What is ‘less formal?’

What is ‘less formal?’

Q. I work at a government office and with hybrid work there is a strong possibility our office wear will become less formal. I know that would mean no ties (suits aren’t required now), what else should I expect?

A. As much as I can provide standards and suggestions, each company has its own rules. Your HR or bosses should be relied on for specifics. Until that decision is made, I can certainly provide some expectations and most important, warnings on how to best proceed.

Less-formal business clothing does not mean sloppy or tattered clothing. It does not mean haphazard matching. It does not mean standard rules do not apply. And, especially, it does not mean ignoring your appearance.

If you are no longer required to wear dress trousers, then clean, stain-free chinos are a fairly standard option. It might be corduroys this time of year. You may even be allowed jeans. But none of these should just be pulled from your weekend wardrobe. They should be in more pristine condition and perhaps newer than knock-around at-home clothing.

You would not be wearing these with T-shirts, hoodies, or sweatshirts in a government office. Open-at-the-neck dress shirts, long-sleeved polos, discreet checked or plaid sport shirts are likely options . . . tucked-in, please! These should all be in good shape and good fit. You wouldn’t wear a red shirt with green pants (now that Christmas is over), or a denim shirt with denim pants. Remember, this is business dressing, not weekend casual wear.

As mentioned above, fit is still important. Just as suit pants should break atop your shoes, casual pants should not show socks when standing or extend too closer to the floor; in other words not high-waters or too long. Shirt sleeves can be buttoned, barrel cuffs or French cuffs, but never short sleeves. Nothing tight across the seat.
Even though you are not likely to wear a matched suit, you still might include, on those rare special meeting days, a tweedy sport jacket or a seasonal blazer . But my guess is you will find that a few good-looking sweaters, worn layered over a dress shirt, will become your favorite go-to looks.

Footwear is likely to be loafers and may allow sneakers, but these all should be at least what you would wear on a first date. With casual clothes, grooming is as important as ever, if not more so. This includes a good haircut and neatly-trimmed finger nails.

Keep in mind that people going into a government office are looking for professionalism rather than a person hanging out at a park.

Please send your men’s dress and grooming questions and comments to MALE CALL: Lois.Fenton@prodigy.net

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