Originally Posted by recondite
Under what conditions would those "gentlemen of taste and discrimination" actually consider "a polo shirt and khakis or even jeans" to be business casual?
In the real world, polos, khakis and jeans are deemed "business casual" in a great many workplaces, sad to say. Gentlemen of taste and discrimination may even find themselves compelled by necessity to work in such environments...and, yes, I do think a guy who matches, say, a pair of desert boots or penny loafers with khakis and a polo shirt is going to look more properly put together and "right" than a man who wears the same apparel with PAs.
I think you are overlooking the fact that what makes the black PA "too formal for anything but a suit" in your eyes, is just the thing that makes the black calf PA the ideal shoe to wear with anything; it's lack of adornment. If you applied this viewpoint universally, it would eliminate a good many elegant designs including most loafers for the same reason despite, no doubt, your belief that loafers are a casual shoe.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, there is nothing at all more inherently casual about a loafer compared to an oxford shoe. The first record of use for a loafer was the court shoe designed exclusively for insidewear under the most formal conditions possible, making today's loafer a form of the most formal shoes in history; one worn by order of the court of the King.
In fact, the oxford shoe is inherently more casual than a loafer since it's a devolution and reaction to the requirement of students to wear ankle or higher full laced dress balmorals, which are actually of different side seam construction and slightly more formal than an oxford type shoe with it's characteristic side seam. The oxford was first worn by rebellious youths at Oxford who were intent on making Oxford the Cal-Berkeley of their day and time. The oxford shoe was meant to a worn casually inside and out by young students, but principally outside for rough or casual activities compared to the loafer which when worn as a court shoe was principally worn inside under the most formal conditions of their day by courtiers.
Of course, we can ignore historical context and simply hold our own personal view as truth.
Oh come on now, I don't think you can equate the pumps of yesteryear with the loafers of today. If you take "historical context" as your marker, then the lounge suit is still beachwear, and knee breeches preferable for formal wear to trousers. (Well, I guess they still are technically correct for the Royal Court in England, but if you wear them in any other formal or semi-formal context, you will look like a total jackass.) I won't say a guy wearing PAs with khakis and polo will look like a total
jackass, but the combination will look "off" to any discerning eye.
Fashions and customs do change over a century and a half since oxfords were the shoe of choice of "rebellious youths at Oxford," in case you hadn't noticed. And what were they rebelling against? I am a graduate of Oxford and wasn't aware of any major "rebellion" in the mid 19th century (unless maybe you want to count the Puseyites).