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What are Casual Fridays?

Polo shirts, loafers, and khaki pants are considered casual clothes.
A nice T-shirt can be worn on casual Friday in some offices, but is too informal for others.
Casual Fridays allow employees to wear less formal clothes than they do during the rest of the week.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
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  • Last Modified Date: 06 September 2014
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Casual Fridays are days on which the usual dress code of an office is relaxed. Since Fridays mark the start of the weekend in many countries, behavior in general tends to be more relaxed, with some employers not being as picky about standards of dress, and sometimes this is formalized in official policy. As anyone who has worked in an office with casual Fridays knows, the term is a bit of a misnomer, because truly casual clothing like sweatpants and T-shirts is usually frowned upon.

The concept was one of the first signs that rigorous dress codes for offices were starting to relax. The principle of Dress-Down Fridays appears to have emerged around the 1950s, probably in response to changing attitudes about careers and the workplace. Over time, some offices have relaxed their dress codes even more, adopting a business casual dress code every day.

On casual Fridays, employees may wear clothing that is classified as “business casual,” meaning that it still adheres to certain professional standards. Clothing must be clean and in good repair, with no stains or discolorations. Men are generally allowed to wear slacks and blazers, and in some offices, they may be allowed to wear button down shirts or polo shirts, with or without a tie. Women tend to wear neat skirts or dresses; slacks are common and generally perfectly acceptable, except in very conservative workplaces.

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As a general rule, extremely casual clothing like jeans, shorts, T-shirts, and tank tops is discouraged on casual Fridays. Employees are still expected to make an effort to look professional, out of respect to their offices and their clients. Since some clients prefer a more formal look, some employees like to keep dressy coats and ties in their offices on Fridays, in case they need to dress up for a client.

Many people feel that the relaxed dress code is good for morale, encouraging employees to express their individuality and feel more comfortable in the office. Others feel that the concept and the business casual dress devalues the workplace by taking a sense of formality and respect away. Approaches to these days vary, depending on the industry and the nation; the technology industry, for example, is well known for casual dress in general, while major financial companies tend to frown on business casual.

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discographer
Post 12

I'm going to have to agree with everyone who suggested that it's better to dress more business-casual than casual even if you have a small doubt about what you're wearing. After all, when you go to work, you don't just represent yourself but your boss and the name institution or company. You don't want to send the wrong message, and definitely not with what you're wearing.

Even if Fridays are more laid back at your office, you're still at work and you have to follow the rules. I suggest the same thing to my employees. When in doubt, dress more business.

If you ask me personally, I don't really like casual Fridays as an employer. It distracts employees and can make them think that it's a day-off. I catch people chatting rather than working all the time on Fridays and it never happens on a Monday.

fify
Post 11

@bagley79-- Yea, I've never seen a bank that had casual Fridays before. I think you're lucky!

I used to work for a clothing company and we also had the same type of casual Fridays as your bank. We were given polo shirts with the brand name on it and we were asked to wear it on Fridays. It was not "required" but highly "encouraged" which basically means required. I used to wear the polo shirt with jeans.

I think brands tend to do this a lot because it shows that the employees are a team and represent the same company. It's not exactly what comes to mind for casual Fridays though. I like to pick my own out outfits for casual Fridays, not be forced to wear a polo shirt.

serenesurface
Post 10

@cloudel-- I completely agree with you. I wouldn't attempt to dress casually when I'm at a new workplace until I see how everyone else dresses.

I've only worked at one office which had a casual Fridays policy. I didn't know about it at all the first week of work though and ended up dressing in business attire on that Friday. I think that was actually good for me because I got to see how everyone else dressed and learn what was appropriate. And since I was in business attire, I was not risking anything.

Casual Fridays was fun. I hope I'll get to work in a office again that has this policy. Or better yet, a casual attire policy for the entire week! I dislike the boring, monotone clothing that business attire general consists of.

golf07
Post 9

I just enjoy having the option of dressing up or down on Friday. For me, it is usually a pretty easy decision and I love wearing something more casual.

I have one co-worker who is always dressed classy and professionally. Her casual Friday attire is usually what I might wear on a good day any other day of the week.

She is one of the people who I don't think owns a pair of jeans or sweat pants. She would feel as out of place wearing jeans to work as I would wearing high heels every day.

Personally, I would rather have someone wear something that is a little too dressy than too casual.

