Casual Dress: When It Makes Sense for the Workplace

I’ve written before about dressing and looking your best to succeed in the workplace and life, and I still believe this one hundred percent. However, I overheard an interesting discussion that illustrated the desire for casual dress and how people seem happier when they don’t have to “dress up.”

First, I’ll give you a little background. It has been United Way fundraising time at my job for the past week or so, and one of the most popular fundraisers is Friday Jeans Day. It is organized something like this: If you pay $5, you receive a sticker that allows you to wear jeans on a designated Friday.

This touched off a discussion about paying to wear jeans, and how some are willing to pay for the whole year. The group mentioned they would be willing to pay, say, one dollar a day for the whole year to wear jeans. Of course, I had a personal finance knee jerk reaction and I piped up to say that was a lot of money to spend just to wear jeans. Granted, the United Way would probably get a lot of money, but I can think of other things to do with that kind of cash. Five dollars one day is a lot different to me than $365 dollars, even over a year.

So, the question I asked myself is, why are so many others willing to part with a substantial amount of money just to dress casually and can it benefit both employee and employer? I believe it can.


The mere fact of dressing down seems to lighten everyone’s mood. Maybe it’s a comfort thing or feeling less oppressed, but any way you look at it, the happier the employee the more productive that employee will be.


The option of casual dress can save an employee money as well. With business dress and even corporate casual, a person must usually maintain two separate wardrobes. This can lead to spending more than one wants too and can cause resentment.

It can also lead to wearing clothes out beyond their “freshness date.” Everyone feels better in new clothes and if you only have to buy the type of clothes you wear outside of work for work, your mood may improve.


One of the major downsides of a business going casual is the employee that takes the word casual to the extreme. A competitor to my employer went casual and there were sightings of Halter-tops and short-shorts, which had to be placed in the revised dress code policy as a no go. It’s because of these few bad apples that many businesses prefer business casual as a happy medium and won’t make the jump to casual.

To me, I say dress for success. This doesn’t mean full suit and tie all of the time, but take pride in yourself and the way you look. You can dress nicely whether your workplace dress code is business or casual. It will reflect favorably on both you and your employer.

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10 Responses to Casual Dress: When It Makes Sense for the Workplace

  1. Debra says:

    I’d pay the $1 a day, especially if it went to charity. At my work, that would come to $4 a week or about $200 a year because we already can wear jeans on Friday. For me, it would save on dry cleaning and I’d feel more comfortable. We used to have a more casual dress code but a new manager came in and changed it. I long for a day when the casual dress comes back.

  2. Kenny says:

    I’ve worked in casual and business casual offices. I much prefer casual. Jeans & t-shirts is just my style and my comfort. It’s how I like to dress. I hate being forced to dress up (though I even took business casual down to the most casual I could).

    I do believe in dressing for success, but I don’t practice it. I guess I just don’t care that much about corporate success. In fact, I’m kinda tired of corporate life.

    At my current job, I’m not required to dress up at all. I wears jeans & t-shirts pretty much every day. I’d like to get some nicer jeans and nicer shirts, but right now I can’t afford to spend a lot on clothes. I don’t think I want to work at another place that I have to dress up at.

  3. ME2 says:

    I/we get to dress casual (jeans & t-shirt type stuff ONLY) every Friday. My fellow employees and I just decided one day (10+ years ago) that Friday’s were going to be a casual dress day and that was that.

  4. princessperky says:

    I find the dress code to often be ridiculous, why anyone cares what is worn by the telephone tech is beyond me. Whats worse is the idea that a fellow working on servers often needing to crawl around on the floor, would even consider wearing dress pants.

    On the other hand I work at home (no pay) I still refuse to wear seats or PJs all day, some days yes, but not to many of them. Wearing ‘real clothes’ gives a motivation to do real work. PJs are for sleeping or being sick, not dishes, or even teaching.

  5. lisa says:

    I worked in a corporate environment for many years before landing a job in a casual environment. I’ll take casual over corporate anyday. I spent a fortune on dry cleaning and nylons! Now everything is machine washable (yeah)! Even the VP’s dress in jeans and love it too!

  6. baselle says:

    I work in a casual office most of the time, but every so often I go out with the sales staff and have to go business casual, even go business formal. The interesting thing I notice is that when I’m casual, I’m also more active – I walk around more, hit the stairs, etc. The dressier I am, the less likely I am to do physical things. I’m more likely to sit and take the elevator. To sweat means to dry clean.

  7. Here is where business casual attire can backfire: do your customers know who the employees are?

    If you have uniform sport shirts and black pants, well, then that’s business casual and it’s also obvious who is tending the store.

    I find it very annoying when, as a frequent visitor to a nearby workplace, I am constantly mistaken for one of their employees!

    I work in a business dress environment. Although we are not so strict as to require jackets and dresses, the men must wear ties and most women wear dress pants with dressy tops.

    Now this nearby workplace of which I speak has a business casual environment including occasional jeans for charity days.

    I cannot tell you how many times I am handling my own errands at that other workplace … when a customer comes up to me and asks “Do you work here?” “Where do I go for this ??” “Can you show me to so and so’s office??”

    If it was more obvious to the first-time visitors who the actual employees were … then I wouldn’t be mistaken for them!

  8. Amber says:

    I worked in a casual (tshirt/jeans) environment for 10 years and now am in a business casual w/ jeans on Fridays. For me the whole dressing up for work improves my attitude to actually work. It helps me get into the right frame of mind to focus on what I should be doing. I recently changed departments and my new department is a little more loose in it’s dress code requirements. Most people wear jeans with a button down shirt and flip flops or something like that. My co-workers from my former department don’t understand why I don’t do that and perhaps the occasion will arise that I do but for me, for now, I need to keep the right mental attitude and that means slacks or kakis and appropriate tops to go with it…until Friday hits that is.

  9. Cindy M says:

    Articles like this one make me SO glad I work at home for the past 10+ years. I’d hate to have to return to an office environment of any kind. I keep pretty much my old standards, though. I’m dressed with my makeup on and usually the “uniform” I wore at the hospital. Never jeans; could never understand why anybody thinks jeans are comfortable, I actually hate them). I would not dream of transcribing in my PJ’s. I’m old-school professional and look and act the part (I love respect) whether anybody sees me or not. I’m with princessperky on this one. I don’t even go to my own front door looking tacky if I can help it at all, ha-ha. Glad I don’t have to be around folks who slouch on in with draggy or tight jeans and low-cut blouses – that was how things were beginning to look when I got lucky enough to start working at home.

  10. Kenny says:

    I’m glad you work at home too.

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