Today is Friday; and therefore, by definition, it is casual. I am wearing black jeans, a Gap golf shirt, and a pair of grey shoes that are halfway between a sneaker and a loafer – but so comfortable that it feels like I’m walking on malted puffs of sponge.
And yes – I may have a meeting scheduled this afternoon to finalise the sale of a company, but my Friday has a soundtrack, and it sounds a lot like Icona Pop’s “I Don’t Care”.
My feeling: if you plan to be professional on a Friday, that shouldn’t really impose on my plan to have a beer at lunchtime. Especially if I only find out about said meeting after I’ve left home for the day.
But most of the week is “smart casual”.
The phrase is an exercise in redundance.
Yes – I know that “redundance” isn’t a word. Neither is “smart-casual”. And yet you know what I mean. Sort of.
Because while it may sound reasonable in the employee handbook; when you’re standing in front of the wardrobe (I imagine that the situation is a whole lot worse for the ladies), it’s easy to get confused.
Why It’s Confusing
At those introductory sessions when you start a new job, and the lipsticked lady from HR comes in to talk about time sheets, leave applications, and work-appropriate attire, the whole dress code issue gets glossed over with nothing more than nervous laughter and “you know what we mean”.
Because you can’t even articulate yourself, is why. Taking “smart” and “casual”, two near-opposite concepts, and hyphenating them on a powerpoint slide does not a clear principle make. It’s like describing a woman as “beautiful-mediocre”. And her cooking as “tasty-unpalatable”.
Even writing those sentences, I have that sudden twilight-zone fugue where I realise that I just used words in a gramatically-coherent way but managed to say nothing at all.
And then I began to wonder whether that wasn’t really the intention… To say nothing at all for fear of causing offence, throwing in the word “smart” to make people err on the side of caution, and closing with “casual” to make the whole thing feel cool, hip, and employee-conscious.
Which is all good and well in theory. All the way until *grins wickedly* HR needs to start calling people in to discuss what is not appropriate. And then it’s awkward. Because now it’s a direct intervention.
A List Of What Will Get You Called In To Discuss Your Workplace-Appropriateness
I mean – fair.
2. The display of leg.
Particularly if you’re hot, because that’s apparently distracting for the men in the office. If you don’t have great legs, my understanding is that the HR department generally relies on your low self-esteem to keep it appropriate…
Let no one accuse them of being out of touch with feelings.
Your face is now a company face. If you like metal attached to your lip, best you work for a company that is comfortable with metal attached to its lip. Like record companies.
But for most corporates: either remove it, or be removed.
Same principle – hide it or leave. Unless it’s religious. But even then, I’m sorry, if it’s on your face…*
*Although, if it’s on your face, you won’t get hired. Harsh but true.
5. Too much whimsy.
The catch-all for that moment when the HR department decides that you’re pushing up against the boundaries. Or, rather, you’re ignoring the “smart” and delving deeply into “casual”.
What they mean is “smart”. There is no “casual”. The “casual” is just there to make it sound less draconian.
No no. Covering your shoulders with a jacket does not help. That’s not the issue.
Maybe it’s not part of the dress code – but we invented deodorant, as a society, for good reason.
And this has to be the most awkward call-in of all.
I do have some items that I think should be added to this list. Shirts in any shade of candy stripe, for example, because that feels like an assault on eyes. And pendant jewellery on men. And cloying perfume. And ill-fitted pant – because the exposure of mid-riff is never appropriate.
At this point, I’ll be honest and tell you that I have no reasonable or clever way to end this post.
Other than to say that life in general would be so much easier if people would just dress well. Smart shirt, smart slacks, smart shoes. It’s not that hard.
Keep the “I’m an independent individual” statements for Casual Friday.