By Karen Axelton

As someone who loves finding any excuse to dress up – but has fewer and fewer occasions to do so—I was intrigued by this article in The Wall Street Journal spotlighting a small business that is taking a different approach to “casual Friday.”

At El Segundo, California, marketing company Ignited LLC,  employees work in a casual environment, with open work areas and a pair of bikes the staff can use to get from place to place in the giant office (a 55,000 square foot warehouse).

Needless to say, normal dress at Ignited is casual. So on Fridays, employees decided they’d like to dress up for a change.

“Since our normal attire is very casual all of the time, a group in our office thought it would be fun to do the opposite,” Ignited’s founder and CEO, Eric Johnson, told the Journal.

(Check out the article for a picture of the staff in rather Mad-Men-esque attire.)

I’ve worked in both very casual (tank tops, bike shorts) and very corporate (pantyhose and pumps) environments, and I believe there are pros and cons of both approaches to business dress codes. So the story got me thinking:

  • Has the thrill of casual Friday been lost in a world where every day is casual? Maybe being able to wear jeans just isn’t that motivating to your employees anymore. What else could you offer?
  • Does dressing up give your business an edge? Personally, I always prefer it when a vendor is overdressed, rather than underdressed. (Doesn’t it make you feel a bit more confident when a consultant pitching you his services is sporting a suit, instead of a stained T-shirt and flip-flops?)
  • Does dressing down signal disrespect? People tend to be more formal, polite and professional when they’re dressed their best. Maybe that’s not always desirable in your industry—but if it is, consider what signals your casual dress code could be sending.
  • Where else could “doing the opposite” of what’s expected make your company stand out? Consider some of the norms in your industry…and how you could break them.

Casual Friday started by breaking the norm—but now that it’s become the norm five days a week, perhaps it’s time for a change. Personally, I’m rooting for Ignited’s idea to catch on. If nothing else, it could help jump-start the economy by spurring sales of suits, skirts and ties.

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