You don't want to be rude. After all, keeping your paycheck may be more important than keeping your personality.
But you want to be you.
In a recent survey, over 20 percent of office workers say they want to wear "VERY casual" clothing to the office. The momentum is pushing for you to wear whatever you want to your place of work! But before we give all cap lovers out there an answer to whether you can hand your boss this week's status reports sporting a lid up top, we need to get behind the facade, and explain how office etiquette truly works.
It all converges at a concept known as - we're sure you've heard it before - "business casual".
What was once reserved for Fridays only is now appropriate for all days. The 70s saw the emergence of a concept known as "Casual Fridays" in office spaces, a day when you could wear whatever you want.
The trend slowly bubbled until entire fashion houses sent out guides to corporate offices, a new legislation of sorts making the case for why workers should be able to dress in (their) more casual versions of formal wear.
This was a landmark change.
Tailored dress pants turned into relaxed khakis and chinos, and polished leather shoes were replaced by fuzzy suede.
Once the tech boom of the 90s hit and 20 somethings found they could become multimillionaires from "startups" in rented work spaces, it was over for mandated dress codes. Business casual ushered in the death of corporate suit culture.
With the most institutional of old guards Goldman Sachs now loosening up dress codes in a recently well documented private memo, we may really be in for a top to bottom change. The company opted to update its traditional policies for its young workforce, 75 percent of whom were born after 1981. However towards the end of the memo you can find a warning: "Casual dress is not appropriate every day and for every interaction and we trust you will consistently exercise good judgment in this regard".
Are young workers asking for more than they bargained for?...
Switch it up enough at work, and you might be the center of attention!
To answer this you simply just have to understand the strategic angle corporate offices have behind business casual. Is it really as simple as just giving in to a new generation of workers' demands? Every business is tactical when making a move...
Extended leeway equals extended responsibilities
It was a smart move. In allowing workers to use their own judgment with clothes, companies were really letting workers hand more power over. With extended leeway comes extended responsibilities, and now workers had to pay special attention, and integrate company culture into their own psyche to make appropriate "judgments".
What does responsibility do to workers? It makes them feel like their decisions actually matter! Enough to get pulled aside by HR and scolded for, or if they get it right, praised for! Giving workers the freedom to exercise judgment oddly enough makes them more obedient, while letting them feel they can express themselves. A win-win for both sides.
Now that you know how your mind is being programmed at work, let's see how you can play around with it!
So, is it rude or disrespectful to wear hats at the office?
The secret to business casual?
Tone things down
Maybe not the most exciting of words, but let's go through it.
Seamlessly blend into your office environment until barely anyone notices, and you'll have no problems. How do you blend in? Items that are toned down. In office lingo this is called "dressing down".
Take any clothes you can think of, and strip some of the eccentricity, flair, originality, you name it, from them. The best business casual hats should follow the same rule. Does it have multiple colors? Look for solid colors instead. Can you find a hat that looks like it was made alongside your black or navy suit jacket? Go for it.
Business casual is all about toning things down until you get away with it. This is the litmus test. You remove elements from clothes until nobody notices anymore.
And then you're rewarded by the adrenaline rush that follows! (oooh the boss didn't see me this time!)...
From there you slowly turn things back up until you get side-eyed again. Expressing yourself at the office is a never ending game of push and pull.
In other news, suits may not be so dead after all. If you can make sacrifices with your individuality in certain clothes choices, you may earn the right to wear ONE "weird" item! The more you go out on a limb, the more you need to pull back in some of those conservative classics.
If you want to wear a cap for instance, you should probably include at least two other classic items for your outfit. The classic grey suit workers have sported since the 1950s for example, or some plain thick rimmed glasses, or some slicked back very neatly groomed hair that doesn't "stick it to the man" at all.
Then just put a cap on top!
That way when boss is eyeing your outfit they'll think "well at least they got 90% of it right".
OR, you could just customize your unique item to be as conservative as possible. Sure you may come to work in a baseball cap, but at least it's a very inoffensive dark navy blue.
Another tip we'd give to the office worker who craves having some type of originality to their outfit is subtle additions of well established choices. Time and time again we've seen office workers simply duplicate what is already there when it comes to classics. Got a pleat in your pants? How about two pleats. Got a double breast pocket button up that looks nice? How about two more pockets at the waist for a quadruple pocketed shirt.
Of course you likely don't have the means to march into a clothes maker and ask for these clothes to be made at will, but the point is look for clothes that simply multiply what already exists and is acceptable.
Trends change over time
Seriously, what you need to hide from HR's eyes today may not so much as stir a blink in a decade. Anybody in business knows how long it takes to build one, and they understand it takes a long time for trends to build momentum as well. At the moment, you can find baseball caps that get the nod of approval in IT or marketing departments everywhere. But we may see a future where people walk around any type of office in them. Hopefully the creativity is ramped up by then too!
The great thing about caps is how versatile they are. You can make them stand out as much or as little as you want to. They can transition from cool to casual to luxury without missing a beat. For now the best business casual baseball caps can fit right in with the kookiest startup office, to a bank's marketing department!
On the micro level you express yourself, on the macro you change trends over time until normalization. We admit, going to the office donning a cap is a bold move, but use the three above tactics and you can't lose!