Down With Casual Fridays

The first time I ever heard about Casual Fridays, I hated the idea from the start.

“Guess what we have at our company,” a friend enthused in the early 1990s.

Great pay?  Wonderful, emotionally evolved supervisors?  Luxurious offices?  European-style, month-long vacations?  On-site day care?

No, of course not.

“We have Casual Fridays!” she announced proudly.

“What’s that?” I wanted to know.

“Oh, it’s really cool,” she said.  “On Fridays, we all get to wear jeans and casual clothes.  It’s so much fun!”

Good grief.  I found the whole idea so demented and sad, I could hardly speak.  (It’s almost as bad as those horrible off-site office get-togethers where you form teams and climb rocks so you can all bond and trust one another and forget that the person you work for is a tyrannical prick with severe anger-management issues and a tendency toward pathological lies, when necessary.)

Let me get this straight: Your workplace is telling you how to dress, day in, day out.  On Fridays, the rules are especially specific and you “get to” wear jeans and that’s supposed to be some kind of reward?  Every time I think about it, I can feel myself breaking into a severe rash.

“I’ve got a new idea,” a guy I worked with told me a few years ago.  “We need to institute some fun around here.  I’m thinking we should have Casual Fridays.  Have you ever heard of them?”

“Fifteen years ago,” I said.  “Is that horrible idea still around?”  Thinking silently — while my face had probably gone into spasms — you can’t institute fun.  Don’t you understand?

“Well,” he said, looking pained at my total absence of team spirit, “you wouldn’t have to wear jeans if you didn’t want to.”

You bet I wouldn’t.  Every time Casual Friday rolled around after that, I took care to dress up more than usual.  I also became even more suspicious of the kind of let’s-have-a-good-time mandates like bringing childhood photos of yourself (a very, very old and bad idea that still seems to hold sway in every ad agency I’ve been to in the past few years), so everybody could screech about how cute you were in the third grade.  (When I was in the third grade, I had buck teeth, a skinned-back ponytail and I was fat.  I was not, using anyone’s but a blind person’s definition, cute.  I keep my third-grade photos to myself.)

Show me a workplace mandate from Up Above that announces we’re all going to have fun, and I immediately want to become a Marxist with a grim disposition.  It’s like forcing creativity or humor.  It doesn’t work.

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July and it’s also a Friday.  Just so no one will think I’m participating in a Casual Friday, I plan to dress up especially nicely, the way I always do.

(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)

5 comments… add one
  • Pam Link

    Every day is a Casual Friday in my book!

  • Mike Link

    “What, you didn’t IRON your jeans? You realize this is a PROFESSIONAL work environment, don’t you?”

    The following Friday…

    “Oh, so now I see you’re just flaunting your flagrant disregard for the entire office! In my office!”
    (consequence of wearing my usual slacks/button-down/tie monkey suit)

  • anne Link

    I am not understanding what you are saying – that it is NOT okay to wear jeans on Friday to work. Why not???
    Do you like wearing skirts and hose and heels all of the time? I would like to wear jeans every day to work. It is nice that we get to wear jeans – at least every once in a while. And yes – workplaces dictate what you can and can not wear. They say that men must wear suits and ties and women must wear dresses or skirts and hose.
    And yes, we have choices and choose not to work in that kind of environment – but jobs are hard to come by and a dress-up work place may be the only option.
    Does that really make someone work better – to be uncomfortable? I am not advocating sloppy clothes or jeans – I just like to be comfortable while I am working, and jeans are more comfortable than heels and hose and skirts/dresses.
    The idea is not to institute fun – the idea is that the work place recognizes the need for employees to be more comfortable and relaxed every once in a while. I feel so sorry for businessmen in the summer – wearing their suits and ties. There was a former city manager in San Antonio who was known for shedding the suit and tie image for a guayabera shirt, and he was still a respected and well liked businessman despite his ‘casual’ look. San Antonio is HOT in the summer – he was just dressing comfortably, not dressing that way to have fun.

  • Lars Link

    So if a company is able to have one day that is casual, why can’t it have every day that is casual? I just don’t get it.

  • Suzanne Link

    It’s too hot for jeans in July.

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