Casual Friday Etiquette Tips

Group of colleagues in informal meeting
You can still look professional on casual Friday at the office. AMV Photo/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Does your office have a "Casual Friday" policy dress code? Are you uncertain about what it means and what you should wear? You're not alone. This policy of relaxing the dress code confuses many people, which is why you'll probably see some people showing up at the office in inappropriate attire.

Dressing for the office can be tricky. Business casual with one company might be considered casual Friday attire at another.

In many companies, casual Friday has become the norm. While it may be okay to dress down in jeans and sneakers, that doesn't mean you should be sloppy. Remember that this is still a place where business is conducted, and in order to maintain your professionalism at all times, avoid the urge to dress like you've just stepped away from your lawnmower.

Know the Corporate Policy

Casual Friday means something different for every company. In a more formal business environment where people typically wear suits, appropriate casual attire is khakis or business casual trousers, a button front shirt, and no tie for men. However, when a company is business casual on other days, you may be able to wear jeans. Find out from your supervisor what is appropriate so you won't make a mistake that can jeopardize your career.

Although many offices boast of a casual environment, very few businesses are open to looking sloppy.

You might get away with something that is messy, dirty, ripped, or otherwise inappropriate, but you can count of someone noticing, and this may prevent future promotions. If you want a career with opportunities for advancement, follow a few simple rules.

First Impressions

Remember that you only have one opportunity to make a first impression.

If your position involves meeting the public, or you are in sales, dressing too casually can give the prospect or new client the wrong impression that you don't care. The same goes for a job interview. If you are applying for a position with a company, and your interview is on Friday, it's a good idea to wear whatever you would wear any other day of the week.

What to Wear

Be cautious when choosing your outfit for casual Friday. Here are some tips on what is generally appropriate:

  • Pressed khakis or dark wash jeans look nice and give you a clean, crisp look.
  • Fitted shirts or button-front blouses with a jacket give you polish and an air of professionalism.
  • Flat or 1-1/2 inch closed toe shoes are comfortable and look nice with a pair of jeans or khakis.
  • Wear conservative jewelry that pulls your outfit together. Avoid anything that clacks, clings, or makes any other noise.
  • Carry your standard professional briefcase or tote.

Business Wardrobe Mistakes

Here are some tips on what not to wear on casual Friday:

  • Clothing that bares your midriff or underwear is never appropriate.
  • Many companies have a safety policy that dictates no flip-flops, and this includes casual Friday. Find out whether it is okay to wear sneakers. Remember that there are plenty of other comfortable options, including loafers, ballet flats, and low wedges.
  • Jeans with holes take away from your professionalism. Even if they were ripped with intention, they're still not appropriate for the office. Save them to wear to concerts or when hanging out with friends on a Saturday afternoon. Before choosing jeans to wear to the office, make sure they are in good condition and without frayed edges.
  • Gym clothes or sweatpants are too casual for business.
  • Pajama pants and tops are comfortable, but they shouldn't even be worn outside the house.
  • Leave your T-shirts with sayings in your dresser or closet, unless the company has a day designated for that. You never know when a saying will offend someone, and that can cost your company business.
  • Casual tank tops are never appropriate for the office, even on casual Friday, unless you wear them for support under another shirt.
  • Never wear revealing clothing made with thin fabric or with plunging necklines.
  • Be cautious about wearing shorts to the office. Never wear short-shorts or any type of bottoms that are too tight. If your company allows shorts, and you want to wear them, choose knee-length walking shorts and add a coordinating jacket to give it a more polished look.
  • If your company has policies against visible tattoos and body piercings, casual Friday is not the time to expose them. Continue to cover them according to the rules in the employee handbook.