. Casual Friday does not mean pajama day. See? I’m not asking for much. I’d just like to suggest that employees leave their drawstring pants and fuzzy slippers at home Monday through Friday. Please do not wear yoga pants, or sweatpants to work. I don’t care what you top it off with. And yes, faux-leather open-back mules that only have fur around the top edge are still slippers. This isn’t just a fashion preference. It’s for everyone’s safety. Who hasn’t slipped out of a pair of soft comfy slippers walking up carpeted stairs? Safety first worker bees.
2. Save ripped jeans for Saturdays. I know this advice flies in the face of Abercrombie at Fitch’s strategy to sell pre-ripped jeans for $89.99, and I can acknowledge that jeans with rips across the thighs have a place in society. However, that place is a Phish concert, not a staff meeting on client budgets and quarterly procurement deliverables. Gentleman, if I can see the color of your boxers through the holes in the legs of your jeans, it’s not office appropriate. Ladies, same principle applies. Jeans with holes across the tops of your thighs and all the way down to your shins are just too revealing. Save them for date night and put on a pair of pants that your boss can’t see through.
3. No hoodies. I know, I’m breaking hearts by putting hoodies into the “no” pile, but if you’d wear it to rake leaves or paint your deck, it’s not office attire, even on a Friday. I understand that hoodies can be a casual form of self-expression, but that’s what your cubicle is for. If you want to share with your co-workers how much you love the Pittsburgh Steelers, or that trip you took to The Grand Canyon, or Victoria Secret’s PINK brand, then decorate your cubicle accordingly.
4. Crocs. Because, no. Trust me on this one. If you can buy your toddler the same shoe, it’s not office appropriate. Crocs are made for sous chefs and soccer moms. Invest in a solid pair of sneakers and save the rubber sandal-shoes for your next day trip to Disney World.
5. See through shirts. This suggestion is mostly for ladies. You wouldn’t wear a see-through white t-shirt with a black bra underneath it on Monday, would you? So why would you wear it on Friday? Casual means less formal and more comfortable. It does not mean extra-sexy
6. Dirty sneakers or flip flips. Note that I am not baring sneakers and flip flops entirely. I would just ask that if your sneakers are covered in caked-on mud from your weekend mud run, that you choose a more presentable footwear option. Or, if the souls of your $1.00 Old Navy flip flops are stained gray with dirt in the shape of your toes, that you treat yourself to a new pair of $1.00 Old Navy flip flops.
7. Cartoon t-shirts. Just because you put a corduroy blazer over your Super Mario Brothers t-shirt does not make it office appropriate. I’m talking to you IT department.
Okay, so you’re feeling like I’ve been unnecessarily harsh. I don’t want you to leave thinking I’m a total Friday fun sponge, so I’m going to compromise and counter offer a short list of items that to me, are completely appropriate Monday through Friday, to try to win back some of your respect.
1. Tattoos. I know some offices have rules about keeping tattoos covered-up. As long as it’s not offensive, if you have a tattoo that expresses who you are, I believe you should be able to display it. Even if that means that how you express yourself is with a tattoo of Minnie Mouse on your ankle. Who are we to judge?
2. Non-traditional hair color. In my opinion, if someone wants to express themselves with brightly colored hair in shades of red, blue, or purple, and they wear it neat and tidy, how is that less appropriate than the brunette with neat and tidy brown colored hair?
3. Shorts (for men). It’s hard to argue that on an 88- degree day, when the office fees like a terrarium, that women are allowed to wear knee-length skirts, but men have to wear full length pants or jeans. I would argue that as long as they are appropriate (read: not ripped or stained with paint) that men should be able to wear knee-length shorts to the office as well (preferably, khakis. I’m not talking about jorts here).
All of my thoughts about casual Friday attire are not meant to feel stifling or too formal. They are not meant to restrict anyone’s personal creativity, or their ability to be comfortable on the last day after a long week of hard work. They’re also not meant to encourage purchases of expensive clothing. I don’t believe formal clothes have to be expensive, just that they should demonstrate an air of professionalism.
My suggestions are meant as simple reminders that even on a Friday, an office is still a place of business, and we’re all still representing a professional service company. The way we present ourselves can say a lot about our pride in ourselves and in our work. All it takes is a few concessions and minor upgrades to keep us all functioning in a professional capacity, even on Fridays.