What not to wear…

Soaring Worldwide’s senior account manager Sarah Carless discusses how dress codes can be defined in a professional setting.

When my boyfriend recently started his new job, it got me thinking about office dress codes. How should they be defined and how does your boss really expect you to dress when you come to work every day?

During his interview, my boyfriend had been told the dress code in his department was smart casual. When I saw what he had chosen to wear to work for his first day, I did what most loving girlfriends would do. I made him change. It’s not that he has bad taste in clothes. Far from it. But I didn’t think what he was wearing was appropriate for his first day.

Whether you like it or not, your choice of clothes make an impression on people, and when you’re trying to impress your new boss, my opinion is that it’s far better to be slightly over dressed. If you find what you are wearing isn’t in line with everybody else, it’s far easier to tone it down to something less formal than to go the other way.

Smart casual is a minefield and in today’s modern society, it could mean anything. And judging by the attire chosen by many of the people we saw walking into the building, smart casual clearly meant anything goes. It was like an everyday version of dress down Friday.

So it was interesting to listen to William Hanson, author of The Bluffer’s Guide to Etiquette, talking about dress code on Steve Wright’s show on BBC Radio 2 yesterday, particularly as he discussed what was classed as acceptable for smart casual.

His interpretation of smart casual for men was a smart pair of trousers (no denim), smart jacket (not corduroy), shirt (top button undone), no tie and smart shoes (preferably a Chelsea boot and definitely no trainers). The choice for women followed a similar pattern, with the outfit being based around a jacket; smart blouse and skirt sitting on or below the knee, cocktail or day dress and flat shoes. Today must be a good day in Soaring Worldwide as most people fit this description!

I agree times are changing and smart casual can be interpreted in many different ways. To an extent, it largely depends on the industry you work in, the size of the organisation you work for and even the office environment you work in. I am no fashion guru, but my personal opinion is as long as your outfit is neat and professional – one you could still see a client in should they unexpectedly pop in – then you are probably OK.

My boyfriend is now into his third week and his choice of clothing has relaxed considerably since his first day. But he fits in with other members of the team so clearly there’s no problem with a less formal definition of smart casual.

So, whatever the dress code is for your workplace, make sure you have a clear understanding of what is expected. And if in doubt, you can’t go wrong by taking a look at what your boss is wearing and following their lead.

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