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Dress Code: Is every day 'Casual Friday' at your office?

Casual Fridays at the Marketplace office. Where do you draw the line when it comes to dressing “fun” at work? Send us your photos or stories.

If Don Draper flew off a skyscraper like he does in the opening credits of "Mad Men" and landed in the middle of a modern American business district, he would probably be horrified by what most of the men were wearing. No suit. No tie. The male office worker in his natural habitat usually wears some variation of “business casual” these days. So do the ladies.

While we might associate that phrase -- business casual -- with drab slacks and button downs, there was a time not so long ago when business casual was considered serious FUN. Human Resource Managers introduced the idea as a “perk” -- a cost-free bit of fun they could offer their employees. But then the question arose: How much fun is TOO much fun when it comes to what you wear to the office? Are flip-flops kosher? Are Hawaiian shirts OK? What about tube tops?

I’m working on a story about the history of "Casual Fridays" and the invention of business casual attire that will be airing later this week. My research got me wondering: Where do you draw the line when it comes to dressing “fun” at work? What should, or shouldn’t, be allowed in a company dress code? Send us your stories or photos of Casual Friday and the crazy or questionable outfits you’ve rocked -- or caught coworkers -- rocking. 

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About the author

Krissy Clark is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Wealth & Poverty Desk.
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I have been at companies where the employees were somewhat aggressive about it if anyone was dressed up. "Nice outfit, Frank, where are you interviewing?" This was the kind of programming shop where "suits" were the enemy.

It was usually friendly, but it was clear that there was a self-imposed employee dress code and it was casual.

Computer software development office. Interestingly, most coders wear collared shirts and either jeans or slacks, managers don't wear jeans, but otherwise look like us. A few programmers wear T-shirts. The no shorts code is on the books and seldom violated, but enforcement doesn't seem to happen. We're a satellite office, with upper management about 200 miles north of us.

We've added our own impromptu Aloha Fridays. A number of developers and managers wear hawaiian shirts on Fridays.

>We essentially have a loose 'Don't Be an Idiot' dress code.

Aptly put. If you're meeting with outside people, professional dress is expected and enforced. If you're working in the labs, safety gear, closed-toe shoes, and long sleeves/pants are expected and enforced. If you're in a cube where no one can see you, business casual (khakis and polos) is fine.

I work at an Ad Agency, which as an industry is very relaxed as far as dress code goes. That said, I think the majority of people I have worked with over the years have a forward thinking fashion sense and rarely dress overly poor, even with the casual tone of the office. The interesting thing to me however, is almost how I can feel somewhat awkward coming to work dressed up, since no one else ever does. I think all of us as a business culture have slipped a bit too far into not caring what we wear and I think at times it is bad for business. Formalities are not all bad and I agree with the below statement from PapaG that there is a direct parallel between dressing down and both productivity as well as the formal nature that goes along with it.

What will be truly interesting is to see what the next 50 years will bring (thinking about what the 50's and 60's were like for the business community)

We don't have customers in our office, so our dress is very casual. It is a very small company of professionals, so no rules have been required. Shorts, a polo or t-shirt and sandals are my standard attire in the summer.

Believe it or not, the dress code for the staff of the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) is not as casual as you would think! Yes, they do dress business casual. But a nudist membership organization still has to have some office dress restrictions! Staff at the various resorts and clubs dress as allowed by owners or membership. Most reception personnel are clothed. Some general workers may not be. It is very difficult to "dress-down" from that.

I work at a large DC law firm, and dress is all over the map. Women lawyers and senior admin tend to wear dresses (no hose) or wool/blend trousers with blouses or sweaters and heels (sandals and bare arms are acceptable). Men in those roles tend to wear khaki-related pants and button-down or polo shirts, with lace-up or loafer leather shoes. I think the women dress up a bit more than the men, but that may be because women have fewer "business casual" options. The problem arises with much younger employees, especially those who are not lawyers -- i've seen women with miniskirts and tank tops and men with holey jeans, and flip flops on both sexes. I don't want to go back to the days of the beginning of my career (in the mid-90's), when women were required to wear skirts and pantyhose in court (and also at work, at my then-firm), but I don't think it would hurt to enforce a certain level of decorum in business casual. I also see a lot of administrative assistants going overly casual (if not as revealing), wearing t-shirts and yoga pants, for example. I may wear a suit to meet a client, but that doesn't help if the halls are full of boardwalk-appropriate attire. I think that dressing the part helps people behave more professionally.

I've worked in R&D for the last decade or so and it has been mostly anything goes. I typically wear a t-shirt, shorts, and sandals all summer. I can barely remember wearing a tie, and don't miss it one little bit.

Is it just me or does it seem like the relaxed dress codes in retail stores and restaurants seem to parallel the decrease in customer service? As a teenager, I worked for Target and was required to wear a dress shirt and tie under my spiffy red vest. you could spot a name tag from a mile away. I make a point now to never go to Home Depot wearing an orange shirt, Best Buy wearing a blue shirt, or Target wearing a red shirt (and heaven forbid khakis) lest I be accosted wayward customers being ignored by the paid staff.
As for my business, although we are a higher-end retail store, it's relaxed but 'clean & neat' every day. Golf shirts or dress shirts with dress slacks for the men and appropriate business casual for the ladies. It seems to make our customers feel more comfortable and less intimidated.

We essentially have a loose 'Don't Be an Idiot' dress code. If you're going to be meeting with clients or out representing the organization, you need to dress appropriately. If your day consists of sitting at your computer or on the phone, it's a free for all. Seems to work well for the small company we are.

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