The terrors of business casual: Confidence key to workplace attire

You nailed the job interview and have finally landed the job you could only ever dream about. You are so excited about your first day and as your eyes skim the welcome email your heart stops at the words: business casual. It is quite the oxymoron, just like jumbo shrimp. What do they really mean when they say it?

The problem is business casual is such a relative term. For different work places it could mean a completely different thing. Some might mean you can unbutton the first and second button on your shirt while others allow for jeans. That ambiguous dress code just puts that extra amount of stress on you during an already unknown and anxiety filled day. It is really up to you to feel the place out in terms of apparel.

If it is an office setting, I would suggest going with something along the lines of what you would wear to church, such as a nice dress shirt with a pair of slacks, or for women, a nice blouse with a pencil skirt. This is much more relaxed than a suit and tie.

If the work setting were more laid back and free-spirited, a pair of jeans and a nice dress shirt or blouse would be just fine. Steve Jobs was known to wear jeans to work on business casual days. My advice is, even if this is the dress code for business casual, I wouldn’t wear jeans on your first week at a new job. Jeans have such a bad connotation in the workplace, it is not the message you want to send for your first week, unless you are the CEO like Steve Jobs.

It never hurts to ask a co-worker what they would usually wear for business casual, or even ask your boss what he or she means by the statement. Then if you are still really worried about it, you should just be a bit more formally dressed than what they said. You should follow that dress code until you feel comfortable enough to dress to the office’s level of business casual.

As a general rule, some have suggested that the formality of your office apparel should match the position you want to have in five years.

The absolute best advice I can give to a new employee is whatever you do choose to wear, wear it with the utmost confidence. Wear it like it is what everyone else should be wearing. Confidence is the most important item to wear during your first days at a new place of work.

Haley is a sophomore in Media. She can be reached at [email protected]