Office dress codes are getting more and more casual — but there are 5 things you can never get away with

Many employees are enjoying less formal attire as millennials step into the workplace.

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Many employees are enjoying less formal attire as millennials step into the workplace.
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Zivica Kerkez/Shutterstock

  • Office dress codes are getting more casual, which can make deciding what to wear to work more difficult.
  • Long gone are the days of wearing pant suits and ties at most companies – many employees are enjoying less formal attire as millennials step into the workplace.
  • Although your idea of casual clothing may include athleisure and ripped jeans, you shouldn’t wear these to your job. Here are six things not to wear to work with a casual dress code.

Millennials are taking over the workforce. According to a study byUNC, by 2020, Millennials will make up 46% of workers in the U.S.

The youth of the workforce, combined with the influence of Silicon Valley, has made office attiremore casual, according to The Atlantic. The late Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are both known for their casual work uniforms, “a black, mock turtleneck for the former and a gray T-shirt and hoodie for the latter.”

But how can you make sure you stay on the right side of the line between casual and unprofessional?

Stephanie Gallo, associate director of career planning at Fairfield University, prepares students to successfully enter the workforce after graduation. Gallo shared with Business Insider her insight on what not to wear to an office with a casual dress code.


1. Anything you wouldn’t wear to a meeting with a client

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Leggings are gym wear, not suitable for the office.
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Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Gallo described a casual dress code as “not the formal suite/tie, but still put together and professional.”

Leggings and other gym wear, for example, don’t fall into the “put together” category, so save them for your time off.


2. Jeans with tears or visible wear

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If any part of your leg is exposed when wearing the pair of jeans, don’t wear them to work.
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mlasaimages/Shutterstock

When wearing jeans to work, Gallo said you should only wear your nicest pairs. That means no stains, no signs of fading, and, most importantly, no rips or holes.

If any part of your leg is exposed when wearing the pair of jeans, don’t wear them to work.

Opt for jeans with a dark wash. Dark-wash jeans look more put-together than light- and acid-wash jeans. As a light-wash enthusiast, this is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve received.


3. Anything that your boss has not worn before

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Use your boss as a guide when deciding what to wear.
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Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/Flickr

Gallo said that modeling your work clothes after what your boss wears is key to mastering a casual dress code.

“You want to dress for the job you want, not the one you have,” Gallo said. “I would use my boss as a guide for what I should be wearing. If they are more business casual, then I would follow suit. If they are very casual, then you have an open door to dress that way.”


4. Your favorite college apparel hoodie

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Unless you are working for your university, you should leave your comfy college apparel at home.
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FotoAndalucia/Shutterstock

At a previous job, I learned that it generally isn’t OK to wear your college sweatshirt to work, even if it’s a summer Friday.

No one in your office cares where you studied, nor is it relevant now.Unless you are working for your university, you should leave your comfy college apparel at home. Save your cozy college hoodie for a nice nap after a long day at work!


5. Anything that will make you look disheveled

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You want to look put together at work no matter what.
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WOCinTech Chat/Flickr/Attribution

No matter how casual your office is, or how rushed you are in the morning, make sure you take the time to pull yourself together.

“You just don’t want to look unkempt,” Gallo said. “I believe that what you wear is a reflection of you who are – if you are wearing clothes that are wrinkled, ratty, or dirty, then you are saying something about yourself.”