Of course there's an easy to solution to the "how short is too short?" dilemma: Put on a pair of lightweight pants or capris instead.
You Are Not a Cabana Boy
Female employees don't hold a monopoly on warm weather wardrobe malfunctions.
Joyce L. Gioia, CEO of The Herman Group, a business forecasting firm in Greensboro, N.C., once made the mistake of telling a male assistant he could wear whatever he wanted to the office.
"One day he showed up in a skimpy tank top and short shorts," she said. "That clearly did not work for me. It wasn't this great body, but it was so much flesh."
It's also too much armpit and chest hair, Monahan says.
"Tank tops are universally off limits for the gents, even in a casual setting," she says. "You can skip the collared shirt, but never the sleeve."
Instead, go for a cotton short-sleeved button down shirt, she says. But don't leave more than one or two buttons undone; remember, you're not at the beach or on a date.
Whether you add shorts to the ensemble depends on your department's dress code. (Hint: If your manager wears shorts, you can too. Ditto for T-shirts, as long as you don't wear the one you painted the house in.) If you have to ask if your shorts are too short, they are. As for bike shorts in the office, for the love of god, just say no.
Who Should Show Toe — and When
I don't have anything against flip-flops in the office (save for the fact you can hear a pair coming a mile away), but many employers do. According to CareerBuilder, 64 percent of employers have banned them.
And while a majority of women wear open-toed shoes to work — 79 percent, according to a January 2008 survey by office product company Quill Corporation — there seems to be a double standard at work with regard to men showing toe.
A number of managers and HR professionals I asked shuddered at the thought. ("Men's toes are never OK in the workplace," one said. "Neh-ver!") In fact, the Quill survey found that only 4 percent of men wear flip-flops to work and just 8 percent wear sandals — or what I like to call "mandals."
In the Pacific Northwest, where I live, babies of both sexes are born wearing Teva sandals. So for some fresh perspective, I asked etiquette guru Peter Post what he thought of this sandal double standard.
"I think it's ridiculous," said Post, the director of The Emily Post Institute and author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business: Personal Skills for Professional Success." "I come to work wearing Tevas all summer long."
Post keeps a pair of loafers or dress shoes on hand at his 10-employee office so he can upgrade his ensemble any time he needs to meet with clients or give a presentation. (Note to grads: Big meetings and big toes — even painted ones — seldom mix.)
Have Change of Clothes, Will Travel
Just because it's hot enough out to fry an omelet on the sidewalk doesn't mean you should arrive to work looking (and smelling) like you just ran a marathon. Instead, get yourself some comfortable, breathable commuting shoes and duds and change when you get to the office.
"In the summer when it's 90 degrees out and the air conditioning on N.J. Transit is iffy, I wear shorts, a T-shirt and mandals to work, then change into the khakis, shirt and socks I carry in and the shoes and belt I leave here," says Stephen Power, senior editor at book publisher John Wiley & Sons in Hoboken, N.J.
When it comes to dressing for work during the summer, such practicality is the name of the game, Post says.