I don't quite understand 'business casual'

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by odoreater, Mar 31, 2005.

  1. odoreater

    odoreater Senior member

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    The law firm that I'm going to be working at this summer has a 'business casual' dress code for the summer time (full business dress the rest of the year). Everyone keeps saying that 'business casual' is a lot more complicated than dressing up in a suit. My question is, can't you just wear the same dress shirts that you would wear with a suit, but without a tie and the top button undone, and a pair of regular trousers? Especially for the summer months where, it seems, a blazer is not necessary. Am I missing something?

    Last summer I worked for a federal judge that allowed us to "dress down" on Fridays. The dress down rule was that we didn't have to wear a tie. This same style seems appropriate to me for places with 'business casual' as well.
     


  2. Jill

    Jill Senior member

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    Great question. The array of "business casual" ensembles is VAST, to say the least. Some interpret it as: cotton chinos and a polo/golf shirt. Others, as you just described, view it as a suit and dress shirt (opened collar) WITHOUT the tie.

    I don't think anyone can define what is means, other than the context of the office in which you will be wearing it.
     


  3. Carlo

    Carlo Senior member

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    My .02...

    Nice trousers, same nice shirts, light sportcoat and keep a suit hanging in the closet at work in case.

    In any client facing role business casual is a nightmare because you don't know what the visitor is going to wear. Think about it - you go to your attorney's offices, you want to see people who look smarter and sharper than you are. Do they have to be? Maybe not, but they gotta look the part.
    Much as it pains me I'd say you can do without the tie, just keep one in your desk in case.

    If it helps, in a former life I was in a client facing role where we were frequently told to dress down like the clients. The joke with my coworkers was that I was born in a sportcoat because I always had one. Guess what? The lead client rep always came over and said hello to me and shook my hand first, often walking by the VP in khakis... get my point?

    You can look very sharp without being business formal - business casual, however ill defined, should never mean 'sloppy'. I've heard all the arguments about how people should respect you for you and not for your clothes... yeah, right whatever... here in the real world it does matter and you are in a job where people perceiving you as a tad sharper than the other guy will directly affect whether your kids eat burgers or steaks.
     


  4. odoreater

    odoreater Senior member

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    Man, this business casual thing has got to be killing the tie makers. [​IMG] I think I like Carlo's suggestions. For some reason, I don't like the way I look in chinos or polo shirts. I think I look a lot sharper in a pair of trousers with a nice dress shirt, and when I look sharper, I feel more comfortable and confident. Also, the firm told us that we have to keep a full suit ready in our office for client meetings and court visits. I guess the problem is that a lot of people want to see how far in the "casual" direction of "business casual" they can take it without showing up to work in a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt.
     


  5. newyorker

    newyorker Senior member

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    I wear business casual to the office everyday. (I would actually prefer to wear suit and tie.)

    For me this usually means acotton shirt with wool trousers. For my shirt and trousers, I emphasize conservative patterns, high quality fabrics and perfect fit (MTM). My shirts are usually white/blue, and I have 6 pairs of wool pants: 2 plain navy, 2 plain grey, 1 navy pinstripe, 1 navy pinstripe.

    I try to be a bit interesting with my belts. One is a black Zegna with a nice rectangular buckle, the other is a crocodile-embossed auburn Banana Republic that I love to this day.

    Simiilarly, I try to be a bit interesting with my shoes. I have only two pairs. One is a black captoe with medallion (very similar to the current Ferragamo Tramezza model) and the other is an auburn Ferragamo loafter (Cortes model).

    This week I've been wearing my light beige DKNY trench coat. Very nicely cut and terrific shade of beige.

    The message that I am trying to convey through my business wardrobe is understatement and "it's all in the details".
     


