Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Business Casual


I haven't inhabited the corporate world for a few years now. So, for all I know, thing may have changed. But somehow I doubt it.

How irritating were those invites to conferences or regional meetings that stipulated the dress code as 'business casual'. I mean , they should just have got off the pot and said: ' Chinos and polo shirts compulsory'.
This kind of mid -Atlantic look had become universally adopted in the business world as the uniform of the executive in mufti. Ralph Lauren for the North Americans and Lacoste for the Europeans, and likewise, deck shoes versus loafers.
I don't necessarily have anything against these items or styles of clothing; I do, after all,  wear polo shirts ( but not with a logo above the left breast). I may have been imagining it,  but at these gatherings I would often  pick up a tedious vibe of:  ' Look at me, no suit, what a dashing fascinating person I must be- I'm wearing a pink polo shirt'.
I guess one of the definitions of a tribe is a tendency to conformity. And business conferences are nothing if not tribal gatherings.
And maybe the organising principle behind this was right. After all, if you don't draw the line somewhere people might just turn up in cargo pants and flip -flops.
Which someone once did. What a surprise - he was Australian.
And I suppose it's a distinct possibility that everyone does that now.

13 comments:

Toby Wollin said...

When 'business casual' first came out in the early 90s, at my workplace this meant I could wear dress pants or a skirt with a jacket that did not match. That was it. A few years later, when I switched jobs, this evolved into 'dockers and a golf shirt'. Then someone advocated for 'casual Fridays' and the whole thing went to Hell in a shopping cart. I hate golf shirts - they are not a good look for any woman and many companies that provide them as 'uniform' buy men's sizes only so in order to fit in the bust, you end up with a shirt where the shoulders droop down over the arms and the sleeves hover down toward the wrist. Not a good look.

Anonymous said...

The Australian wore long pants? It must have been a cold day!

Deja Pseu said...

Toby has the "hell in a shopping cart" part right. Business casual has come to mean for men: from t-shirts and jeans (and that's on the more conservative guys) to cargo shorts and flip flops and some sort of Sk8er or Worldbeat hair/headwear. For women: again from jeans and t-shirts to spaghetti strap or off-shoulder, belly-baring tops, sweatpants rolled down on the hips...you get the picture. Our HR department explained that a younger workforce places a high priority on "individuality" in dressing, and to retain those employees we have to go with the flow and we have abandoned any office dress codes except in the most extreme cases (where they are asked to go home and change). Just five years back we tried to ban flip flops in the office, mainly due to the safety factor, and we almost had a mutiny.

Anonymous said...

Wash your mouth out! Filthy word. Chinos. *shudders* at the very idea of them.

cybill said...

Crikey! the aussie wore shoes, next you'll be trying to tell me he was sober.

dana said...

Yes, but with a business suit and khakis/golf shirt wardrobe, a man can go literally anywhere and be fine. Why do we women have to think it through each time? Is it "fun," a "lifestyle choice," or is it to keep our minds off the wage gap?

TheSundayBest said...

Simple answer - always wear a tie. I don't understand this strident desire to get rid of them. Ties are gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

Each generation expresses dismay when their uniform is superseded. I'm sure the same sort of sentiments were expressed by the older generation when wing collars and tail coats were no longer worn by the young.
"Moral decay" they cry, forgetting their own tweaks on clothing when they were young.

Anonymous said...

I've just read both the post and the comments.
Racist slurs are neither acceptable or attractive in any generation.

Deja Pseu said...

Huh?

Linda Grant said...

Anonymous individuals making accuations of racism, without advancing any argument to make their case, are unlikely to be taken seriously by the readers of this site.

Duchesse said...

I abhor golf shirts on women, and would not wear one unless forced. Perhaps on a petite woman who's actually golfing.

Anonymous said...

I think all the important bits covered, clothes clean, no holes, good quality and reasonable unrumpled (I only own an iron for my sewing work) should be enough of a uniform in todays workplace. But I am a nerd working in a unconventional industry. I think ties and suits for work are ridiculous, because they restrict movement and blood flow, in case of the ties to your brain, where it would be really needed. Call it generational or anarchistic or eccentric, but I think people should be able to move in their clothes. I need to, fast, because the pace I work in. And pantyhose in summer are evil. I trust no bank or employer that tortures its female workforce. And yes I am female and I left the polo shirts behind in my misguided 80s youth .