What the Hell is Business Casual
When I started my menswear journey in the spring of 2008, I was put through a crash course of appropriate/inappropriate rules and guidelines to follow while dressing men, most of them revolving around office appropriate attire.
Five years later, a lot of these rules still apply to dressing, BUT I have one question! What the hell is business casual? The term has been thrown around far too much over the last decade and has evolved into a look that includes open collar dress shirts with missing stays and curling collar tips, loose v-neck sweaters layered with a white tee and dress pants, old suit jackets worn with bad denim and an untucked Tommy Bahama shirt, short sleeved anything, and polos worn with ragged cotton khakis, and the list goes on. See the bad and good examples below.
Sorry for my tirade - this is not an article titled “What the hell went wrong with business casual.” I’m just trying to establish what my opinion on business casual is, how it’s evolved over the past 15 years, and what we should consider appropriate for the modern workplace.
The dot com era ushered an extremely casual look into the corporate world during the early 90’s with Silicone Valley execs strolling into the office wearing cotton trousers and loose polo shirts. The look took the continent by storm, and it lasted for more than a decade. People everywhere were waiting eagerly for Friday to roll around so they could wear their comfortable stone washed jeans and turtlenecks to work.
Things began to change though. Pre dot com, men’s professional attire was consistent across the board – dark suit and tie, or possibly a navy jacket and tan slack. Fast forward through the dot com era to 2007/2008 and there was no longer an across the board standard of short sleeved knits or dark suits and ties. Menswear was undergoing a bit of a renaissance and “business casual” was suddenly all over the map!
That’s where we’re at now. Guys are no longer dressing UP for a job, but more so dressing FOR the job. Every profession seems to have their own interpretation of what’s appropriate. Bankers, programmers, doctors, marketing execs, etc. all have a different workplace dress code, all for which the bar is slowly being raised year after year. This has the potential to make things complicated for men, BUT it also creates a huge benefit! This shift in wardrobe flexibility gives guys the opportunity to purchase items that cross over between work and leisure. As far as I see it, the only hurdle to overcome is the education process - how to interpret the new rules tastefully, in a professional, crisp manner and well executed manner – which I think the modern man has the ability to do.