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What is up with business casual?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Good lord, why is it at my office that everyone under 40 dresses in khakis or some other pair of dept. store wool pants and a button down oxford with a crewneck t-shirt underneath while all the over 40 - 45 guys wear suits and ties? Me -- well, I've totally opted to ignore the "business casual" option and dress in a suit and tie. Now, it is true that my basic business wardrobe has now cost me about $5K -- about $800 on Jantzen shirts, $400 on ties, and $2000 on suits and $750 on shoes(but as a result of this forum I have made $2000 in profits via Ebay) -- but with the money those at my office are making (including the 25 year olds), I find it atrocious that they can't at least wear nice shoes. Personally, compared to my business casual wardrobe that I used this summer, I'm MUCH more emotionally and PHYSICALLY comfortable wearing an Oxxford or Chan suit in a beautiful fabric and a great, well fitting Jantzen shirt, along with a tie and a pair of nice shoes. Additionally, I know that the five pairs of shoes in my closet along with the six to seven suits and 15 or so shirts will last me many years, while the Banana Republic bold striped shirt that others are getting at $80 a pop will be either faded out or -- more likely -- out of style in a year. Am I nuts for not "going with my age group" and dressing like I don't care?
post #2 of 13
I guess I ride somewhere inbetween. I fit my dress to be appropriate to the people I work with, be it suits, khaki or jeans. Of course my goal is always to look "special" as compared to my compatriates, but not outrageously so. In a business casual environment I wear a suit occasionally, but normally a nice shirt and slacks vs khakis, maybe a tie. Just enough to make sure that if I walk into a meeting, I will get noticed, and hopefully remembered. Shoes have been a point I think I understand the masses on. I knew next to nothing about them before I found styleforum. My best shoe has been a kenneth cole black square toe, and I think it looks fairly sharp. Of course compared to a nice AE or Alden, it is quite lacking. Problem is I just never cared, shoes are shoes and nothing could be better than KC or Hugo boss could it? Its the accumulation of knowledge that breaks through and lets you start noticing the little things that make you look better, even if they are 300 dollars+ retail. Shoes play a big role, even if you don't specifically notice them, its the entire package that counts. Now for an example, A friend of mine works in a casual environment. I keep trying to convince him that if he stops wearing the tech t-shirts/jeans and starts wearing some nice stuff, people WILL notice. For some reason, wearing nice stuff helps people realize you are serious at work. I'm not saying casual is bad or that you can't take advantage of it, but leave the branded t-shirts at home and wear some nice, comfortable, and sharp shoes. Scot
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
Yeah, but there is a huge difference with my situation, Scot. I am a lawyer and work in a high powered big city law firm. I don't care how the twenty-something next to me is dressing -- if I'm a partner in a law firm and I'm handing out important tasks, I have to believe I'd give a first impression edge to the associate who (1) dresses like me [most partners wear suits] and (2) dresses like a client would expect a lawyer to.
post #4 of 13
I like these discussions. I work in the business-aligned technology department of an investment bank in the city. Probably not as prosperous a group as johnynorman3's colleagues. No one wears a tie or a suit ever. The upper limit would be a dress shirt plus wool slacks, which is what I wear often (sometimes I wear chinos). Wearing a blazer or suit to the office would just be too pretentious. Any tips on how I could dress well wearing just shirt + slacks + belt + shoes? I like Jantzen but I prefer the fabrics that I can get off the rack - do you face the same situation? Also, I hate to say this and I certainly don't wish to sound racist at all-- however it seems that dressing follows ethnic lines. Colleagues from UK or Australia are on average better dressed. While most American-Caucasians dress fairly average, there are a few who dress really well. There are virtually no Asians who dress well. (well = tasteful, ironed, clean, quality, fitting, stylish clothes). Asians tend to wear things that are token-trendy and cheap-looking (e.g. french blue shirt from Macy's). African-Americans are fond of white/contrast collar/cuff shirts.
