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Advantage of business casual: More options for suits?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by josepidal, Oct 24, 2006.

  1. josepidal

    josepidal Senior member

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    I've been looking up New York law firms, and I'm surprised by how prevalent business casual actually is. I imagine it's now the norm even in the top tier firms, excepting the very old white shoe firms with addresses at Wall or Broad street, etc. Certainly, it's the norm in the top firms located midtown. It's even listed as a "perk" in profiles given out to second year students.

    That said, I've met partners who've joked that it's annoying because they'd rather have everyone agree to wear suits or go smart casual. Otherwise, they have no use for another set of clothes built around sport coats and khakis.

    I was thinking, though, that if you prefer wearing a suit, the trend opens up options. You can wear more interesting suits, check shirts, ties in less formal colors and prints, and, most of all, lighter brown shoes. Basically, you get to play around with all these less formal tweaks to formal business wear.

    Do you think this is a positive way of looking at business casual?
     
  2. Patrick Bateman

    Patrick Bateman Senior member

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    excepting the very old white shoe firms with addresses at Wall or Broad street, etc..

    Most of these are business casual nowadays. i.e. Sullivan & Cromwell has been business casual since the dot com era.

    Certainly, it's the norm in the top firms located midtown.

    Mainly true, Wachtell being a notable exception.
     
  3. lawyerdad

    lawyerdad Senior member

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    Probably so. But really, the idea that it's an employment "perk" is pretty laughable to me. Others may disagree, but given the scale of challenges and rewards associated with working at a large New York law firm, the notion that the dress code should be an important consideration seems ludicrous. There is a firm here in Los Angeles used to use (and may still use - I'm a bit outside the target demongraphic for their recruiting efforts these days) the fact that it had no dress code - ie., you could show up in ripped shorts and a mesh t-shirt if you wanted - as a major selling point in recruiting new associates. The trade-off was that people were expected to bill ungodly hours, even by the standards of large law firms. Now, as then, the appeal of being "allowed" to wear sweatpants and flip-flops while slaving away in the office at 2:00 a.m. escapes me.
     
  4. teddieriley

    teddieriley Senior member

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    It would seem that in a business casual environment, you can be a bit more liberal with regards to your style. Hell, I've seen guys at business casual law firms wear surfer-based brands such as Quicksilver (short sleeve button ups) as their "dress shirts" to work. Combine that with clunky black shoes, khakis from god knows where, and you'll find that acceptable in most business casual environments (California I have experience with, NYC, I don't). From that, yes you can wear less formal suits, more colorful dress shirts and pocket squares, and even a tie occasionally, and it will definitely be acceptable. Only thing you need to contend with is you will most likely be out of the "norm," so you will get more attention than you really want or expect. That could be a good or a bad thing. Fine with the other similarly situated associates and assistants. Not necessarily good if you're outdressing and outflashing the partners that you have to meet with.
     
  5. seoulfully

    seoulfully Senior member

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    I was thinking, though, that if you prefer wearing a suit, the trend opens up options. You can wear more interesting suits, check shirts, ties in less formal colors and prints, and, most of all, lighter brown shoes. Basically, you get to play around with all these less formal tweaks to formal business wear.

    Do you think this is a positive way of looking at business casual?


    i work at a big firm in DC, and while we have our share of khaki'd "slobs" there are definitely some guys who wear suits exclusively and opt for the interesting shirts, ties, etc.
     
  6. Mentos

    Mentos Senior member

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    I think several LA firms now tout their lack of a dress code. One firm has gone so far as to give away flip flops at on-campus interviews. Which does have a certain resonance for a law student facing a long eastern winter. That firm then proceeds to work the will to live out of its junior associates.

    On the bright side, because everyone sees business casual as a joke, the more daring junior associates at some DC firms are wearing jeans to work when they please. Better casual than the purgatory of business casual. In ten years we'll wear whatever the hell we want, assuming no client meetings or court appearances.

    To answer the OP, the race to the bottom means that I get questions (and compliments) if I so much as wear a pocket square. But when I do wear a suit, it most certainly does not need to be charcoal suit, white shirt, red tie--I can do what I want. So you can innovate, but expect to be alone in a sea of polo shirts.
     
