Sign up with your email address to be the first to know about new products, VIP offers, blog features & more.

Why it’s HR’s fault for Casual Dress Code “Don’ts”


Casual Dress Code

If your company is going to have a casual day, do your workforce a favor and give them a heads up on what your company considers to be “casual dress”. HR usually only knows what Casual Day means because we really know what Casual Day is NOT.  There are plenty of folks in the workplace that don’t know what “casual dress” implies. If they did, they wouldn’t have worn what they did. You didn’t hire someone stupid, did you?  Is it their fault for not knowing what to wear or HR’s fault for not explaining the standards and the implications?  At the end of the day, only BAD impressions will stick with us.  Anyone that does honor the Casual Dress code will fall under the radar. Folks shouldn’t be judged for their lack of professional experience and the interpretations that come with it. The workforce is a reflection of leadership, and how they carry themselves is a reflection of HR.     

Everyone that has worked in a company that has a dress code knows “casual dress day”. D-day for dress Faux PAS in the workplace.   Ground Zero for Cosmo “Don’ts”. On this day, there will be as much, if not more behind the back snickering, raised eyebrows, and shaking heads than the rest of the year. The exception, of course, is the company Christmas Party.   

With summer comes the company BBQ. This isn’t the weekend BBQ that is held off-site where you are expected to shoot squirt guns or eat messy foods and shorts and T-shirts are encouraged. I am talking about a parking lot BBQ. This is during the week, and maybe the managers serve food to the folks. HR makes a big announcement and a bigger to do about how they are going to “let” everyone wear casual clothes. Company-wide emails, announcements at meetings, and flyers in the hallways type stuff. Yes, we are going to “let” you wear jeans.    

If you are accustomed to wearing a suit and tie to work every day, this usually means you can take it down a notch and wear slacks and a polo shirt. Women can wear pants and open toes shoes. 

If your dress code is slacks and a collared shirt, HR will “let” you wear jeans, but not T-shirts.  AKA “jeans day”. Whoo Hoooo!

The lemmings fall in line, get excited, and jeans will run the gamut. The Marketing department will be sporting the latest $250.00 7’s, True Religions, or Japanese Selvage Denim. These jeans NEVER go into the dryer.  Hang dry only.   

Analysts will be wearing jeans that they were wearing 7 years ago. A little too short in the length, and a little too tight at the waist after too many sessions in an extra hot dryer. “If I can dry them in 1 hour on normal, I can dry them in 30 min on extra hot.  It’s simple math!”  Avoid low-rise, tight, ripped or jeans with holes. They may be $300.00 but your manager won’t know that and your VP will think you can’t be trusted with the company funds.  

I spent a number of my formative career years in a place where a white shirt with a 2 piece (matching) suit was required, as were leather soled shoes and no hair below the lip.  (myself being a hairless Asian, I never had to worry about this one)  You would have thought that the week before Jeans day was the week before Christmas in a grade school.  Giddy! 

We may not know what Casual dress is, but we know what it is NOT:

And the winners are?

Professional Athlete wanna be:  Baseball cap with flat brim worn to the side and maybe the tags are still attached.  Team jersey tank top, extra long basketball shorts that are designed for someone who is 6 foot 8, glasses are worn indoors and shiny 150.00 kicks.   Why this professional athlete wannabe walks with a limp today and is eyeballing every female in the house is beyond me, but apparently, he is getting the work done. SITUATION and Jersey Shore comes to mind. CLM!  (Career Limiting Move)

One step removed is the (prior life) High School Athlete: Baseball cap is worn backward, jeans and a sports jersey.  Usually will make it a point to not shave. We are not in high school anymore Dorothy. 

Hawaiian Tourist over 40 crowds:  sandals with or without socks, Khaki shorts, and a Hawaiian shirt. Unless it is a Hawaiian theme and the company is passing out plastic leis at lunch, this is not a good look. You are still at work, not on vacation.   

PJ’s:  We said casual day, not “this is what I wear to bed” or “This is what I woke up in, ate breakfast in, brushed my teeth in” day.  As much as I don’t want to see flip-flops on a day like this, I REALLY don’t want to see house slippers.  CLM. 

I just don’t care, aka I just don’t think:  I have seen the dirtiest rattiest T-shirts that are stained and ripped. Some folks make a point of going to the extreme here and that is not the intention.  We are not talking strategically placed rips that are sexy in the stripper, rocker sort of way. As GrumpyOldMan would say “Whiskey Tango FoxTrot”!!!  Seriously!  What kind of statement are you trying to make here?  In my Corporate America days, I would personally take this as a slap in the face.  2x CLM.    

Preppy Golfer Guy:  You know him.  Bright Plaid pants, sweater draped over the shoulders and boat shoes with no socks.  Ray Bans resting on top of the head.  Insert Collared Polo or Button Down here. This isn’t a fashion show, this isn’t the Stanford Rowing Regatta, and this isn’t an Ivy League fraternity. Your social status is not a direct correlation of your work, but your choice in clothes on this particular day is an indication of your decision-making process. 

Not sure what to call her:  I understand that leggings and skinny/tight stretch jeans are in. They are not “in” when it comes to the workplace and heels with a top that is low-cut, see through crop cut, or all of the above.  Skin is not the new Black in the workplace.  CLM.

When in doubt: If I can see up, down it, or through it, don’t

The dress is a reflection of the company and the manager. Visits to clients usually require a certain modicum of taste. Bigger opportunities and larger projects usually go hand in hand with opportunities where speaking in front of work groups and presentations are required. Be remembered for your work, not your wardrobe.   

No post on this topic would be complete without a suggestion on how to dress.  Use your head, and if you were thinking of making the casual day your runway, and want to know what to wear, ask someone in HR or a manager that you feel has some sense.  Don’t trust your HR department? Wear what you usually wear and skip the tie. 

If you are going to hold Casual Day, casual Friday, or expect dress standards for any event, you owe it to folks to set expectations.   

Got a Casual Dress Don’t or a Rant on the topic? Let us know in the comments,


HRNasty works in a startup environment.  No dress code. No need. We trust folks first, and the system isn’t abused.

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable please subscribe here. I promise no spam,

“like” us on Facebook, I read all comments below. Thank you!