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Unwritten Rules for a Flawless Casual Friday Dress Code

24 November 2022

Despite being a proverbial saying that has been around for hundreds of years, the notion that "clothes make the man" is still very much relevant today. On the surface, this phrase underscores the idea that how we dress influences how others perceive us and can even affect how they interact with us.

However, this concept goes beyond just outward appearances and extends to deeper psychological implications. In an office setting, for example, our clothing choices can influence our confidence levels, competencies, and overall productivity.

At one time, corporations were notorious for having strict dress codes that dictated exactly what was considered appropriate attire in the workplace. Typically, this meant crisp, professional outfits like black or gray suits paired with shiny faux leather handbags or briefcases. The goal was to promote a single, uniform archetype of what it meant to be a successful and productive employee.

Thankfully, this culture is rapidly declining, and organizations are more relaxed. Today, we have casual Fridays, match day madness, and other occasions where you can dress casually in the office.

Strangely, few industries have clear parameters for "business casual" fashion. And that's why our focus today is on broadening your understanding of what is and what is not acceptable as a casual Friday fit.

Where Did Business Casual Come From?

The origins of business casual dressing can be traced back to the post-war period when tech companies were just beginning to grow in size and prestige. The employees operated under a strict dress code–there was no space for the quirky, creative, and self-educated innovators we're used to these days.

This went on for a while until a suburban neighborhood in California challenged the convention. Silicon Valley revolutionized this industry by allowing all its oddballs to challenge IBM, HP, and the other big boys with its garage startups.

Silicon Valley was less concerned with suits and more interested in solving everyday problems effectively. Suddenly, scruffy and scrappy innovators like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg became the picture of success. And this graduated beyond tech–today, world leaders at the G7 summit have also leaped onto the bandwagon.

But does this mean no dress shirts and ties? Or can you wear your crocs to work?

Absolutely not!

Business casual refers to a relaxed dress code. The dark/gray suit and tie combinations can take a break, and you can instead dress creatively to feel more relaxed at work.

Some Basics to Help You Get It Right This Friday:

The Business Casual Suit

It doesn't matter whether you wear a casual or formal suit; you'll always stand out above the rest! However, it helps to have a suitable material and fit.

Here are the rules for getting the business casual suit right:

The Trim

You can have the most stylishly designed suit made from the best fabric in the world. But, a baggy, skin-tight, or otherwise ill-fitting suit will make you look awful. Don't be afraid to splurge on a tailored suit. These days such services are affordable and conveniently available online.

You can also buy a slightly oversized one and get it altered by a tailor. With 3 to 5 tailor-made suits, you can never go wrong.

Material/Fabric Quality

Cheap office suits typically have thin and shiny fabrics. They are unbreathable and make you look unprofessional and sloppy. So pair your trousers with a corduroy or tweed jacket to break the monotony.

Tweed jackets have an exciting backstory. English office workers wore them on Fridays because they needed something warm and hardy for the train rides to their country estates. This eventually caught on as a staple for casual Fridays worldwide.

Mixing And Matching

Mixing jackets and pants can be a way to dress casually. However, it can be disastrous if you do it wrong. Consider getting the following articles of clothing to build your wardrobe:

1 gray suit

1 navy suit

1 tan suit

1 black suit

1 patterned suit

2 light blue dress shirts

2 white dress shirts

2 black dress shirts

With that in place, you can mix and match jackets, pants, and shirts for 85 possible stylish combinations.

Your workmates will probably end up thinking you have an infinite supply of stylish, casual suits.

Also, feel free to switch up your footwear, i.e., boat shoes with no socks. Or pair your suit with a plain stock tee.


The word "casual" opens you up to endless possibilities regarding pants. Fortunately, the rules on what types of pants not to wear are clear. Here are some definite no-nos:

1. Shorts or 3-quarter pants

2. Leather

3. Distressed and elaborately decorated denim

4. Sweat pants

5. Pants with shiny materials

The best option is to go for simple and comfortably designed trousers. You can wear jeans as long as they are dark, plain, and understated. Also, keep it trim and body flattering but not skinny pants.

Chinos go well with suit jackets and dress shirts if you choose a muted color. It also helps to opt for gentle pleats and creases if you're going for the savvy business casual look.


Most people don't give their shirts a second thought. After all, they are just clothing articles to help you hide your chest, and they remain hidden beneath your jacket and pants ensemble. So, you have probably gotten away with wearing the same plain stock shirts all your professional life.

But what many people may not realize is just how much of an impact a well-fitting shirt can have on their look. These versatile pieces have the power to transform even the most bland, stodgy corporate attire into something bold and fashion-forward with just a few simple tweaks.

Just consider switching out your old, basic white collared stock shirts for something more adventurous, like bright pastel shades, e.g., aqua, yellow, pink, light brown, or purple. Feature bold hues and unexpected patterns and textures as these unique shirts add visual interest and flair to your everyday wardrobe. And by mixing up the trims and fabrics you use with each shirt style you choose, you can easily dress down even your most professional outfits while still looking polished and put-together.


The right jacket can help you level up your look. A bespoke jacket paired with denim or chinos gives you confidence and an edge. But, not all jacket designs are appropriate for work wear.

For instance, emblazoned, stuffy, double-breasted blazers paired with chinos and a polo shirt can make you look out of sorts. The best approach is to stick to simple and unstructured jackets on casual Fridays. It also helps to avoid shoulder pads and oversized lapels – aim for a slim, minimal design that complements your shape.

If you want a contemporary look, you can invest in shorter cuff-length blazers that end just below the hips. On a cold day, you can also wear woolen cardigans. But go for plain cashmere instead of sweaters with chunky wool and festive patterns. You're dressing to go to the office and not an outdoor Christmas or holiday party!


Your safest bet is leather footwear since you're dressing for an office environment. If you want to play it safe, you can pair your attire with boat shoes, moccasins, or loafers. Plain and engineering boots can help you add some excitement to your ensemble.

However, leaving your Timberlands, Lugz, and other outdoorsy boots at home is best. They may be too constricting for the office. Sneakers, trainers, and canvas shoes are typically frowned upon. But it depends on where you work. Some fashion-forward companies may allow them, while others will not. In either case, always go for simple colors and shoe designs that don't pull too much attention.

What Not to Wear for Casual Friday

Most people assume casual Fridays offer a no-holds-barred opportunity to wear whatever they want. But, as mentioned, your clothes can profoundly impact how people assess your competency without even speaking to you.

Here are a few things to avoid wearing if you don't want to be labeled as an office slacker:

Fitness wear: Sweat pants and football jerseys are comfortable, breathable, and stylish for most occasions. However, they are better suited for the gym or mall.

Slides, crocs, sandals: Insist on closed shoes, as no one in the business world is interested in looking at your feet or toes. It's even considered rude in some cultures.

Going beltless: it is best to tack in any shirt with an uneven waistline. For that, you'll need a belt to ensure you look presentable.

Threadbare or torn clothing: casual Fridays allow organizations to tone down the formality but not abandon neatness and cleanliness. So, ensure whatever you wear isn't torn or worn out enough to be an embarrassment to your organization.


Fashion is the least of your concerns as you prepare for another grueling day in the office. It's easy to argue that looks are irrelevant to how you attain your targets and stay on top of your game as you work.

But, as mentioned, how we dress significantly impacts our self-esteem and how others perceive us. Casual Friday allows you to be unique and relaxed in the office. But, until now, the acceptable standards may have been ambiguous.

We hope this brief article clears the contradictions and gives you some reasonable expectations. Feel free to check out our blog for other secret tips to enhance your productivity in the office.