Denim has become one of the most popular fabrics to wear over the past few years. While denim has been around for more than a century, it didn’t become popular until James Dean wore them in a Rebel Without a Cause in the 1950s. It became high fashion, however, in the 1980’s when popularized by Jordache and Gloria Vanderbilt. Now almost every major designer has a high-end brand of denim jeans. In fact today denim has become the fabric of choice for dress, shoes, handbags, jackets, and belts.
With the popularity and sophistication of denim designs, the question becomes, “Is it popular to wear denim in the workplace?”
Denim at Work
First of all it depends on the work environment. Many organizations are going to a more Smart (a step below professional) or Business Casual (a step above casual) attire. While Smart Casual usually doesn’t allow for denim, a Business Casual environment (or one that embraces Business Casual Friday) does. If that’s the case where you work, the question then becomes, “What can I wear?”
There are a few rules of thumb that you must stick to if you’re wearing denim in the workplace:
- When wearing jeans, wear a dark wash or black denim. It just look more professional.
- NO frays, tears, distressing, embellishment, sequin, embroidery, baggy, or wrinkled jeans. For women avoid the “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” cut or style.
- A boot cut or trouser (straight leg) style jeans looks most professional and compliments most body types.
- If denim jackets are allowed, try to go for a denim blazer. If wearing a traditional denim jacket follow rules #1 and #2.
- Denim dresses should be a dark denim or dark chambray and not too short or form fitting.
- Avoid denim shirts.
- Don’t wear denim with white or colorful accents. These type of accents are fine for everyday, but not for the office.
Here are a few ideas:
While the jean has a medium, instead of dark wash, it’s paired with a simple white blouse and blazer. The added heels and handbag pulls this look together and make it look a bit more professional. Also, as noted above, a boot cut jeans is a flattering and professional looking silhouette.
This is one of my favorite looks. The dark wash bootcut jean is very classic and stylish. Paired with this color blazer, muted top and heeled sandals and this would be great for a “causal Friday.”
Chambray is a fabric that looks similar to denim, but it’s not. Because it’s a woven fabric it’s much lighter in weight and texture than denim. As a result it can have a much classier and high-end look to it. It’s a great way to wear a denim-look in much more up scale style.
This is another example of a chambray dress using a darker yarn, given this dress a “dark wash” look. The shirtdress is a simple and practical design and works well in a denim look. You can wear a turtleneck and tights with boots in the Fall and Winter or wear it with a white shirt or alone with heels or sandals for the Spring and Summer.
Remember, you don’t have to wear denim jeans or a dress. You can choose to accent your work attire with denim handbags, shoes, jackets or other accessories.
Here’s a few additional ideas for women:
When it comes to styling denim for work, men have it a bit easier. Simply add a nice shirt, tie and jacket with a well polished brogue, oxford, or loafer. The seven rules outlined above apply to men wearing denim in the workplace. While it’s more appropriate to wear a relaxed fit for men, be sure it’s a dark quality denim.
Ultimately the question of whether or not denim is suitable for the workplace will be decided by your employer. However, even if you work for yourself or out of a home office you should treat the wearing of denim the same as if you were in an office. Regardless of how fancy we get with denim, it’s still considered a casual fabric, not matter how you dress it up.
Consider if denim is a part of your brand and personal style. Think about how can you incorporate it into your attire in such a way that still promotes a professional look. If the whole topic of denim in the workplace is just too confusing for you to deal with, then simply avoid it all together. For many people denim is just not workplace appropriate and that’s ok.
If you want help for both you and/or your organization, let’s schedule a time to talk.
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