Keep it Classy in the Heat

Whether we like it or not, the workplace is becoming more casual in terms of dress year-round, but especially in the summer. This summer has been warmer than ever in Canadian cities and it seems like, in addition to a tan, urban young professionals have developed quite the collection of light, breezy and sometimes barely there clothing. With summer hours and summer mentalities, some YPs could perhaps use a lesson in how to keep it classy in the workplace in terms of summer workplace attire. We must admit, males get the shorter end of the stick in the summer dressing category, but here are some general guidelines for keeping it professional in the summer months for both the YP male and female. 

Almost Always Off-Limits
We don’t speak for all professions, but rather from a perspective of the typical “YP office chic” in describing what is commonly seen as unprofessional. In general, for both sexes, the following should be reserved for weekends, the cottage or on vacation, no matter how high the temperature climbs:

Cut-off jean shorts
Hawaiian shirts
Short shorts
Workout attire
Hats are to be approached with caution

For the Ladies
The summer does inspire a casual mentality and accompanying style of dressing compared to the winter months. Even if you have rock-hard abs and love the fact that the belly top has resurfaced, save the tiny tee for the weekend, along with your jean shorts and jean skirts…if you can still pull them off. Females have fancier options when it comes to flip-flops than the guys, but if they are made of the typical rubber, no matter how colourful or hardware-infused they are, it’s best to keep them for outside of the office. If you want to rock that cool new graphic t-shirt, you may want to save it for Fridays when you can wear it unapologetically with your jeans.

If you wear a dress, follow the same rule as you always would; if it shows at the top, make sure the bottom is more modest and vice versa. Even a strapless dress, however, that flows down to the floor (aka the popular maxi dress) and the bare skin it reveals (from the back of your chair it could look like you’re sitting there naked, after all) may be distracting for some. Judge the situation accordingly and come prepared.  Bring a little cardigan in case you get called into a meeting (plus the AC could be blasting in your office). Be mindful of the sometimes see-through nature of summer dresses and tank tops and wear the proper undergarments. Don’t wait until a stranger on the street stops to tell you – check before you leave for work. Along those lines, be cautious of bra straps. It is never okay to have them showing in the office. Furthermore, though it may be more enticing to go overboard with accessories in the summer, too many can look distracting, juvenile and unprofessional.

For the Gents
Typically, it is always better to play it safe and not wear shorts unless they are dressier khaki-type on Fridays that may be worn with a pair of nice lounge shoes. Refrain from sandals of any sort, especially since men do not tend to have as prettily-pedicured feet as females. Tank tops are always forbidden – this includes sleeveless t-shirts and ‘beater-style tank tops alike. Save your backpack for the weekend; unless, of course, you are riding your bike to work and have no other choice. As a general rule of thumb in the sweltering months, bring an extra shirt in the office to avoid walking into a client meeting with pit stains.

Photo: Betsy Tran