I bet you thought you’d never have to worry about what you wore after you graduated from high school right? Well, you’re wrong. In the corporate world, you want to fit in with your coworkers just as much as you wanted to fit in with your friends in high school. In fact, one of the most stressful things in starting a new job is deciding what to wear on the first day of work. If the dress code is business attire, it’s easy. It means to wear a suit and tie. If the dress code is casual, that’s easy too. It means just about anything goes. If the dress code is business casual, that’s harder. Business casual varies by industry and even by company. I will attempt to break it down for you. Here is the Fashionable Entrepreneur’s definition of business casual.
Normally I’d say business casual is a pair of slacks, a collared shirt, no tie, and dress shoes. This will work for most offices. If it’s your first day and they say business casual, I’d wear a shirt and tie, with slacks and dress shoes. If no one else is wearing a tie, you can easily take it off. Always err on the side of being more dressed up than you think everyone else will be if you aren’t sure. You can never be punished for being overdressed and it’s easy to dress down a more formal ensemble, but you can never make an outfit that is too casual more formal unless you bring along your formal things. Some offices set the bar a little higher though. It’s not uncommon for business casual to mean a full suit, but no tie. It really depends on the industry and the culture of the company. In a more conservative industry, people tend to dress more formally. Again, err on the side of caution and dress a little more formally than you think everyone else will dress. Usually, you will get an idea of how people dress during the interview process. It’s important to take note of how your interviewers are dressed and dress accordingly.
Finally, corporate America is a lot like high school in that everyone wants to fit in. Some offices are very formal and stuffy while other offices are more casual. Remember to err on the side of caution and dress a little more formally than you think everyone else will be if you are unsure of your office’s definition of business casual.