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WHEN SERIES FEVER MEETS OFFICE DRESS CODE

Like a bad cold, Rays fever is spreading through workplaces across Tampa Bay, and many offices are responding with relaxed dress codes.

At HSN in St. Petersburg, a long-standing policy allows employees to wear team T-shirts, jerseys and jeans the Monday after a big game.

"Mondays after big sporting events, you're absolutely more than welcome to wear your team shirts," spokeswoman Nancy Bushkin says. If they Rays beat the Phillies tonight, employees can show their love next Monday.

The law firm Carlton Fields has been encouraging employees in its Tampa and St. Petersburg offices to sport Rays clothing, including T-shirts, which normally aren't allowed even on jeans Fridays. For the courtroom, more subtle Rays ties and lapel pins are suggested.

Even Tampa General Hospital is loosening its dress code.

"Do we lax it during this period? Absolutely," says Chris Roederer, senior vice president of human resources. The hospital occasionally allows Buccaneers jerseys and polo shirts in the hospital's non-clinical departments. A similar sportswear day is planned for Thursday, although doctors and nurses will still be expected to don scrubs and nursing uniforms.

"As much as we'd like to have the fun all over ... it's important that we demonstrate our professionalism and ensure the confidence in the patient," Roederer says. Even pins must be issued by Tampa General to ensure infection control.

So Rays spirit days are good for office morale, but there is such a thing as taking it too far. To avoid doing that, here are some guidelines.

Do

Keep it professional. The Rays team shops and raysbaseball.com offer plenty of merch to help you show your spirit in a work-appropriate way. Try a navy or sky-blue polo shirt or a Rays sweater vest with a tasteful logo.

Consider the impact of small touches. Attach your company I.D. to Rays lanyard. Wear blue nail polish or Rays earrings, Rays socks or a logo wrist watch.

Sport team colors. Even in the most conservative workplaces, you can get away with a dark blue suit with a light blue or white collared shirt. Fellas, add a Rays tie for a professional-yet-spirited look.

Dress up your desk. Sip your morning java from a Rays travel mug, stick memos to your file cabinet with a Rays magnet, keep track of time with a baseball wall clock or toss your garbage into a Rays waste basket.

Lose the hat hair. So you wanna rock a Rays cap at your desk but take it off for that big meeting. Be sure to keep the right hair product in your desk, says Michele Benjamin, a stylist at New Identities Hair Studios in Riverview. "I would probably suggest some sort of paste product that you can run through your hair (with your fingers) and break up that line that the hat makes," she says. She recommends Redken Rough Paste 12.

Be grateful. The relaxed dress code is a privilege, not a right. Sport a T-shirt or jersey if you're allowed, but keep a polished appearance. Pair it with dark-wash jeans. Wear a belt. Shave, for goodness sake.

Don't

Go overboard with dressy-casual. You stopped by the Gaslight Square Park rally in Tampa on your lunch break. You came to the Trop straight from work. You're busy. We get it. But donning a jersey over your dress shirt or suit jacket is never a good look. Ever.

Sport a Rayhawk. Please, people. Just ... please.

Wear Rays Crocs. Says Matthew Smith, 34, a prosecutor at the state attorney's office in downtown Tampa: "Our general rule is if you wear it to the beach, don't wear it to the office." That sounds about right.

Show too much skin. Those Swarovski-studded tank tops are cute. But at the office? Not so much.

Bring cowbell to work. 'Nuff said.

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