First, can I be honest and just say I hate “casual/relaxed” dress codes in offices? Not hating on you (or your wonderful place of employment), but it leads to an ambiguous definition of what to wear and causes a bit of a headache.
If you want to dress nice and overdo it, then you look like a suck up. If you dress down, then people start mistaking you for the office intern if you’re younger.
My workplace (when the state legislature isn’t meeting) is kind of like the whole “relaxed” environment thing, too, and my prior way of dressing was much like what you described yourself doing. If you want to take a step upward — but not too far — I’d try the following things:
- Wear a tie. Nothing crazy or aggressive. Get a solid navy tie — silk knit, repp or grenadine — and it should go with most of what you own. Maybe get a simple navy tie with white Churchill dots. Or a simple white stripe. Or red stripe. The more conservative of a tie you pick, the less people will think you’re trying to dress up.
- Wear something over your shirt. This can be a cardigan, v-neck sweater vest, odd waistcoat/vest or a sport coat. If you think a sport coat looks too dressed up, try for a deconstructed non-wool option — like cotton chino — maybe with patch pockets. Mainly, I say this because it helps create a layered look, which looks more formal than casual.
- Wear nice shoes. I’m not dissing your Clarks (I own a pair of desert boots, love ‘em!), but maybe save them for casual(er) Fridays. Get two pairs of leather-soled oxfords. Longwings, short wings, cap toes, plain toes — it doesn’t matter too much as long as they’re a quality piece of footwear. On the low end, I’d say Allen Edmonds (between eBay and Nordstrom Rack you can snag pairs for $50-100) or the Florsheim Veblens if that’s your style. Quality footwear will set you apart in a good way.
- Above all, pay attention to fit. Get your pants tapered at a tailor if it needs to be done. Same with any sport coat or blazer.
I’ve mentioned here before that the way I used to dress often got me confused as an intern instead of a staff member, which bothered me a lot. At first, I thought it was because of just my age, but really it was more than age — it was appearance.
If you’re younger, which I assume you are because you mentioned “entry level,” then you’ll want to avoid that impression. You never know who you might run into and you’ll want that initial impression to be favorable and make you look more experienced than not.
I think it only take a few things to move you from “just got out of college” to “put together” when it comes to dressing casually. Fortunately, it’s not entirely that hard to do.
Thanks for the question and hope you find it useful.