onegeeklogo6While t-shirts, corsets or cat ears may be suitable for nearly every geek occasion, there comes a time when even we the geeky have to consider some of the two scariest words in the English language – Dress Code. Whether it’s for a holiday party, a family wedding or a new job, sometimes a geek-to-mainstream translator could be handy when figuring out what is and isn’t appropriate to wear. While there’s never a single right answer in these sorts of situations, here’s some geek-friendly guidelines that may help you navigate the murky waters of the Dress Code.

Assume that restrictions add on as you go up the list – thus if it says no flip-flops at Business Casual, assume the same restriction applies to Business, Semi-formal and Formal as well.

Situational – Sporting events, beaches, pools, etc.

Dress Code – As appropriate for that event. However, situational clothing/costumes are often not appropriate for activities outside of that event. Swimsuits, bike shorts, martial arts wear, and the like should be limited to the situational events they’re designed for (or Geek Only Events if worn as costumes, etc.)

Geek Only Events – Conventions, movie nights, geek-specific events (but coordinate the geek-you’re-wearing with the geek-you’re-celebrating – No Klingon foreheads at Browncoat events!)

Dress Code – Anything goes. Costumes, cosplay, fur suits, prosthetics, wings, dungeon gear, face/body paint, props, etc. Geek Uniform (geeky t-shirts with jeans/kilts/skirts for either sex). (Save the extremely sexual t-shirt logos, lingerie and overtly bondage-gear for adult only events, out of respect for children and other non-consenting public participants.)

Casual Public – Malls, informal restaurants, parks, movies, etc.

Dress Code – Almost anything goes. Geek Uniform. Geek wear – bowling shirts (with or without hula girls), rockabilly/retro wear, casual gothic, etc. Also, any of items from Geek Only Events, but be prepared (and polite about) the attention you’ll receive. Don’t be insulted if folks stare at you if you’re wearing your fangs on the bus – non-mainstream clothing in mainstream environments will receive attention. Also, be aware of your effect (physical or otherwise) on those around you – wings on the subway may quickly become weapons – be careful to not poke out someone’s eye as you pass by. Keep it PG to soft R, logo and revealing-wise.

Business Casual – Some casual workplaces for everyday. Some Business workplaces on casual days. Public events where you’re not flying your geek-flag.

Dress Code – Clean, good repair jeans/pants/skirt and T-shirt (without logo) or non-revealing non-tank top. Button-down shirt without hula-girls or bowling logos. Sweaters (no Freddy Kruger stripes!) Casual (but not overly revealing) dresses. No bare midrifts. No plastic flip-flops, although nice leather shoes in a flip-flop style may be okay. Good sneakers or casual dress shoes. No fishnets or mini-skirts. No costuming pieces or props.

Business – Many workplaces. Job interviews for workplaces where the norm is Business Casual. Casual weddings or memorial services.

Dress Code – Non-denim pants or skirts. Non-T-shirt tops or sweaters. Button-down long or short sleeve shirts, with or without jacket. Dress shoes (not sneakers).

Semi-formal – Very formal workplaces. Job interviews for workplaces where the norm is Business.  Formal (but not black-tie) weddings or funerals.

Dress Code – Suit (matching pants and jacket) and tie. Simple cocktail dress (for non-work environments) for women. Skirt/dress trousers and blouse/top (with or without jacket) for women in the workplace.

Formal – Some weddings. Some charity/gala/opening events or other social events specified as Formal or Black/White Tie.

Dress Code – Suit and tie. Tux if you’re asked (or have one you want to wear – that’s more common among certain sectors of the geek community than many parts of mainstream society.) Cocktail dress/skirt and dressy top for women, with the possibility of formal/ball gown (depending on the event.)

Again, this isn’t in any way my attempt to tell you what you can or can’t wear in any given situation. But if you’re looking for guidelines on what might or might not be seen as appropriate in given situations, this may help.

Have questions about how to handle a geeky situation? Need advice on social etiquette relating to games, movies, fan groups, conventions or other geek-ful settings? Write us at and your question may get answered in one of our future “One Geek to Another” columns!