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Advantage of business casual: More options for suits?

josepidal

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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?
 

Patrick Bateman

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Originally Posted by josepidal
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.

Originally Posted by josepidal
Certainly, it's the norm in the top firms located midtown.

Mainly true, Wachtell being a notable exception.
 

lawyerdad

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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.
 

teddieriley

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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.
 

seoulfully

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Originally Posted by josepidal
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.
 

Mentos

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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.
 

itsstillmatt

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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.
 

lawyerdad

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Originally Posted by Mentos
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.
 

odoreater

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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.
 

Earthmover

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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.
 

teddieriley

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Originally Posted by odoreater
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.
 

odoreater

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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.
 

LabelKing

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Originally Posted by iammatt
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.
 

teddieriley

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Originally Posted by odoreater
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...
 

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