I started my first post-University job in October 2005. I was a fresh-faced graduate (22 years old, holy shiz that blows my mind) with a BA and an LLB and I was ready to be the best damn summer clerk the New Zealand Securities Commission had ever seen. I had applied for a small grant from Work and Income so that I could buy some work clothes and trotted off to my first day in a skirt from Stax, a shirt from Glassons and a pair of shoes from Number One Shoe Warehouse.
I knew exactly what lawyers were supposed to wear, so Monday to Thursday that first week were fairly straightforward. But Friday – what the actual eff is Casual Friday?
Fast forward 13 years and we know two things for sure – I ain’t wearing a lawyer uniform to work any more (yesterday I wore a dress from Salasai and a pair of earrings that are ceramic birds hanging on a wire loop, not a pencil skirt in sight) and I’ve cracked the mystery that is casual Friday…at least in my world. It helps hugely that I wear high heels to work, because a good pair of dressy shoes can make almost anything look more work-appropriate. Witness this combo of jeans and a sweatshirt – with a pair of jazzy earrings and a pair of even jazzier shoes, I’d be happy to wear this to work. Chuck on a black blazer and you’d be well within the safe zone in my job.
When I started in Corporate Land, it was all dark wash denim and neat tops with my slingback kitten heels. I played it safe, which was totally appropriate for the most junior member of the organisation. Fast forward a few years, and I’d coined the phrase “Express Yourself Friday” as an alternative to Casual Friday…because nobody actually cares if you are casual on a Friday. It’s just supposed to be a day to allow you to break out of the confines of the corporate dress code and is, nowadays, just a great day for the men in my team because they don’t have to wear a suit or a tie. I only wear a tie for fashion purposes, I’m not uncomfortable Mon-Thurs, so I don’t need the psychological gift that is a “day off” from that. Also – shout out to all the men who get a day off from corporate uniform times and use it to wear a polo shirt from Hallensteins that every other man over the age of 16 also owns. I’m sorry about the state of NZ retail.
Once I realised that CF was all about giving us a day to feel human again, I realised that for me that’s about experimenting with different things rather than always wearing denim and a button down shirt. (Having said that, I do limit my denim-wearing to Fridays, because I know I run the risk of sliding into a “jeans every day” style slump if I don’t). It’s the day to wear that blazer you think is a bit out of the box for you, or to introduce your coworkers to your extensive collection of luxury sneakers. Do you still have to keep it a bit middle of the road most of the time in Corporate New Zealand? Yes, probably. But it’s the day of all days to wear those cool earrings you bought last Christmas or to give red lipstick a crack. Basically – it’s a chance for us all to take advantage of the slightly Dickensian purpose of CF and instead of just wearing a Friday uniform, wear something that actually demonstrates we are individuals.
Obviously, this remains subject to my overarching workwear guideline – can’t see through it, up it or down it – and I was going to say I’ve made some CF outfit gaffes but to be fair, that’s not a CF thing. I have some photos of actual outfits I wore in my first job (after I had been there a couple of years) and sweet baby Jesus, there’s only so much you can blame on it being the year 2007. However, better a bold wardrobe choice than a bit of Black Mirror mind control via a boring corporate drone outfit. Plus, it has always been my experience that as soon as one person starts showing a bit of themselves in how they dress, there are a few others who embrace the opportunity too…creating a glorious Express Yourself Friday movement, changing the face of offices across New Zealand.
Jeans are good old Levis 501s, sweatshirt is from Just Jeans (and yes, I was feeling the late 80s/early 90s vibes inspired by my Mum). Shoes are from Wittner and I frigging love them and may go back for the flats version. Earrings are from Koopy - great range and so light that you get all the statement effect without any discomfort. Success!