The trick to balancing summer casual and appropriate business attire

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The worst of summer is upon us – those unbroken days of intense heat that sap the spirits, chase us indoors, hike our air conditioning bills and ruin our lawns. For many financial professionals, there is one upside to the dog days of summer – more tolerance on the part of management for casual dress. It can be a great summer perk.

But it’s one you also want to manage sensibly.

“Summer wear can be tricky because you want to balance being too casual and being looser on traditional business attire,” says Jayne Mattson, senior vice president at Keystone Associates, a career management company.

In an interview with eFinancialCareers, Mattson recommends that “each morning, look in the mirror to decide if your attire is a 'do' or a 'don’t.' With some of the younger professionals in today’s workforce having tattoos, covering them up will become important as you might not be taken as serious with people who might not know you.”

Here are some tips for managing this summertime perk well.


  • Understand the Culture – “It’s critical to know the culture and follow the lead of the managers in your group or division,” Lynne Sarikas, director of the MBA Career Center at Northeastern University’s College of Business Administration, tells eFinancialCareers. “In some companies, summer casual means no neckties," she adds. "Before you head to the office in capris, shorts or a golf shirt, be sure you understand what the expectations are in your specific office.”

  • Be Modest and Conservative – “Think about whether you would want the president of the company or an important client to see you in that outfit,” Sarikas says. “If the answer is no, don't wear it to work. Think about whether it projects the image of the company or your own personal brand.”


Remember, even though it’s summer and it’s uncomfortably hot, you’re still working in a professional environment. To this end, says Sarikas, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Forget the Beach Attire – If it fits in at the beach, don't wear it to work.

  • Leave the Flip-Flops at Home – “The most frequent complaint I hear from employers is flip-flops,” Sarikas says. “They are very noisy in the office and most employers consider them unprofessional.”

  • Cover Up – Underwear is meant to be under your clothes at all times, not visible to your co-workers. Midriff baring or plunging necklines are also not appropriate for the office, she says.

  • Protect Your Reputation – Says Sarikas: “Your reputation at work is your personal brand. You work hard to be known as a capable, competent professional who does great work in a timely manner. Do not ruin or at least tarnish that reputation by dressing unprofessionally in the workplace. It is not worth it.”

Finally, Mattson offers another list of items that should be no-nos on your summer casual list:

  • Tight skinny capri pants
  • Too much jewelry
  • Sandals that are too high with straps that wrap around the leg
  • Sleeveless tops that are cut too low
  • Shorts (even if they are long)
  • Flip-flops
  • Any other fashion items that portray you as “too trendy”

Mattson adds, “What is most important with any attire is to match the industry and position you are working in and ask yourself, ‘Am I dressed appropriately if a client came in today unexpectedly?’”