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Workplace dress codes decoded

When you’re dressing for an occasion, you usually have some idea as to what you should wear. For instance, you know that if you show up at a nightclub wearing shorts and open shoes, you won’t be permitted to enter, unless you’re best friends with the owner. However, at the workplace, there usually isn’t any specific way that you need to dress. Broadly, there’s formal and casual. But while the lines between the two might be almost completely blurred for women, dressing guidelines for men are stricter, but have become confusing. In fact, in India, ‘formal’ may or may not include a jacket or even a tie. So let’s dissect a few dress-code terms that you might hear or read, but may not always know how to follow.
Casual
This is usually the simplest to follow. You cannot possibly go wrong with a T-shirt and jeans or any pants. However, in the workplace, it might be a good idea to keep it sober with the tees. Avoid graphic prints or outrageous messages. Casual could include shorts and open footwear, but that’s not a given, so you should avoid it, until you’ve tested the waters.
Smart Casuals
When the word ‘smart’ comes in, you should definitely think ‘collars’. A casual shirt, perhaps checked or striped, worn with jeans or chinos would be fine. A collared polo T-shirt would also be appropriate. Crew-neck T-shirts, shorts, sneakers and open footwear shouldn’t even be considered.
Semi-Formal
Here’s where you ditch the T-shirt altogether. Jeans might still be appropriate, but not the distressed kind. Your shirt shouldn’t be very bold or bright, and must always be tucked in. A linen jacket or a blazer thrown onto the ensemble would be perfect.
Business Formal
This dress code requires you to ensure that you are wearing trousers, a jacket, or preferably a two-piece suit. Generally, a tie must be worn. The shoes you wear should be formal—brogues, oxfords, etc. In India, given the weather conditions, most offices don’t enforce the jacket, and some even forgo the tie, while they also allow moccasins. However, when in doubt, stick to the former ensemble, tie, jacket, et al.
Formal
This ideally refers to evening formal, could be for drinks with clients or an office dinner. A dark-coloured suit is mandatory for this look, generally worn with a white shirt. A dress code in an invitation may specify ‘tie optional’. If it isn’t specified, you should avoid going open-collar.

Friday Dressing
This is a term generally used in workplaces where the regular dress code is business formal and if that is the case, simply follow the semi-formal guidelines. In some offices, you might even be permitted to wear T-shirts, but that will most probably only include collared, polo T-shirts.

So there you have it. You shouldn’t have any trouble figuring out what is appropriate and what isn’t, and you never have to be the one sticking out of the crowd like a sore thumb.

Written By : Ranvijaysinh Jhala

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