Human Resources News & Insights

What exactly is business casual? A do’s and don’ts dress code policy

If you’re telling new hires that your dress policy is “business casual,” you can bet they’ll do three things before they show up for work the next day. 

They are:

  • Google “business casual”
  • Then, after reading too much confusing and contradictory advice online, they’ll call a friend to ask “Hey Mike, what the heck is business casual?”, and
  • Overdress for their first day of work (and for a few days thereafter until they pick up on what your version of business casual really is).

This is problematic, as it’s not great for onboarding. After all, you want employees to arrive on their first day confident and comfortable — so they can focus on training and/or work.

A better definition

The solution could very well be the new dress code at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. The financial institution, which wants its employees to leave their suits at home, just revamped its dress code — and The Wall Street Journal got a hold of it.

It’s a pretty good outline of what “business casual” looks like. Here are the do’s an don’ts under J.P. Morgan Chase’s dress code (with some thoughts of our own added in parenthesis).

What’s OK:

  • Formal business attire (After all, it’s almost always OK to overdress.)
  • Casual pants, capri pants, dresses and long skirts
  • Business-appropriate casual shirts, polo shirts, sweaters and blouses
  • Dress shoes (for men and women) and dress sandals (just for women, most likely)
  • Minimal, tasteful jewelry and fragrances

What’s not:

  • Denim and sneakers — unless approved by your manager
  • Athletic clothing — i.e. sweatpants, sweatshirts, T-shirts, jumpsuits, tight-fitting stretch pants and leggings
  • Shorts, beachwear, halter tops, tank tops or crop tops
  • Flip-flops, clogs, floaters, rubber-soled sandals or slippers (The fact that the company had to add slippers to it’s “don’t” list makes you wonder if they had someone specific in mind)
  • Hats and hoods
  • Distracting, tight, revealing, loose or low-cut clothing
  • Visible undergarments
  • Torn or frayed clothes
  • Offensive, political or religious messages (Careful, the NLRB might have something to say about the use of the word “offensive”.)
  • Offensive or distracting tattoos or body piercings (see NLRB note above)
  • Unprofessional hair styles or hair colors (One suggestion: Be more specific. There are a lot of hair styles that would be “over the line” for some but not for others.)
  • Excessive jewelry or use of fragrances

A policy like this leaves little doubt in a person’s mind about what “business casual” means.

Print Friendly

Subscribe Today

Get the latest and greatest Human Resources news and insights delivered to your inbox.
  • Magoolina

    This article is no more helpful than a google search. And be very careful with the “unprofessional hairstyles” bit. Natural Afro hair have been called unprofessional but doing so can be grounds for a discrimination case.

  • Beth

    I wonder if this could vary from company to company. I read an article recently that described an instance in which an interviewee showed up in business casual attire, only to be told he didn’t “fit in” because the team was wearing flip flops and some had beards. I think it’d be best to only judge based on skills, merit, and personality, but that would only happen in a perfect world, right? 😉 Haha thanks for sharing anyhow!