Decoding the Dress Code: Is Your Business Casual, Smart Casual, or Formal?

Dress Code 101
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How formal is your business?  Do you create a relaxed, fun atmosphere with jeans and customized t-shirts or is your company all about bow ties and formal style?

Sometimes that question can be difficult to answer, especially with businesses in the service industry. Take cruise ships, for example. If your customers are supposed to put up their feet and relax, is it better for your servers to wear casual, tropical-themed outfits or formal waiter uniforms?  

To help answer that question, we're going to dive into the different levels of formal dress to see which is right for your business.  


Example: Bars, relaxed restaurants Casual Dress Code
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Figuring out what constitutes "smart casual" can be tricky, but everybody is familiar with casual. In fact, you probably have a pile of casual clothes stinking up the corner of your bedroom. Casual clothes can fit in with certain businesses as long as you're careful about a few things.

First off, you need to create a unified casual uniform for all of your employees -- you don't want everybody coming into work wearing whatever they want.

Second, you have to be absolutely certain that a casual dress code fits in with your business. Waiters in jeans a t-shirt can fit in just fine at a casual sports bar, but not in most other businesses.  

Business Casual

Example: Office jobs Business Casual Outfit
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Trade in your blue jeans for khakis, throw on a nice button-down shirt or polo, and you've got yourself a spiffy business casual uniforms. Business casual strikes a fine balance between comfort and formality, so they're generally best for behind-the-scenes office positions.

Smart Casual

Example: Secretary positions, front desk
Smart Casual Attire
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Smart casual adds a bit of formality by adding in coats for guys or a collared top for gals. This is an excellent style for trendy businesses that want employees to appear formal while also adding in a bit of personal style. Throw in a little bit of pizaz with custom briefcases.  

Business / Informal

Example: Managers Business Informal Image source:[/caption]

A nice dress suit fits in just about everywhere, though they're ideal for high-ranking employees who regularly interact with customers or lower-ranking employees.  

Semi-Formal and Formal

Example: Maître d’hôtelSemi-Formal and Formal Attire
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Semi-formal and formal outfits are best suited for positions that want to convey a high level of refinement and sophistication. These outfits are also suitable for catering waitstaff during important events and formal parties. You have to ignore the feminine formal and semi-formal dress code, however. You wouldn't want your female waitstaff serving people in an evening gown and heels -- they'll have to trade in their evening gowns for formal uniforms that resemble a tuxedo.
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