For many people, Memorial Day marks the official start of summer. In my office, that means the return of the summer dress code. For the summer (as well as "inclement weather" days and Fridays during the other seasons), we can wear casual attire to work. Examples given are khaki's, sport shirts, and neat jeans. In reality, though, this dress code is very much abused, in my opinion.
In the past two days, I have seen a number of people wearing jeans with holes in them (and not the fashionable sorts of holes), t-shirts representing their favorite sports team, and I even saw someone in a sweatsuit. I didn't know people still wore sweatsuits! But they do, at least in my office.
We're a professional office, and I think that if you want to be respected, you should try to look the part. That doesn't mean that if your office has summer attire like mine, you should wear a suit everyday. For example, yesterday, I wore a pretty summery skirt, a knit top, and heeled sandals. Not what I would consider professional attire, but I still looked very nice. I haven't decided if I'm going to wear jeans this summer. I probably will at some point, but by pairing them with nice shoes and a dressier top, I can still look presentable and enjoy the benefits of summer attire.
I do like the fact that I don't have to dress up every day for work. It is a bit of a money saver, in that my work clothes are significantly more expensive and this way they won't wear out as quickly. Additionally, while some of my work clothes can be washed, others have to go to the dry cleaners, and that's definitely not cheap.
But while it might save me money to wear jeans and a t-shirt every day, I'm not going to be that casual. Maybe khaki pants and a polo here and there, which feels excessively casual to me, as it was my high school dress code, but to others, it seems like good office attire.
I think if you want to be respected in your office, you should always try to look presentable. Sure, we all have our bad hair days, or days when the iron just won't work or we oversleep, but as a general practice, I think that the more respectable you dress, the more respect you will receive. And hey, maybe that's the best way to start if you want to get a promotion (or just keep your job in these economic times).