Office Casual is the New Black

By Jessica Santini

man on phone with skyline in background

If you’re supposed to “dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” why not don a hoodie and jeans à la Mark Zuckerberg?


One of my first major job interviews after college graduation was with a startup marketing company in New York City. After scheduling the face-to-face meeting, I rushed to Ann Taylor to pick up some professional garb. A week later, as I walked into the office of my future employer in a wool pencil skirt, silk blouse, and sensible heels, I felt a wash of embarrassment come over me. Was I over-dressed? All I saw was a collection of Keds, hoodies, and denim.


It seems that in the digital world, where telecommuting and social media reign supreme, business dress has become increasingly more casual.


Perhaps it’s because we’re constantly connected, working late into the evening and often on weekends. Between emails, texts, tweets, and DMs, it’s hard to escape your workload. The traditional “9-5” disappears, and you become engorged in a lifestyle of work now, work later.


Or perhaps this is the workweek imitating the weekend. Yoga pants that were once reserved for the gym are now considered “Athleisure,” and are seemingly appropriate for an array of day-to-day operations. Sneakers are also making a comeback and are being paired with anything from suits to jeans to dresses.


Not all industries are created equal, of course. Tech and Media, for example, have been known for their lackadaisical approach to dress codes for quite some time. In recent years, however, companies like General Electric, IBM, and JPMorgan have moved away from traditional uniforms after noting the Tech industry’s ability to attract young, talented Millennials who value daily comfort.


So what do you do? Do you embrace “office casual?” The general consensus is to first check with your Human Resource department and then observe the style and culture in your office. As long as you look nice, chances are that no one cares what you’re wearing. They’re much more interested in your skills, your deliverables, and your character.

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