post #5 of 13
Johnny, As a senior associate who can remember (1) what associate salaries looked like before the tech boom, and (2) what people dressed like in BigLaw before the tech boom, I can tell you that pre-bus/cas, people didn't look any more professional than they do now. Substitute poorly altered department store suits, unshined dress shoes (same pair every day, always black), and ill-fitting dress shirts for what you see now, and you'll get the basic idea. I know plenty of associates who spend very little on clothes (or cars, gadgets, or housing for that matter) because they fully intend to bail on BigLaw after their loans are paid and they have some cash in the bank. Many of those people dress fairly presentably when they are going out for the evening, they just figure that they can wear the "office uniform" to save cash and early morning brainpower. And since I'm at the seniority level where I give work assignments and reviews to junior associates, I'll tell you that IMVHO, personality and work quality go a lot further than appearance. If an associate dresses poorly I can always tell them to spruce it up for a client meeting, but if they have lousy social skills or (worse, but unfortunately common) lousy legal skills, I can't do anything about that. There are only a handful of times when dressing to a high standard is impractical or likely to draw negative attention from colleagues. For example, if you are sent to a warehouse on long term doc review or due diligence work, you probably don't want to wear your best suit and shoes--dusty bankers' boxes have a way of harboring all kinds of clothes-destroying detritus. And in meetings with casual clients, wearing a suit can actually be a barrier to open discussions because the immediate reaction is "uh-oh, here come the suits." But aside from those instances where practical considerations are in play, dress for yourself and not for others.
post #6 of 13
I change my wardrobe up quite a bit. I may wear fairly casual/business casual wear such as a dress shirt/polo and dark slacks (but not khakis, can't stand them) with dress shoes, etc... w/ or w/o a blazer when I am just in the office and not meeting clients (2-3 days per week) but when I am meeting clients, the board, etc... then I will wear a suit, usually Oxxford, Belvest, or Brioni, with tie, etc. I am a managing director of a software company, btw.
post #7 of 13
I'm 33 myself but I have to agree with you, I felt (when I worked in an office -- I work for myself now at home) far more comfortable in business attire than business casual. I find it hard to take any one in a business seriously if they're wearing chinos and a button down shirt. Heck, I won't even go out bar hopping weekend nights unless I'm wearing a suit or a sport jacket, but that's the Sinatra in me.
post #8 of 13
For people like me who do not have the option of wearing business dress to work, can the masters kindly share some tips on making the best out of business casual attire? Cheers
post #9 of 13
Business casual can be fun. You can still dress at the same level as your co-workers and look 10 times better. Over-dressing can be counterproductive since it's a slap at your co-workers (and you may be the next one out the door for that reason). The best way to improve a business casual look is to avoid cotton. More linen in the summer, more wool in the winter. Nice loafers in the summer, zip-up boots in the winter. Wearing clothes that fit right -- even bad clothes -- can make a huge difference.
post #10 of 13
Gregory, What's wrong with wearing a french blue shirt from Macy's? I don't think it's cheap looking at all. This is a classic. Wearing this makes me better dressed than all my other coworkers. All you have to do with business casual is make sure the belt matches the shoes. And, that everything is clean and ironed. You'll be ahead of most of your coworkers if you just do this. Greg, What do you mean less cotton? Are you referring to dress shirts?
post #11 of 13
What do you mean less cotton? Are you referring to dress shirts?
My guess would be that he is referring to slacks, as in avoidance of the ubiquitous Docker's and golf shirt uniform that is all too prevalent on casual Friday's. To look good, yet still remain appropriately casual, invest in some decent wool and linen slacks to wear in the the different seasons. Bradford
post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 
I don't feel out of place per se in a suit and tie, especially when I'm not in training sessions and mixing with lawyers of various ages. I mean I loosen the tie, roll up the sleeves and take of the jacket when I'm at my desk and around the office. I'll put on the coat when I meet with a partner or a client. Personally, I feel I work better in business dress -- I take work more seriously (as you can tell I'm not at work right now), recognize that I'm actually hurting/helping people as opposed to just doing an academic exercise, and I feel as though I am upholding the traditions of my profession that I hold at least somewhat dear. But that's just me. Funny thing is, the majority of the women in my associate class wear suits on a daily basis. They look very sharp, much sharper than the biz casual.
post #13 of 13
What's wrong with wearing a french blue shirt from Macy's? I don't think it's cheap looking at all. This is a classic. Wearing this makes me better dressed than all my other coworkers. All you have to do with business casual is make sure the belt matches the shoes. And, that everything is clean and ironed. You'll be ahead of most of your coworkers if you just do this.
Hello Christian, I am refering to those very boring Van Heusen french blue point collar shirts you see in the plastic cubes. I think these are so passe. I frankly don't think wearing clean, ironed clothes and coordinating my belt with my shoe will put me ahead of my coworkers. Cheers
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