Casual Friday and Jeans Day is a bit of a strange concept for me. After all, in the office we present professionalism and adherence to the rules—the very conceit of the suit and traditional white-shoe firms is uniformity, rigidity, and conservatism. The Corporate world still holds that in high esteem.
And yet, we have Jeans Days and Casual Fridays. We now blend the line between formal and informal, ubiquity and uniqueness, and what we would wear in the workplace with what we would wear on the weekend. While some push back against the concept entirely and mourn the end of the well-dressed, I take a less intense approach: It is possible to dress casually and dress well. It is possible to wear jeans from time to time and not look like you’re desperately holding on to the glory days of college.
My general rule is that so long as jeans are worn a) sparingly and b) wisely, then jeans can have a place at the office.
This cannot be stressed enough: You are still at the office and you need to project professionalism. On the off-chance a client shows up or you have to present yourself as the face of your office, then you should look the damn part. If there is going to be any repeating theme in this blog, it is this: Context Matters.
Absolutely this not the time or place for your favorite worn jeans that you’ve had for ten years, your college sweatshirt, or your sneakers. If you are a Creative you have more flexibility than a Corporate. But still, if elegance is something to be whispered, then casual days at the office require the same concepts as formal days: Good fit, balanced, deliberate, and use of specific articles to show off your personality.
If you are going to wear jeans, keep them dark and without any tears. Otherwise I am a proponent of chinos–more modern than khakis and classier than jeans. Plus, you can play with colors. Check out the options on Bonobos or Banana Republic. They are affordable, they last forever, and you can use them for weekends with friends and weekdays at the office. For the top: a button down shirt, a bright tie, a v-neck sweater, and a blazer.
The key to the outfit is to make the pants and top clean and slim; this allows you to present a clear profile but also allows you to throw on personality in other ways: Watches, ties, socks, shoes, and the belt. Wear chukkas to a white-shoe firm, drop the brown/black belt and try out cloth belts, deviate from your standard grown-up and fancy watches to play with color. Watches deserve their own post, but I will say this: the Timex Weekender is probably one of my favorite things that I own. The watch itself costs under $50 and the straps are no more than $30. Buy multiple straps and play with all the different colors and patterns. It’s wonderful.
Here’s the thing: Just because jeans are allowed it does not follow that you need to wear them every Friday. Wear a suit, drop the tie, unbutton an extra button at the top, and wear colorful socks or funky-patterned pocket squares. Instead of oxford shoes, throw on loafers. Wear chinos and try out an extra colorful tie or blazer. The point is, rather than thinking of this as jeans day, consider it an opportunity to take chances at the office and to be decisive. Play with colors and fabrics; set yourself apart; own it.