In a recent OfficeTeam survey about workplace dress codes, 47% of senior managers declared the biggest sin to be overly casual clothing. In other words, your twenty-year-old T-shirt, comfy jeans and open-toed sandals may be hurting your chances of promotion. Even if your co-workers dress casually too, there’s an old adage that you need to dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Because consciously or not, your business attire projects an image of who you are and what you want to be.

But are you struggling to navigate the minefield that is business casual? Not sure if you can pull off that dress for the Christmas party? Never be paralysed by indecision again — just follow Saro Recruitment’s one-stop guide to business dress codes.

Types of Dress Codes

Dress codes can be bewildering, so before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s take a look at the different degrees of business wear.

Regardless of your company’s dress code, never forget these golden rules:

  • Always look neat, clean and tidy;
  • Don’t show too much skin (back, chest, stomach and too much cleavage is a no-no); and
  • Don’t wear anything that can be distracting or offensive to others (a T-shirt with a swear word for example).

Traditional. Men wear formal suits, shirts, ties and leather shoes. Women wear skirts or trouser suits, formal blouses, tights and closed-toe shoes. Accessories like watches, briefcases and jewellery are elegant and not overdone.

Smart Casual. Men wear suits or smart jackets and trousers with ties. Women wear smart jumpers or blouses and cardigans with trousers or skirts. Keep accessories smart and to a minimum.

Business Casual. Men can wear khakis or chinos, shirts or polo shirts with collars. Ties are usually optional. Women can wear neat trousers or skirts and blouses or tops. Open-toed shoes can be acceptable. This is often the most difficult dress code to get right, because it can vary by country and even by company, so take your cue from your manager.

Casual. Men can wear casual trousers or jeans, polo shirts or T-shirts, and jumpers and trainers. Women can wear casual trousers, skirts or jeans, blouses, tops or T-shirts, and trainers or sandals.

Dress Codes Outside of Office Hours

There’s usually a dress code for the office, and another when meeting with clients or socialising in a business setting.

For example, your company may have a casual dress code because clients don’t visit the office. But when you’re representing the company in client meetings or at trade shows, you may be expected to dress more formally.

On the other hand, your office may have a traditional dress code that is relaxed for social events, like the company Christmas party or team-building outings. On these occasions, the golden rules still apply —  neat, clean and tidy, don’t show too much skin and don’t wear anything distracting or offensive.

How Should I Dress on my First Day?

The rule of thumb when starting with a new company: it’s better to look too formal than too informal. Even if you spotted casual wear in the office at your interview, on your first day a client or a top executive may be visiting the office. Just err on the side of caution and wear a suit. After a few days, you can take your cue from others and adapt your work attire accordingly.

Dress for the Job You Want

Casual is not always best if you want to climb the ladder. Even if jeans and trainers are the norm in your workplace, you might notice that the executives dress more formally. It may seem superficial when office dress codes are relaxing every day, but what you wear still makes a statement. That doesn’t mean that you should wear a suit and tie every day — but just taking extra care in your appearance will get you noticed.

From Top to Toe

Dress code is a lot more than the clothes you’re wearing. Good grooming is essential — a scarecrow in a suit still looks unkempt! Make sure that your hair is always neat and tidy, and keep your hairdresser on speed dial. If you have a beard, groom it regularly or pay a visit to your barber. Shoes need to match the dress code — for example, trainers are unacceptable in a business casual environment — but even in the most casual of offices, make sure that your shoes are clean and unscuffed.


An often overlooked but essential element of the office dress code is how you smell. If you cycle to work and don’t take a shower, or douse yourself in a potent perfume or cologne every morning, your colleagues may be suffering in silence. If you exercise in the mornings or at lunchtimes, make sure to bring a change of clothes and have access to a shower. Overwhelming perfume scents are not only annoying but can trigger migraines in some people. Consider going without scent completely, or keeping it to a minimum.

Are you already dressing for the job that you want, but that you don’t yet have? Let Saro Recruitment help you find that perfect position!

25 February 2019