Coffeepot Chatter: Keeping Cool and Professional in Summer

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Tom: Good morning, Maria. Finally some nice warm spring weather.
Maria: Yes, it’s nice. But I just saw Susan in the parking garage and she’s dressed like it’s 90 degrees in August at Rehoboth. I think it’s time for a What Not to Wear intervention.

Tom: Really? What was she wearing?

Maria: It’s more like what she wasn’t wearing. She wore Bermuda shorts. I guess they were okay, but with a tank top and those wood Dr. Scholl sandals. The thwacking noise they made was echoing all around the garage.

Tom: Did she bring beer?

Maria: Tom!

Tom: Okay, okay. Let’s hope she brought a sweater and planned to change her shoes.

Maria: Yeah. We’ve all been looking forward to summer, but I think there’s a difference between business and barbecue casual.

Summertime.  While the living may be easy, dressing appropriately for work can be confusing. Given the variety of settings faculty and staff work in at Lehigh, there isn’t one single uniform summer business casual dress code on our campuses. Employees in roles that require rugged wear and those who work in an office environment are naturally going to dress differently. Still, there are a few simple things to keep in mind before you head into work during the warmer months.

Flip Flops are a Flop. A good rule of thumb for shoes is that if you can wear them in the shower, you probably don’t want to wear them to work.  You can keep cool and show off your pedicure in stylish sandals or other open-toed footwear. 

Halt the Halters and Novelty Tees. Halters, tank tops, camis, and shirts that show off your six pack are not recommended for the office. Similarly, that shirt your friends thought was hilarious on the boardwalk in Ocean City? It might not project the professional image you’re looking for. 

Toss the Ties and Tights. The most popular aspect of a summer business casual dress code in many offices is the more relaxed attitude toward neckwear for men and bare legs for women. Even though you can go tie- or stocking-free, men’s shirts should still be presentable and women’s skirts should be of a moderate length.  

Who Wears Short Shorts? We hope this one is obvious, but please leave the cut-offs at home. Other pants considered too-casual-even-for-summer-casual include: bike shorts, tennis skorts, or yoga/sweatpants.

Be Prepared. You can check your own and your supervisor’s meeting schedule to ensure that you are dressed suitably for your day, but sometimes things will pop up unexpectedly. Why not leave a spare jacket or sweater in a neutral color in the office for sudden meetings? You’ll feel more confident and pulled together for when you toss on a finishing layer.  It doesn’t hurt to have a sweater around to combat that air conditioning chill, either.

We know that as an academic institution with a business casual environment, it can be confusing at times to know where that line between business and barbecue casual is. But even on the hottest days of the year, you can be more relaxed in your summer clothing without sacrificing your professional image.