Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Business Casual

So what does "business casual" mean to you?

According to Mark Evan Blackman, Chairman of the Fashion Institute of Technology Menswear Department, the phase "business casual" originated in the 1990s.

Despite being around for decades, the term still exists in our vocabulary and Western cultural sphere as an enigma.

Everyone has their own personal interpretation of "business casual". Yet companies that have a business casual dress code are reluctant to put a definition down in stone.

Why is that? Could it be that they don't want to be perceived as having a strict dress code or would like to be thought of as a cool place to work? What is the big fear over definitions?  

One thing is for sure, business casual can mean different things to different employers. 

Take Steve Jobs for example, he was well known for his trademark jeans and black turtleneck look. That wouldn't fly in some places of employment even if they consider themselves as a business casual work environment. As a matter of fact Steve Jobs' signature business casual look did not appear in the top google search images for business casual.  

I find that no matter where I have worked the one thing that has been consistent is that the definition of business casual is interpreted by the person in charge and that always changes. 

Could that be it? Change.  

Fashion styles are notorious for change, is this constant need for change what is hindering a true and tested definition of business casual? What do you think?  

All of these images were found on websites where they were described as "business casual" via google searches. Would you consider any of these fashions as "business casual"?   Why or why not?

Do you use the phrase "business casual" in your part of the world? Or is this phrase more common in North America where it originated?

How would you like to have business casual interpreted? I would love to hear your take on this allusive phrase.   


  1. I work in a law firm. We describe it as what you would wear to meet a client on the weekend. For guys that usually means chinos and a collared shirt (usually buttoned, but sometimes a polo). Girls it can mean pretty much anything, as not as it's too tight, short etc. We generally say if it's something you would ever wear as part of an outfit to go to a nightclub, it's not appropriate. Oh, and we specifically ban jeans.

  2. I am an American living in London. I used to head a department of 19 before becoming a stay at home mom. I was gobsmacked by the outfits some of the younger women wore in the summer time. This was a conservative, global corporation and women in their early 20s came in with belly buttons showing, tattoos showing, sandals with green toenail polish, bra straps on display, etc. I was told to pass no comments because it would be unfair to make them feel discriminated against and could cause an employment law issue.
    But, of course, the business did discriminate against these naive young women based on the way they were presenting themselves. It was almost impossible to put them up for promotion, special training and development, etc. Other managers just would not take them seriously. It was easier with the young men, who all tend to dress in trousers, button down shirts and closed in shoes. They were the ones who got all the opportunities. I think it was a real disservice not to gently help the women understand the corporate culture and how their fashion choices were being perceived by the people with the power to advance their careers.
    Whew! Long answer, sorry.
    I just think it is best to err on the side of caution at work unless your business is artsy and creative.

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