An estimated 55 percent of the nation’s companies have some sort of casual Friday policy, either formally or informally, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Not surprisingly, they’re popular with employees and some candidates factor whether or not a company offers casual Fridays into their job choice.

When did the concept of casual Friday’s start?  We’ve read that Dockers branded the concept in 1992 (khakis and a polo) as a reprieve from the tyranny of suits.  Obviously, that ensemble is primarily for Men.  Men were told, if you’re not sure what to wear on casual Friday, look to your boss.  But, what if you’re a Female -then what?

Whether you are male or female, it does matter what you choose to wear on casual day at the office.  Many a successful career can get derailed early if you become known for your appearance rather than your performance.  You must be capable of understanding the culture of your firm and it must be reflected in how you navigate casual Friday.

Your attire is one of the many things your superiors are looking at in order to move you up and into a leadership position. Dressing appropriately will contribute to an air of self-seriousness about your career and your employers won’t have to work so hard envisioning you in more prominent roles. You’ll avoid being marginalized as well as looking painfully out of place when meeting with higher-ups.

If you are new to an organization or still in doubt about what to wear,  you could opt out of casual Fridays altogether and just treat Friday like any other workday.  Especially if you notice that none of the top managers in your office ever wear jeans to work.

Now that we’ve determined that it does matter what you look like at the office – even on casual day, we recommend both Men and Women follow these basic tips on what NOT to wear to office.

  Worn-out, whiskered, sloppy or super skinny jeans
√   Shorts, Capris, Cargo Pants
  Work-out attire, Fleece, Football Jerseys
  Sandals, Utility Boots, Wellies
  Low cut T-shirts (Men – You too), Slogan T-Shirts
  Clothing you’d wear to a nightclub
  Anything you’d wear hanging around your house
  Anything that shows more skin than you’d show for the rest of week

***Women:  Pay attention to what shoes female executives are wearing.  Although you may be tempted to wear open toe or flats, most women CEOs, founders, and top-level execs do not wear open toe or flats to the office.  Save them for the weekends and stick to a pump or kitten heel.

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have – even on “casual Friday”.   And, make sure whatever you wear is clean, well-pressed and drama-free.

Have you ever worn something to the office on casual Friday that you’ve regretted?  What do your superiors wear on casual Friday?

– S.O.