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Advice on business casual attire and how the typical “rules” apply: pictures and examples included.

Drez

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It appears that the SF crowd holds certain "rules" of dress code sacrosanct, however, I’ve also noticed that some of these "rules" are predicated on tradition and assumption. In this case, the assumption classic menswear is synonymous with a formal setting, particularly one that would require a jacket.

Historically this would have been true of most, if not all men, working white collar jobs and even many blue collar jobs. However, recent history has resulted in the emergence of more relaxed professional attire and a huge segment of the male population is expected to observe "business casual” dress. Perhaps many here would sneer at the idea of smart casual dress or at very least be resistant to it. I'm not here to promote it, rather address its existence and discuss how this changes some of the "rules". Just as it would improper to wear overly casual attire in the court room, it would also be improper, or at least aberrant, to wear overly formal attire in many work settings. For prospective, I work in a clinical healthcare setting and a suit would be considered overkill, as much of an outlier as wearing jeans.

As such I'm seeking guidance on how some of the typical SF rules and opinions regarding dress are reshaped for those of us in business casual settings.

I would define business casual at slacks and a tucked in collared shirt. As such the typical for me is trousers (chino's if I'm feeling casual) and a button up dress shirt (perhaps a Polo if I'm feeling more casual.) Almost never a tie as I'm almost never wearing a jacket at work. Occasionally if I'm feeling like dressing it up a little I'll wear a sports coat. Having explained all that, I'd like to address some of these rules I specifically calling into question.

Case example 1: Black Pants

As I understand it, SF typically frowns upon black pants (unless formal attire i.e. Tux, funeral etc.) and to a lesser degree blue pants (other than paired with a blue suit). I understand this is for a few reasons including historical context (black being reserved for very formal evening attire and/or serving staff, due to the risk of appearing like one is wearing suit orphans and finally a risk with dark bottoms being more difficult match with light jackets in terms of contrast and where attention is being drawn. Can I safely assume this rule does not really apply to business casual attire, at least without a jacket? Life will be boring if were restricted to grey and khakis but moreover issues with matching are more simple with jacket and tie out of play, the suit orphan concern is moot as they are always singles and can’t look anything but. Would it be agreed the following are acceptable black and blue bottoms?








Case example 2: Dark Shirts

It seems SF frowns upon dark shirts, especially black. I suspect the rational for this again would have to do with contrast, in that with a suit jacket/pants to pull off a dark shirt one would require a suitably light suit to bring enough contrast. Even then some peoples skin tone might not even allow them to pull that off well. While I admit dark shirts are not my favorite per se, they offer nice contrast with light pants (particularly light grey and khakis. Given the primary concern relates to wearing a jacket, can I assume pulling this off for business casual is not nearly as difficult and so not really something to be concerned with? The above two pictures may borderline qualify, below is a better example.




Case Example 3: Black with beige, tan or cream.

I typically agree that brown looks better for whatever reason, probably because they are earth tones. But is there anything wrong as long as one is creating good contrast and matching all accents correctly. The above picture was set up to illustrate.

Case Example 4: Mixing levels of formality.

It seems that some SFers frown on even a suit with no tie as an offence in this realm so I'm sure there will be opinions on the sport coat and dark jeans offence. I can see this argument if in an attempt to sneak jeans into formal settings, but what if the function is to use the sports coat and jeans to offset one another (i.e. jeans dress down the coat, coat dresses up the jeans) for a net result that is business casual, is that fair or still foul play?
 

GBR

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There are no such things as "rules" in respect of dress. You should wear that in which you feel comfortable and fits the engagement at hand.
 

Drez

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There are no such things as "rules" in respect of dress. You should wear that in which you feel comfortable and fits the engagement at hand.

Naturally I agree in that the entire post is essentially an argument that I don't believe these "rules" are hard set. If it facilitates discussion you can imagine:

Find and replace "rules" with opinions.

Its fine and good to say style should purely be an expression of personal taste and setting but if that were true there boards would be mostly devoid of conversation. We use each other as sounding boards, to generate new ideas, confirm suspicions, et cetera.

So I reaffirm, do you feel these rules and/or opinions are valid? How do you approach dressing business casual?
 

BrooksLauren77

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Can't get behind dark dress shirts, I find them near useless and make me think of 1990s shirt monstrosities. I also find black pants-cotton at least-age poorly.

Business casual is a pretty broad term these days. If I were in a job with such a dress code, I would wear dress shirts and slacks with sleek ankle boots, such as chelseas and chukkas; perhaps a sport coat. Really, I think that well-fitting clothes and decent footwear are all one needs to look good in an office setting.

With regards to grey and khaki trousers, I think forest green and darker browns or a similar dark shade are fairly versatile. Don't forget the groupthink rampant on the forum.

When it comes to mixing formality levels, I think sport coats in fabrics such as linen; tweed or corduroy with dark jeans and an ocbd or a shirt like that is a great look.
 
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