  7. itsstillmatt

    itsstillmatt Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I like to dress in a relatively boring manner. If given the choice to wear fun shirts or fun ties, I would likely decline. Actually, I would definitely decline.
     
  8. lawyerdad

    lawyerdad Senior member

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    I think several LA firms now tout their lack of a dress code. One firm has gone so far as to give away flip flops at on-campus interviews. Which does have a certain resonance for a law student facing a long eastern winter. That firm then proceeds to work the will to live out of its junior associates.

    Heh, clearly we're thinking of the same firm.
     
  9. odoreater

    odoreater Senior member

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    For what it's worth, I work at a firm with a business casual dress code and I don't feel that it's acceptable to wear more flamboyant suits because of the business casual policy. If you're going to wear a suit, you're wearing a conservative suit and that's that. You don't want people thinking that you're more interested in the way you're dressed and the way your pocket square coordinates with your tie than you are about the work that you're doing. I try to portray the image of someone who is focused on my work and dedicated to the success of clients. I wear suits all the time in my business casual office because suits are pretty normal in my practice group, but I don't feel that the business casual policy gives me the green light to bust out crazy flamboyant outfit. You don't want people to notice you because of what you're wearing - you want them to notice you because you do high quality (and high quantity with pretty quick turnover) work and you're available and dependable when people need you.
     
  10. Earthmover

    Earthmover Senior member

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    I know for a fact that Jones Day in NYC is still suits only except during the hotter days in summer (I do not work there). They stick out because they are one of the few firms that still have such a policy.

    As for taking more liberties, I do agree with that assessment -- you can definitely wear everything within reason, and it gives you more choice. I think it's a matter of dressing because one relishes doing so rather than just simply to be flamboyant. In any case, I find that the business casual-ness does allow me some freedom to go slightly beyond the conservative outfit, which is indeed nice.

    However, when meeting clients, it's always been a conservative suit with a muted shirt and dark brown or black shoes. That's just a matter of good judgment though, not a matter of your dress code.
     
  11. teddieriley

    teddieriley Senior member

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    Wait, you smell that?
    For what it's worth, I work at a firm with a business casual dress code and I don't feel that it's acceptable to wear more flamboyant suits because of the business casual policy. If you're going to wear a suit, you're wearing a conservative suit and that's that. You don't want people thinking that you're more interested in the way you're dressed and the way your pocket square coordinates with your tie than you are about the work that you're doing. I try to portray the image of someone who is focused on my work and dedicated to the success of clients. I wear suits all the time in my business casual office because suits are pretty normal in my practice group, but I don't feel that the business casual policy gives me the green light to bust out crazy flamboyant outfit. You don't want people to notice you because of what you're wearing - you want them to notice you because you do high quality (and high quantity with pretty quick turnover) work and you're available and dependable when people need you.

    Correct me if I'm wrong Odor, but I remember reading your exact same sentiment in a different thread - not that there's a problem with that. Remembering that you've stated this before, I recall a couple of days ago when I spent a few minutes determining how to match my pocket square with the rest of my outfit. Don't get me wrong, I didn't spend an inordinate amount of time, but since I have all this crap in my wardrobe, I need to figure out what to do with it. I think people do notice that I dress better than 95% of the rest of the firm, but not because I put that over solid work. I think it's left to be seen whether coordinating well with little touches here and there (not flamboyance), will actually send the message that you care more about your appearance than your drive and willingness to work hard. That, I find hard to believe.
     
  12. odoreater

    odoreater Senior member

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    teddie,

    Maybe we're just in a different place. I'm a first year associate trying to earn his stripes. I'm in the office 12 hours per day (heck, it's 9:00 pm and I'm still here) and the people I work for take their work very seriously and are very conservative dressers. I'm not saying it's wrong for everyone - I'm just giving my own experience. This may be based on my relative level in the firm, the firm culture and environment, and many other factors. That's why a message board isn't a good place for this kind of information and that's why jose's questions are kind of ridiculous. Nobody can give you a straight answer about whether your firm's business casual policy means you can wear more flamboyant suits. You have to step into the environment, feel things out, and make a decision for yourself. If you need validation about every little thing and can't make decisions for yourself (btw, teddie, my use of "you" is not referring to you here, just to clarify) then that's a problem.
     
