wear to work: dos and don’ts

As a Human Resources professional, I see all kinds of clothing coming in and out of the office every day. As a style enthusiast, sometimes I wish I didn’t.

Austin is notoriously laid-back when it comes to, well, a lot of things. In the high-tech/software world and in many offices of other industries, there aren’t any explicit rules when it comes to what to wear (and what not to wear) to work. With no written dress code, all cues have to be taken from those around us (a few past real-life examples I’ve captured of killer workplace style can be found here, here and here.)

The cardinal rule of this non-rule: just because you can wear anything you want to work doesn’t mean you should. Case in point: I see people in hoodies, flip-flops, and shorts at work every day. I know nothing about who they are and what they do, all I know is they’re ‘the guy who always wears an NFL jersey to work’ or ‘the girl who thought it’d be OK to wear a strapless dress in the office’ (both are real characters). The sayings ‘dress one job/pay grade up’ or ‘dress for the job you want, not for the job you have’ are absolutely true, even in a work environment without a formal description of what to wear.

Here’s a list of articles of clothing that one should not, under any circumstances, wear to the office:

  • flip-flops
  • Crocs
  • cargo shorts
  • actually, shorts of any kind
  • anything strapless
  • hats indoors
  • sports jerseys
  • anything mesh

So now that I’ve laid out a series of ‘don’t’s, what to do? Over the past week, I looked around and found some examples of my own co-workers who kill it in the style department on the regular. Here are just a few:

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See? Guys and girls, it can be done. These folks have managed to be both put-together and laid-back all in one fell swoop. If you’re ever unsure as to whether a particular item in your closet may be too casual for the workplace, my advice would be to air on the safe side and save it for the weekend. Comfort needn’t be sacrificed for sharp workplace style. Three out of the above four looks involve jeans, and I wouldn’t call any of them inappropriate for the workplace. ‘Casual’ does not equal ‘sloppy’, at least in a work environment.

Do you work in an office without a dress code? I’d love to hear about your go-to wear-to-work style in the comments!

9 thoughts on “wear to work: dos and don’ts

  1. Amanda

    I do indeed work in an office without a dress code. 😀 I am at once both the best dressed and worst dressed person at my office. Unless you count Sienna, because she scandalously comes to the office without any clothing at all! Lol.

    Though as I’ve been to more networking things in the past few months, I’ve realized I need to up my professional-looking options, at least for colder weather scenarios. Summer months, I’m set.

    Reply

    1. Liz

      Ha: poor Sienna, always woefully underdressed 🙂

      Reply

  2. laura

    i was just talking to a friend about this. i work in a no-dress code office and am constantly bothered by people coming to work in jorts and flip-flops or torn shirts (actually torn, not ironically torn). i definitely abide by the ‘dress for the job you want’ mentality. i tend to feel over dressed even in a casual dress and tights, but it doesn’t stop me. because i love the challenge of putting together a nice outfit. my go to fave is a nice sweater, skinny jeans and some suede booties. i just stumbled on your blog and am pleased i have something new to read! always nice to see a fellow curly and Austinite!

    Reply

    1. Liz

      Thank you for the thumbs-up, and bravo on upping the ante for your own workplace style! And I totally agree: jorts at ACL is one thing, but at the office…? To me, it just screams “I’d rather be anywhere else!” which isn’t the best message to send to your employer. Your go-to work outfit sounds perfect, AND it can go straight to happy hour with no adjustments necessary.

      So glad you found me! 🙂

      Liz

      Reply

  3. Liz

    Cortnie: I saw your comment in my spam filter and accidentally deleted it before I could mark it as ‘not spam’ and reply! I’m so sorry! Please leave your comment again and I’ll not be so quick on the spam deletion trigger this time. 🙂

    Reply

  4. Jess @ Fashion By Committee

    My office technically has a dress code, but it is “snappy casual”, which is even harder to interpret than “business casual”…. especially since, due to everyone’s job responsibilities, there’s often very few people working out of the actual office. I end up wearing a lot of “Casual business casual” outfits, with emphasis on more casual skirts (chambray pencil, linen, etc), skinny pants that aren’t jeans, sweaters, and button downs. I could probably stand to dress it up more, but it’s hard to justify putting in the effort when there’s a good chance that none of your coworkers are even going to be there, you know?

    Reply

    1. Liz

      Totally understand. I’m in the same boat where I rarely leave the office, so it’s hard to justify REALLY dressing up. But it sounds like your work style is perfect, and I’d actually describe it as “snappy casual”! Ha! 🙂

      Reply

  5. Sarah

    The only thing I disagree with is hats, but ONLY for necessity (warmth). I work in a historic (read: drafty) building in Indianapolis, so there are a few days each year when I have to leave my outerwear on all day! But I guess that’s an extreme example. Generally, your don’ts are spot on. Great advice. If only I could subtly suggest this post to a few people…

    ~Sarah of Sarah’s Real Life

    Reply

    1. Liz

      You’re so right about the necessity of a warm hat. I too work in an office environment that could double as a meat locker: it’s ridiculous! I suppose I was more thinking baseball caps (because I still see those all the time at my office) and, to me, it boils down to a respect issue. I guess seeing someone inside in a hat makes me feel like that person is about to up and leave, because they’re meant to be worn outdoors. But I totally feel you on the ‘cold office’ thing. Confession: I have a snuggie-looking thing at my desk that I actually wear sometimes. Hideous and shameful, but it keeps me warm! 🙂

      Reply

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