The Oxymoron that is Business Casual

Business casual isn't really casual at all.

Its an ever growing set of RULES, forced upon people by the more strict and conservative members of the office to the point that its not casual any more. Its strictly business and really just a list of what is allowed and not allowed.

And the list of what is not allowed gets longer depending on who you talk to.

Remember your company's objective in establishing a business casual dress code, is to allow our employees to work comfortably in the workplace while maintaining a professional image for customers, potential employers, clients and community visitors.

Thus business casual is a dress code and there is no standard set of rules. Thus the article you are about to read might include some rules you feel are TOO STRICT or even TOO LENIENT depending on your personal tastes.


Clothing that reveals too much cleavage, your back, your chest, your feet, your stomach or your underwear is not appropriate for a place of business, even in a business casual setting. (I've seen this far too often... but the question then becomes how much cleavage is too much???)


Even in a business casual work environment, clothing should be pressed and never wrinkled. Torn, dirty, or frayed clothing is unacceptable. All seams must be finished.


Any clothing that has words, terms, or pictures that may be offensive to other employees is unacceptable. Clothing that has the company logo is encouraged. Sports team, university, and fashion brand names on clothing are generally acceptable, but some people might disagree and say its too risque to wear hockey shirts to work.


Certain days can be declared dress down days, generally called Casual Fridays... However this is really just business casual with slightly more rules and a little more cleavage allowed. On these days, jeans and other more casual clothing, although never clothing potentially offensive to others, are allowed. But really that is it... jeans and more cleavage. The rest of the rules are basically enforced and catty people will be doubly sure to complain if they don't like your casual Friday clothes.


No dress code can cover all contingencies so employees must exert a certain amount of judgment in their choice of clothing to wear to work. There will always be some catty office person who has reason to complain. If you experience uncertainty about acceptable, professional business causal attire for work, please ask your supervisor or your Human Resources staff. At least then you asked beforehand and can pass the buck if anyone complains.

Rule #6. PANTS

Slacks that are similar to Dockers and other makers of cotton or synthetic material pants, wool pants, flannel pants, dressy capris, and nice looking dress synthetic pants are acceptable. Black, white or navy jeans with no rips are also considered appropriate. Inappropriate slacks or pants include ripped jeans/multi-coloured jeans, sweatpants, exercise pants, Bermuda shorts, short shorts, shorts, bib overalls, leggings, and any spandex or other form-fitting pants such as people wear for biking.


Casual dresses and skirts, and skirts that are split at or below the knee are acceptable (although really conservative people might insist on calf). Dress and skirt length should be at a length at which you can sit comfortably in public without people seeing up your skirt. Short, tight skirts that ride halfway up the thigh are considered inappropriate for work. Mini-skirts, skorts, sun dresses, beach dresses, and spaghetti-strap dresses are inappropriate for the office.

Rule #8. SHIRTS

Casual shirts, dress shirts, sweaters, tops, golf-type shirts, and turtlenecks are acceptable attire for work. Most suit jackets or sport jackets are also acceptable attire for the office, if they violate none of the other listed guidelines. Inappropriate attire for work includes tank tops; midriff tops; shirts with potentially offensive words, terms, logos, pictures, cartoons, or slogans; halter-tops; tops with bare shoulders; sweatshirts, and t-shirts unless worn under another blouse, shirt, jacket, or dress.

Rule #9. SHOES

Conservative (black or brown) athletic or walking shoes, loafers, clogs, sneakers, boots, flats, dress heels, and leather deck-type shoes are acceptable for work. Grey or white might also be acceptable depending on the place. Flashy athletic, flip-flops, slippers, and any shoe with an open toe are not acceptable in the office. Closed toe and closed heel shoes are required in the manufacturing operation area. Some places might REQUIRE steel toed shoes / boots.


Wearing no stockings is acceptable in warm weather. Thongs and other bits of lingerie should not be visible through your clothing. ie. Don't wear low cut pants with a thong and bend over a lot...

Rule #11. PERFUME

Remember, that some employees are allergic to the chemicals in perfumes and make-up, so wear these substances with restraint. When in doubt ask.

Rule #12. JEWELRY

Should be in good taste, with limited visible body piercing. Piercings are okay, but try to be pierced in locations people won't see at work.


Hats are not appropriate in the office. Head Covers that are required for religious purposes or to honor cultural traditions are allowed.


See what I mean? Its not casual at all. Its basically an uniform. You might as well contact a company that makes school uniforms and ask if they could make uniforms for everyone in the office. At least then people could just wear the uniform and not worry about what is acceptable. (Some offices actually do this.)

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