  6. marc237

    marc237 Senior member

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    In the for what it is worth category:

    I am an attorney and I practice in NYC. I have numerous occaisions to collaborate with many of New York's biggest firms. The business casual craze is not well-received by all partners. While many of the firm's official policy may tilt toward the more casual side (atleast in the summer), many partners (and not just the older ones) secretly (and not always so secretly) believe business casual to be an abomination. Moreover, there is a slow trend away from business casual as the dot.com business has waned. This does not make life easier.

    I would strongly recommend NOT going the khakis and polo shirt route. I would also not recommend going the full suit route as that might make it seem you are trying too hard. I think you would be very safe with dress trousers, a very nice shirt (one button open at most), a sports coat or blazer, and good quality shoes well-maintained. I strongly endorse keeping a tie at hand. In other words, you cannot go wrong following Chuck and Jill's advice.

    I would also listen to Newyorker. No matter what you wear, the look will be enhanced and you will stand-out (in a positive way) if the clothing is fitted well and well maintained (clean shoes, no stains, ironed, etc.). I know this will seem shallow, but if you are using the summer associate gig to get a slot as an associate f/t, subtle things such as appearance will make a difference. A more professionally dressed younger person will project more gravitas and more maturity.

    Good luck.
     


  7. JBZ

    JBZ Senior member

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    I don't have much to add to the above, but I would say that you don't want to dress worse than your colleagues, but you also don't want to dress (a lot) better. If everyone else is in a nice sports shirt and trousers, and you show up in a suit without a tie, you may get labeled as "odd" or (worse) a "suck up" by your peers (not fair, but that's the way it is). Remember that 99% of the world does not care about, or have a knowledge of, clothing in the way those that frequent this forum do. I caught some good natured flak the other day for wearing a mint green sports shirt by RLPL (one person even asked me whether I bought the shirt at JC Penny [​IMG]). I guess anything other than a blue shirt doesn't compute with most people. In my mind fashion, especially casual fashion, should be about finding your own personal style and expressing it. However, this will most likely be tempered by (among other things) the type of job you have. While I don't advocate becoming a corporate drone, I think the best thing you can do in a large NYC law firm is to blend, particularly as a summer or junior associate. Just my .02 cents. Jeff
     


  8. The_Foxx

    The_Foxx Senior member

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    Me neither-- it SUCKS. Not only does biz casual require you to purchase more clothing (more shirts/ polos/ chinos, rubber-soled shoes, and whatnot) but it's harder to coordinate an outfit (what ever happened to 'garanimals'....?)

    Me, I'll take a sportcoat and trousers with-or-without tie, or a suit and tie anyday.
     


  9. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    "Business casual" is a conspiracy of Satan to soften up the human race for the coming invasion of the earth by underworld demons. That may overstate the case a bit; I'm not sure. In any case, I can't prove that the above is true, but I feel it in my bones.
     


  10. RJman

    RJman Posse Member Dubiously Honored

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    While I hate it, I respect that my colleagues (bless their hearts) would in the main feel a lot less comfortable in more formal business clothing. However, I get the feeling that in DC (where I work as a bloodsucking parasite/attorney) "business slovenly" entails an inverted snobbery where those of us who do care about how we're dressed, even in business casual, are looked down on as frivolous. That's not at all the feeling I've got in New York.
     


  11. misterbowles

    misterbowles Senior member

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    LOL. You're the man, Manton.
     


  12. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    I believe the movie is coming out soon.
     


  13. RJman

    RJman Posse Member Dubiously Honored

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    "Business casual" is a conspiracy of Satan to soften up the human race for the coming invasion of the earth by underworld demons. Â That may overstate the case a bit; I'm not sure. Â In any case, I can't prove that the above is true, but I feel it in my bones.
    I believe the movie is coming out soon.
    Yes, The Omega Khakis. Starring Kirk Cameron, Michael York and Caspar van Dien.
     


  14. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    That can't be right, or at least not exhaustive. The right cast must include Linda Blair and Max von Sydow.
     


  15. Kaga

    Kaga Senior member

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    When Fuji TV tried to introduce "Kitchen-Casual" I quit.

    Kaga.
     


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