Corporate Too Casual? Men Wearing Shorts to Work


If there’s one multi-generational work topic that never goes out of style, it is surely the question of appropriate work dress codes. And, summer…I’m looking at you.

In fact, The New York Times ran an article Aug. 2, 2017, titled, Blame the Millennials? For Men, Shorts at Work Is a Thing.”

Two things struck me. For starters, let’s stop “blaming millennials” for anything and everything. In fact, surely we should be thanking them for any contribution they’ve made to an updated dress code: We can all agree that the more relaxed dress code is appealing to all generations. I don’t think anyone misses wearing a tie in the sweltering summer months. And, after all, remember that it was the Boomers, who introduced Jeans Friday.

The second is the enduring nature of this dress code discussion. In fact, I had to laugh because exactly nine (nine!) years ago, I wrote the blog post below on shorts, also, yes, spurred by a New York Times article. (Just call me a faithful reader!)

So, while we’ve been shaming younger generations for almost all of time, we’ve also been talking about shorts in the workplace for almost a decade.

So, are shorts appropriate work attire?

There’s no question that even the most buttoned-up industries have transitioned to a far more casual vibe.

But there’s one piece of style advice that is always work appropriate, and that is to know your audience. If you’re more junior, look around the office and note what your boss (and boss’ boss) is wearing. If you have a client meeting, know what will be acceptable in their world.

And, whenever in doubt, always err on the side of more professional, since no one wants to be known as “Shorts Guy” or “Sundress Girl.” In my book, it’s always better to be slightly overdressed than slightly underdressed, particularly in professional settings.

Hemlines and trends will come and go, but “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” will always be your most important fashion commandment.

(And for the record, in my book Anderson Cooper is still welcome to wear shorts!)


Readers: I loved perusing the great comments on my original post. I’d love to hear how your thinking may have changed about shorts in the workplace over the past nine years. Please share on Twitter or in the comments below.

Corporate too casual? Men wearing shorts to work

Originally published July 31, 2008

Are some work clothes too casual, even for August?

Thanks to my HarperCollins editor Matt Inman for pointing out this article: “Shorts Crack the Code in today’s New York Times.

Is it okay for men to wear shorts to work?

Obviously, the answer varies widely depending on your workplace. I’m sure there are lots of guys in shorts at web 2.0 companies and high fashion labels. And I’m sure a man showing up in shorts to an investment bank would be laughed right out of the building.

Frankly, that’s how I think it should be, for both men and women. Know your audience and “dress for success” in a way that makes sense in your industry. If you’re not totally sure what is appropriate, I’d probably err on the side of caution and go with “big boy pants” (as my mom used to call them when my brother was little).

Guys, would you wear shorts to work? Women, what would you think if a man showed up in your workplace with his calves on display? Share your thoughts!

p.s. As for the mention of Anderson Cooper in the article, I think he is gorgeous and should wear whatever he wants…

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Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


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