Casual Friday is the age-old office dilemma. Scenario one: you turn up to work underdressed because you’re leading a team of your peers and don’t want seem sartorially uptight. Or, scenario two: you’ve come to work overdressed because that promotion you’ve been wanting is oh-so close and you’re still trying to seem professional to your superiors. Big fail.
It’s imperative to find that sweet spot between sophisticated and chill, to master Casual Friday. The last day before the weekend boasts an almost off kilter aesthetic — the perfect opportunity to flash your sartorial cards to your colleagues and establish yourself as a style leader, not a follower, in an office full of black suits and polished shoes.
“Experiment with your own style. Keep it classy and classic with a touch of colour,” says Mile Wharton, founder of The Bespoke Corner Tailors. “I like to use a broken look. Chinos and a sports jacket in summer with an open collar.”
But you shouldn’t look like you’re trying to win ‘fashions on the field’ at Spring Race Day or appear like you’ve just come from the gym; it’s a work day and you’ve still got clients to see, and things to do.
RELATED: How To Dress For The Spring Races
Creating a look that every man can pull off, here are five essential style pieces for a winning Casual Friday office look. One that’ll have you impressing the boss and clients, while keeping you in step with your peers.
#1 The Jacket
Avoid a full suit at all costs. Instead, go for a suit jacket or blazer, which is more casual but still concedes as tailoring, so it’s smart. However, the jacket’s structure will relax a little (cause it’s Casual Friday) compared to a regular business suit. The unstructured jacket will sit more natural, with less padding shoulder, ideally paired with chinos or work-ready jeans.
“I prefer a semi-unstructured jacket,” says Wharton. “So you still have some shape, but it’s lightweight and breathable.”
More a style rebel? Rock out in a tailored bomber jacket, instead of a stuffy business blazer. It’ll offset a collared shirt and work trouser combination nicely, and add an edge to your dress-down Friday. Keep the shape sharp on the shoulder and wear a tie if you’re worried about looking too casual.
#2 The Shirt
The shirt means less work for Casual Friday. In summer, think Oxford button down. It’s got a softer construction than corporate white collar shirts and (like the blazer mentioned above) has a subtle texture, making it more casual.
In winter, knitwear — over a an open collared shirt — is perfect Casual Friday fodder. But take care in summer when tempted to wear a t-shirt; pairing it with a cotton blazer to dress it up for work.
“But I prefer wearing a collared shirt,” says Wharton. “A t-shirt is a little casual for some work places. To be safe, keep t-shirts for Sundays.”
As for the to wear-a-tie-or-not debacle? The knitted tie is the ultimate smart casual neckwear option, pairing with a Chambray or butcher stripe shirt — more casual shirts, but snazzed up with the tie. “Otherwise, go without for casual Fridays,” says Wharton. “But, always wear a tie during the working week.”
RELATED: Guide To Dress Shirt Fabrics & Types
#3 The Bottoms
For most workplaces, the chino is the Casual Friday commando for bottoms. The military-derived trousers have a uniform cut that makes them sit smartly, but they are less structured than tailored trousers, and so more casual.
Consider the material of chinos, too. The twill fabric varies from pant to pant, but generally, it is more coarse than wool, but not as rugged as denim. Which brings us to our next point.
Before going denim — even in a dark-wash pair with no rips — keep in mind what you have planned that day. “Just incase you’re pulled into an unexpected meeting,” says Wharton. “Chinos or a wool trouser are more suitable and you will still look respectable. Try getting trousers with side adjusters, which will help keep the trouser front looking cleaner.”
Opt for dark neutral colours — much like suit pants in winter, but a light khaki or tan pair will really make your navy or grey blazer pop come summer. Plus, lighter tones are more day time.
#4 The Shoes
Come Friday, put away your black cap-toed Oxfords or shiny brown Derbies, step into something more comfortable. With all the hallmarks of a dress shoe — but with a punch hole patina — the brogue is a textured foot friend for those in more corporate fields, while adding some style individuality to an office outfit.
But there’s a lace-up yet chic kick option that’ll work exceptionally well for Casual Fridays — luxury sneakers. Perfect for a more laid back office style, make sure you stick leather and in white or another standard neutral. The sneaker should be paired with a tapered trouser to balance out the casual, opting for a slight crop or rolled hem to accentuate the look.
You might be leaving the tie at home — and belt, but suave accessories have an increased part to play now that you’ve dressed down.
“A pocket square is a must,” says Wharton. “It adds some personality into your jacket and gives it a flair so you’re different from the other guys at work.”
Play around with sock colours and patterns, and a quality wrist-piece too. A statement, quality watch is a foolproof choice, while jewellery should be considered: a signet ring or fine metal bracelet (nothing tribal or too nautical looking) to liven up a dull hand.