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Casual Friday | Don't mess it up!

Casual Friday can be a professional minefield. What began in 1960s Hawaii as an excuse to lose the suit and tie has become an added source of anxiety for many corporates.

Outfits are sized up, shoes are judged, and poor life choices are laid bare as the words 'business casual' and 'fashion' collide in a neon lit corporate hellscape.

Get it right and you'll be yucking it up in the c-suite offices gorging yourself on oysters and champagne. Misinterpret the rules and you're looking at a lifetime of office cubicle lunches.

The terrible reality is your sartorial choices do make an impact on your career progression. Here then, are the new rules.

1. Leave the suit at home
Unless you have to meet clients you should relax that corporate wardrobe. Wearing your regular suit and tie option shows a timid lack of imagination that will be duly noted.

2. Don't get too comfortable
Getting ahead in the corporate world means being able to interpret nuances. That includes a casual Friday dress code. How are you going to oversee a merger when you show up to work in a velour jumpsuit?

3. Understand the basics
Business casual is a notoriously vague descriptor. Stylist and personal shopper Sally Mackinnon defines it as a tailored look. "It could be casual chinos and desert boots with a tailored shirt and jacket. But there has to be some element of tailoring to the outfit." So now you know.

4. Don't come dressed for the club
A tight t-shirt and blazer combo makes you look like you're running an investment scam out of Christopher Moltisanti's back office in season six of The Sopranos. This does not reassure anyone.

5. A polo shirt is 'okay'
A crisp polo is borderline acceptable. A classic Lacoste polo tucked into a pair of chinos with a matching belt shows a rogue-ish south European charm that the board will recognise and appreciate.

6. Don't fly your freak flag
No one at work needs to know that you're the president of the local Star Trek fan chapter, a Gothic Lolita, or a fury in your spare time. Some things are best left unsaid.

7. But a little personality can go a long way
"In a corporate environment its very easy for everybody to look very same-same," explains Sally Mackinnon. "So Friday is an opportunity to stand out and think about 'how am I going to set myself apart from everybody else'."

8. About those jeans
Jeans are a casual Friday classic, but let's not lose our minds. Unless you work for a design agency you'll want something dark and tailored. Mum jeans show the world you've given up on life and anything too '80s or ironic hints at a secret cocaine addiction.

9. A blazer is your best friend
The right blazer can upgrade your look from unknown lackey to leadership material. But as stylist Rebecca Williams points out, it needs to look the part. "95 per cent of the population will need their suit tailored to their specific shape. Suits are meant to be tailored."

10. T-shirts are a no
You can wear all the t-shirts you want on weekends. You can buy books about them, hang out on Threadless.com, and invite people over for a bad-taste t-shirt party. But if you value your career you'll find something with a collar for the office.

11. Shorts are career suicide
We really shouldn't need to say this, but shorts are never okay in a work environment. As Rebecca Williams explains, "No one wants to see your calf muscles at the workplace even if you just tanned them up, shaved, and set a new PB on the leg press."

12. Normcore isn't a real thing
Regardless of what you may have read online, pairing mum jeans with white sneakers and a turtleneck is not an 'exciting new look', it's irony so dark and heavy no one comes out alive.

13. You're not Mark Zuckerberg
Or maybe you are? Hi Mark! Unless you work as a programmer for tech start-up you shouldn't be going anywhere near the office in a hoodie. It tells the world you live on instant noodles and are socially awkward.

14. Tuck or no tuck
This is personal choice all of us will be forced to make at some point. A tucked shirt is neater and suggests a more stable disposition, but it depends on the outfit. Stylist Jade Leung says she's, "Not opposed to a shirt tuck. James Dean used to tuck his t-shirt. I am personally a half tucker. Tuck the front and leave the back out." Or to paraphrase: nothing matters, and God is dead.

15. The right sneakers
There's a world of difference between scruffy runners and designer sneakers you found on an obscure Japanese website. If you don't know what that differences is you shouldn't be wearing sneakers.

16. Make sure you're comfortable
At the end of the day you need to feel comfortable in your outfit. As stylist Majella McMahon notes, "People notice energy, posture and eye contact the same way they notice your clothing. So choose something that makes you walk and talk with genuine confidenceā€¦There is more manipulative power in an outfit than many people realise. Don't underestimate that impact."
 

Ted Baker

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