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Startup Casual: A New Dress Code for a New Generation

startup-attire-tipsBy Adrienne Erin
Contributor, Online Career Tips

It used to be that going to work meant donning a power suit and dressing for success. Then came casual Fridays, in which workers were encouraged to dress down – but not too down – one day per week. Now, a new kind of work attire has emerged, known as startup casual. Thanks to the proliferation of startup companies begun by hip, young entrepreneurs, stuffy and uncomfortable work wear is being replaced by ultracasual, yet functional outfits.

If you are thinking of joining a startup firm or have recently begun working for one, use this guide to help you choose what to wear and what to avoid in order to fit in with a casual company’s culture.

What is Startup Casual?

Startup casual is defined as work attire that is even less formal than business casual. Clothing is modern, colorful yet comfortable at the same time. It should reflect the office vibe, which is generally youthful and energetic, yet practical. Long hours are common at many startups, therefore being comfortable is of utmost importance. In other words, jeans are standard attire.

When it comes to typical workday wear, almost anything goes. Jeans and khakis are prevalent; just make sure they are the right kind. Generally, darker denim is preferred over lighter washes or ripped jeans. Remember, be comfortable, but not sloppy. Dark denim always looks more professional yet is still comfortable.

Tops can be anything from casual button-downs to lightweight sweaters to well-made T-shirts. Simple and non-fussy blouses are a good pick for women, and they lend a casual yet polished look. Ties are optional for men.

If you want to add more polish, try a blazer with jeans. It adds just the right amount of sophistication yet is still relaxed enough for a long day. It even dresses up a basic T-shirt and transforms any outfit from too casual to just right.

Footwear includes loafers for men, and flats or wedges for women. Footwear should be comfortable enough for when you’re on your feet all day, but still stylish. In other words, skip the flip-flops.

The whole idea is to be well-dressed and to put some thought into your outfit, yet not to appear stuffy.

What Should I Wear to a Job Interview?

If you have an upcoming interview at a casual startup, it can be tough to figure out what to wear. After all, you don’t want to appear too stiff in a suit or, conversely, too casual for something as important as a job interview. You want to make a good first impression.

A good rule of thumb to follow is to aim for business casual attire. In other words, step up a bit from startup casual but don’t go to the extreme in a suit and tie.

Men should wear a pair of dress pants or nicely-pressed pair of khakis with a long-sleeved button-down shirt, or a knit shirt with a collar. Leather shoes and a belts are good bets, and ties and blazers are optional.

Woman can opt for pants or skirts in cotton, corduroy, twill or khaki. Sweaters or twinsets work well, and cardigans add a more formal touch. Solid colors are a good choice over busy or too-colorful patterns.

If you land a job at a startup company, consider yourself lucky that you don’t have to invest in a typical business wardrobe of stuffy power suits and unforgiving shoes. When your work clothes are comfortable, yet polished and pulled together, you can focus on what’s most important: your job.

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