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Demystifying Dress Codes: What Remote and Hybrid Employees Need to Know

Employees wearing clothes appropriate for a business casual dress code

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If you work in a remote or hybrid role, but occasionally attend a business function or in-office meeting, figuring out dress codes can be tricky. The email says the dress code is casual, business attire or business casual. But what do these terms actually mean?

Unfortunately, there are no universal definitions around dress codes. Attitudes about appropriate business attire vary by industry, city and company. And if there’s no dress code at all, unraveling the dress code mystery can be more challenging. Here are a few tips to demystify dress codes and keep you looking your best at work.

Business Casual Dress Code

In general, a business casual environment means projecting a professional image while encouraging more comfortable, relaxed clothing. Appropriate outfits typically include the following items.


  • Slacks or khakis with a belt
  • Open-collar shirt or polo shirt
  • Tailored blazer (forget the corduroy) or sweater
  • Loafers or closed-toe casual shoe


  • Dress, skirt or slacks
  • Blouse or knit top
  • Blazer, cardigan or sweater
  • Comfortable, but professional shoes covering most of the foot

Casual/No Dress Code

A casual dress code or no work dress code allows the possibility of wearing sneakers, jeans and even the occasional t-shirt to work. However, it’s still important to keep your appearance neat, professional and put together. The following items would be appropriate in a casual or no dress code environment.


  • Khakis or jeans, belt optional
  • Casual collared shirt or polo shirt
  • Comfortable loafers or sneakers
  • Sweater or cardigan


  • Slacks, jeans or skirt
  • Coordinating top or sweater
  • Flats, loafers, sneakers or other casual shoe

Mind the Don’ts

No matter what the dress code is, there are some universal rules that always apply. As a general rule, we suggest you never wear:

  • Soiled or wrinkled clothing
  • Heavy cologne or perfume
  • Shorts and extra-short skirts
  • Excessive or heavy jewelry
  • Spandex and other body-hugging items
  • Low-cut or unbuttoned shirts or sweaters
  • Dresses or tops with spaghetti straps or no straps
  • Flip flops
  • Sweatpants, yoga pants, gym clothes
  • Jeans with holes or stains
  • Shoes that are worn or dirty
  • T-shirts or jackets with political/cultural/religious statements or offensive images
  • Heels higher than 3 inches

Business Professional Dress Code

Business professional is more conservative than business casual, and it might be required when attending a conference or client meeting. For men, a suit and button-down shirt (often with a tie) would be appropriate. For women, a knee-length pencil skirt, blouse and blazer will do the trick. Men should wear closed toe shoes that coordinate with the color of their suit. Women, if you wear heels, stick to something closed-toe and three inches or shorter. Nice flats, loafers, and oxfords are also appropriate.

New on the job? Check out: 6 Tips For Your First Few Weeks in a New Role (

Business Formal Dress Code

The dressed-up version of business professional is business formal, a dress code generally reserved for events such as awards ceremonies and special dinners. For this one, men should wear a dark-colored suit, a dress shirt and dress shoes. Ties are appropriate for men. Women should wear a conservative style dress that falls at or below the fingertips. Jewelry/cufflinks should be understated. Heals of 3 inches or less are appropriate for women; men should wear dark shoes with dark soles.

Don’t Forget Hygiene

Hygiene is important in the workplace, since you come into frequent contact with others or will be seen in Zoom or Teams meetings when working remotely. Your clothes should be washed or dry cleaned regularly. Beyond the need to shower daily and brush teeth, hair should always be clean and neatly styled. For men, beards should be well-groomed. Deodorant is recommended when you’re in person. Fingernails should be clean and trimmed to a practical length.

Dress for the Job You Want

Because the definition of work dress codes varies from place to place, it may take a few days or weeks in a new job to learn your company’s style. Never be afraid to ask a manager or human resources representative what the expected dress is for a day at the office or a special event. And when in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of being overdressed. After all, human resources pros often advise us to dress for the job we want, rather than the one we have.

For further reading, check out: How to Dress for Work: 4 Types of Office Dress Codes – 2024 – MasterClass