We are working in an office that has contact with the public, so the way you are dressed does send a message - either positively or negatively.

bagley79
Post 8

Our company went so far as to actually put together a casual Friday video about what was appropriate.

They also provided each employee with one company polo shirt they highly recommended we wear on Fridays. We are not required to wear this, but most people do.

They look nice and it is something that is quick to throw on, and is comfortable. You also have the option to purchase more than one of the polo shirts if you want to.

I feel that their casual Friday dress policy is very reasonable. I work in a bank and we are not allowed to wear jeans or flip flops.

Even though most people are familiar with a casual dress code on Friday, I think many banking institutions are held to a little higher standard.

julies
Post 7

@SarahSon - Our casual Friday dress code is very specific about now allowing there to be any rips, holes or tears in the jeans.

If someone shows up with something that is not appropriate, they are spoken to and it doesn't happen again. I think most people realize they would have a whole office full of people mad at them if they ruined it for everybody.

Personally, I love wearing a pair of jeans to work. There are many styles of denim out there that can look dressy - especially when you wear a nice, pressed shirt and a decent pair of shoes.

Just because you are wearing jeans doesn't mean you have to look sloppy. I think being able to dress down one day a week does improve company morale.

I know that I look forward to Friday, not only because the weekend is close, but I enjoy knowing I don't have to get really dressed up that day.

SarahSon
Post 6

Allowing employees to dress casually on Fridays can open up a can of worms because everyone tends to have a different definition of what casual business attire is.

I work in an office area that does not have any contact with the public. Therefore, we are allowed to wear nice jeans on casual Fridays.

Other parts of our building where they do have contact with the public are not allowed to wear jeans, but can wear nice pants such as khaki pants and a nice shirt.

Then everybody has a different definition of what nice jeans are. You can spend a lot of money on a pair of jeans that are ripped and have holes in them.

Just because they might be designer jeans does that make them good enough for casual Friday if they have these rips and tears in them?

kylee07drg
Post 5

Last year, my boss decided to try out casual Fridays in our office. He told everyone to remain decent but relaxed.

Well, casual Friday got ruined by one employee whose definition of “decent” varied from that of everyone else. She showed up in frazzled, cut-off denim shorts that barely covered her rear and a low-cut tank top. Her hair had been stuffed into a baseball cap, and strands of it were hanging out all around the edges.

The boss told her to go home and change, and when she returned, he called everyone into the conference room to announce that casual Friday had been canceled. Everyone gave the girl the cold shoulder for the rest of the day.

cloudel
Post 4

@orangey03 – You should hold off on wearing the flip-flops for now, and spend time observing what the other employees wear on casual Fridays. If you see any dressy flip-flops on anyone else, then you can go ahead and wear them. You probably don't want to be the first one to attempt this, though.

Acceptable casual Friday shoes vary from place to place. Where I work, some people wear sneakers on Friday, but then again, we don't have to deal with the public. Where my husband works, he can get away with loafers instead of wingtip shoes on Fridays, but anything more casual than that would be frowned upon.

If you have any friends at work, try asking them about the flip-flops. Sometimes the best advice can come from someone who has been there for years and knows how everyone reacts to certain things.

orangey03
Post 3

What would be considered some good casual Friday shoes? I just started a new job, and I don't fully trust my own opinion on this.

The regular dress code is not incredibly formal, but it is definitely neat and somewhat dressy. I have not seen anyone wearing flip-flops yet, but I have a pair that I think might be okay for casual Friday. They are made of shiny material, and they have wedge heels, so they look more like dress shoes than your average flip-flop.

However, I'm still a little scared to show up in them. I don't want to make a bad impression, and even though I think the shoes are adorable, I don't want to come across as sloppy to people who despise flip-flops.

seag47
Post 2

The casual Friday dress code described here still sounds like formal office clothing to me. I wear slacks or dresses to work every day through the week, and I feel like I am dressed professionally.

At my office, “casual” means jeans and t-shirts. Of course, the jeans are not ripped and the t-shirts are decent and neat.

I just can't think of my pretty floral dresses as “casual.” They are some of the nicest things I own, and to think that some offices would frown upon me wearing them just blows my mind.

anon97863
Post 1

I appreciate your article and was hoping that you could offer some insight as to the type of attire that may fall under the new term being used, ‘Successful Casual.’ I read about it online. Thanks.

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