  13. LabelKing

    LabelKing Senior member

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    I like to dress in a relatively boring manner. If given the choice to wear fun shirts or fun ties, I would likely decline. Actually, I would definitely decline.
    What are fun ties and fun shirts?

    I imagine it's something awful like Hawaiian shirts or Garfield ties.
     
  14. teddieriley

    teddieriley Senior member

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    teddie,

    Maybe we're just in a different place. I'm a first year associate trying to earn his stripes. I'm in the office 12 hours per day (heck, it's 9:00 pm and I'm still here) and the people I work for take their work very seriously and are very conservative dressers. I'm not saying it's wrong for everyone - I'm just giving my own experience. This may be based on my relative level in the firm, the firm culture and environment, and many other factors. That's why a message board isn't a good place for this kind of information and that's why jose's questions are kind of ridiculous. Nobody can give you a straight answer about whether your firm's business casual policy means you can wear more flamboyant suits. You have to step into the environment, feel things out, and make a decision for yourself. If you need validation about every little thing and can't make decisions for yourself (btw, teddie, my use of "you" is not referring to you here, just to clarify) then that's a problem.


    Word. We're on the same boat, just different coasts. It's 6pm and still at the office...
     
  15. LabelKing

    LabelKing Senior member

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    This is clearly a point that the British are superior in with their louder suits and shirts.
     
  16. Mentos

    Mentos Senior member

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    Manton's advice to young men in The Suit is totally in line with odoreater's sentiments. You want to stand out for your work, not for your love of paisley. That's just the breaks. If you look up any of the I-banker threads, you'll see a similar concern among the younger ranks about standing out. Simply put, you don't want to do it, esp during your first year. When I want to stand out, I wear a white linen pocket square with a sportcoat, not a Dre 3000 kit. And I work at a place which prides itself on a live-and-let-live atmosphere. In conservative professions like law and I-banking you carry a lot of bags before you get to rule the school, because there is serious money at stake. The people I know who ignore the prevailing dress norms have proven themselves, and rest assured they put the hours in. And no partner wants their guy friday to look better than him.
     
  17. dirk diggler

    dirk diggler Senior member

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    I am in-house at a large automotive company and I wear a suit everyday. Most of my peers dress "business bum". Now, the people in charge wear suits and ties. Guess who I want to emulate? Moreover, it pisses me off when my outside counsel dress like bums. I pay them enough - spend some cash on a decent suit. NO business casual shit either.
     
  18. josepidal

    josepidal Senior member

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    What are fun ties and fun shirts?

    I imagine it's something awful like Hawaiian shirts or Garfield ties.

    Funny, but I have a classmate from Hawaii who told me that "aloha" shirts are formal wear in Hawaii and only tourists wear them to the beach.

    Odoreater, this is ridiculous as usual. You see a post that, on a forum that generally looks down on business casual, talks about wearing a check shirt or a pink tie or tan shoes to work. Then you bust your nuts crying foul about "flamboyant outfits" and a new employee trying to stand out from everyone else?
     
  19. Patrick Bateman

    Patrick Bateman Senior member

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    I am in-house at a large automotive company and I wear a suit everyday. Most of my peers dress "business bum". Now, the people in charge wear suits and ties. Guess who I want to emulate? Moreover, it pisses me off when my outside counsel dress like bums. I pay them enough - spend some cash on a decent suit. NO business casual shit either.

    Your outside counsel may be thinking that if they wear too nice a suit when meeting with you, you'll ask them to knock down their bill. A choice between a __% fee reduction and leaving the Brioni at home is no choice at all. [​IMG]
     
  20. acidboy

    acidboy Senior member

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    this is really surprising specially because it involves members of the legal profession, whom i always believed should always be in proper decorum (so you wont be guarded once they stab you in the back! haha [​IMG] ) anyway, if i were in need of a alwyer, and i step in to an office where they counsel is dressed in casual wear, the first phrase that would enter my mind is "ambulance chaser".
     

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