4 Different Types of Office Dress Codes (and What to Wear for Each)

When one thinks about a place where they’ll constantly have to look their best, the office is often top of mind. In a place like a company’s headquarters, it’s important for all employees—regardless of rank or stature—to look professional, capable, and ready for the workday. But how does one determine what clothes will help them look their best for certain occasions? This is where office dress codes come in.

The rationale of an office dress code is fairly simple: the way someone dresses is meant to be an extension of their professionalism. The right clothes will help employees comport themselves in a more businesslike manner. The ideal office dress code, however, depends on the institution. Some offices will go as far as requiring a uniform, while other offices are laxer about what kind of fashion their employees should sport.

If you’ve started work in a new office, you may be anxious about making a good impression through your personal style. But before you splurge on a new suit, you’ll want to first find out whether your new company is enforcing a specific dress code. You may only need to be dressed to the nines for certain occasions and follow a more casual dress code otherwise.

To help you navigate through the different rules that may be in place in your office, here’s a short guide on office dress codes. In this article, you’ll also find tips on how you can dress for different office occasions with wardrobe staples like Burlix men’s casual socks.

Office Dress Codes

The 4 Most Common Workplace Dress Codes to Take Note of

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In previous decades, office dress codes may have been more straightforward. But now that office culture in America has evolved, that may not necessarily be the case now. It would be good practice for you to read up on the different types of office dress codes and what kinds of clothes each type requires. To give you an idea about what distinguishes each type from the other, here’s a look into some common dress codes found in workplaces across America.

Business Formal

Business formal is the strictest of these dress codes and typically requires a full two-piece suit. Most establishments that follow the business formal dress code allow for very minimal customization in their employee’s outfits.

For occasions that call for business formal, wear a neat and wrinkle-free suit and stick to neutral colors like navy blue, black, and grey. The same also goes for accessories such as ties and pocket squares, so keep accessories like novelty ties or novelty lapel pins in your dresser drawer. As for shoes, business formal calls for classic, closed-toed oxfords. Pair these with plain calf-length socks to keep any skin from showing in case your pant legs ride up.

Business Professional

Business professional is one step below business formal. The business professional dress code essentially follows the same motif of business formal while allowing for some flair and customization. For example, a business professional dress code will be a little bit more forgiving when it comes to adding an occasional pop of color in a pocket square, a tie, or a pair of socks. You can also go beyond the standard white dress shirt as long as it isn’t an eyesore.

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Accessories like cuff links or watches are allowed, but only in moderation. As for shoes, business professional dress codes allow for more leeway and are therefore accepting of polished loafers.

Business Casual

Business casual is the most common dress code in North America and allows for the most freedom when it comes to suit options. This is the kind of dress code that’s required for normal office days when employees aren’t anticipating any big meetings or high-value deals with clients.

While the goal is still to look professional, there’s no need to expend the same effort on everyday wear that you would if you expected a long day in the boardroom. On days where business casual is required, you can trade in your coat for a sports jacket or your dress pants for some loose-fitting khakis. You’ll not only look more relaxed, but also like you still mean business.

Casual

Unlike the previously mentioned dress codes, casual ditches all the rules when it comes to business suits. Some offices follow “casual Friday” dress codes, but other offices—like those that comprise a younger demographic of employers and employees—uphold casual office dress codes as their default.  

Under a casual office dress code, you can drop the jacket entirely and opt for a short-sleeved button-down or a collared polo. You’ll also have a wider variety of options when it comes to your bottoms, as everything from slacks to khakis is acceptable. Some offices may even allow for jeans. Footwear and socks are a total free-for-all, so long as you come to work in closed-toe shoes.

Some Unspoken Rules Regarding Office Dress Codes

Now that you know a little more about dressing the part, here are some additional tips for picking up on the unspoken rules of your office’s dress code:

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Always Look Neat and Polished

Neatness and tidiness in your comportment are just as important as your choice of clothes. You will exude professionalism and respect for your officemates if you come in with clean, neatly pressed clothes.

Follow Your Superiors’ Lead

When in doubt, you can always refer to how other people in the office are dressing, especially your superiors. Take note of the colors and dress styles they prefer, and see if you can pattern your outfits accordingly.

Find a Balance Between Stylish and Practical

Lastly, remember that you have to be comfortable as well as stylish when you’re at the office. After all, you could be spending long hours in those outfits. Invest in clothes that are both long-lasting and aesthetically pleasing. Make sure that they provide freedom of movement so that you can easily get to wherever you need to go, whether you’re traveling a long way to a business lunch or simply moving from department to department.

Now that you’ve got some important takeaways on how to dress for particular office dress codes, you can start shopping for a few office wardrobe staples. Use these to express both your identity and your commitment to professionalism in your new workplace.