Casual Friday is a term that inspires fear and liberation, letting you unlock those J.Crew civvies and adidas Gazelle from their weekend incarceration. So why is Roger from logistics frowning? The sartorial c-word is even trickier to unpick than when it’s prefixed by ‘smart’. One workplace’s casual is scruffy in the next. Hence the side-eye when you roll up to J.P. Morgan in what worked at M&C Saatchi.
The key is knowing how much wiggle room your nine-to-five affords. Consider this your cheat sheet for outflanking Roger’s grimace.
If your company’s job titles run off the edge of a business card (what exactly is a Supply Chain Experience Software Manager?) then ‘casual’ applies loosely. Uniform regulations are more regimented and, even dressed down, professionalism is all. Jeans are risky, so switch the suit for a tapered, neutral chino. You want the focus on your Q4 revenue projections, not your burgundy cords.
Roll the cuffs for a nod to out-of-office, but go easy on the footwear. Trainers have smartened up, but your CEO’s more familiar with Stan Smith the tennis player than the Raf Simons canvas. Desert boots and loafers toe the line without ruffling feathers.
Something that buttons beats a tee, but subtle tweaks avoid monotony; think a shirt with a stitched Commes des Garçons heart or granddad collar. A blazer’s too 1990s techpreneur, but a double-breasted cardigan is different enough, without spiking Rog’s blood pressure.
When you work in Experiental Imagineering, it’s more ‘casual week’ than just Friday. But the label offers an opportunity to flex some sartorial muscle. If your workwear is literally workwear, then scrub up from trainers and jeans. Both are acceptable, but should be boxfresh. Those scuffed and beer-stained club kicks have no place at work.
That said, some things should be avoided. Leave the Black Sabbath merchandise to the blokes in IT and never, ever decide to get fully tailored to ‘make a statement’. If you rarely wear a three-piece, casual Friday isn’t the time for a premiere.
Already wary of missteps, casual Friday seems deliberately designed to trip up interns. The constant need to impress is daunting (and exhausting), but casual Friday isn’t a chance to demonstrate the depth of your Hood By Air collection. It’s all about maintaining a semblance of smartness.
If denim is good to go (and if in doubt, ask) wear black jeans, as they’re usually seen as the sharper cousin. Swap stiff office treads for a pair of Bass Weejuns or corrugated sole leather brogues. And while a T-shirt’s fine, graphics are a minefield not worth exploring. Alternatively, a roll neck nudges you dressier without seeming try-hard. Interns may starve for their trade, but they shouldn’t freeze too.
Even if your office office doesn’t care what you’re wearing, extra effort could keep you there longer. Think of casual Friday is an opportunity not to break out your band tees, but to become visible to those who make the hiring decisions.
The Client Facer
Whether playing receptionist or renegotiating real estate, casual Friday can seem a pipe dream if a false smile is part of the uniform. But there are ways of putting personalising a role that demands you scrub up. Just make subtle adjustments to the suit-and-tie monotony to relax your look, while keeping your boss on-side.
If you can, rock an air tie. If not, punch up your accessories; a flash of floral or paisley in your top pocket adds instant vibrancy. Splitting your suit is a Pitti-approved move. A khaki chino and navy blazer make excellent bedfellows despite not coming from the same set, particularly if the jacket’s patterned. Textures can also work, but don’t go overboard. You’re impressing clients, not street style snappers.