Casual Dress Code – How to Make a Successful Switch

Tips and tricks for implementing a casual dress code without compromising your company brand

It wasn’t too long ago that every office job seemingly enforced a business professional dress code. It wasn’t unusual to see men in suits and ties or women in dresses or skirts and blouses. But, the times are changing! The 80’s brought about the business casual office attire, and more recently, we’ve seen a shift to a casual (or dress for your day) dress code. Some companies eliminate dress codes altogether.

While we are all for the casual dress code (who doesn’t love to be comfortable while working), we always suggest a few tips when implementing one in the office.

Develop a clear dress code policy

No matter what your organization deems appropriate for workplace attire, a clear dress code policy is necessary. However, a casual work environment may need even more guidance. Jeans and a sweatshirt may be acceptable attire in your office. But what about ripped jeans or sweatshirts with slander or offensive material? A written policy should clarify what is and is not proper attire. Get specific. Lay out all of the details!

You may give written examples of acceptable attire, such as:

  • Collared shirts or polos
  • Tailored tops or blouses
  • Sweaters
  • Blazers
  • Casual pants such as chinos, khakis, capri pants, and jeans with no holes or tears

Or, be specific about what is unacceptable, like:

  • Any article of clothing with offensive language or images
  • Open-toed shoes or flip flops
  • Beach or nightclub attire
  • Spaghetti strap shirts
  • Shorts
  • Skirts that come above your fingertips while your hand is hanging at your side

Keep in mind popular dress fads. Ripped jeans, joggers, leggings, and crop tops are all the rage but may not be appropriate for a client visit. Work with leadership to determine what is and is not acceptable based on your organizational culture and purpose. Develop your written handbook policy around specific examples. Update it as frequently as you need to, as fads are constantly changing!

Show (don’t just tell) your employees what they should wear 

Casual is a broad term, so it may be difficult for employees (especially new recruits) to understand what is and is not appropriate. Likewise, employees of different generations or cultural backgrounds may have differing ideas of “casual attire.”

So, model the clothes you would like to see employees wear. Provide important visual cues on acceptable ways to dress comfortably and professionally at the same time. Don’t forget that how you wear something can make a difference. Crumpled and unwashed clothing looks vastly different from crisp, clean, and appropriately accented outfits.

Talk hygiene, health, and safety

Encourage your employees to exercise sound judgment when wearing perfumes or colognes to work. Other employees may be allergic or sensitive to strong smells, creating an unpleasant work environment.

If your restrictions in the dress code are for the employee’s safety – spell that out. Open-toed shoes, baggy or very loose fitting clothing, or dangly jewelry in a manufacturing setting most likely isn’t safe.

Be aware of legal risks

When implementing a dress code, ensure it applies fairly to all employees. It shouldn’t negatively impact workers on the grounds of sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. Otherwise, your company will face discrimination claims. For example, you shouldn’t ban people of color from wearing cornrows. Or prevent Muslim employees from wearing hijabs (unless you can objectively justify the ban for health and safety reasons).


A casual work environment allows employees to be comfortable at work to bring out their best performance for the company, resulting in greater productivity. Set your organization up for dressing successfully by implementing your dress code correctly. Make it inclusive, transparent, simple, adaptable, and non-discriminatory.