Casual Dress Forever? Not so fast…

  • Feb 21, 2006

The dot.com era brought with it a lot of change, including over-priced stocks, get-rich-quick schemes and the end of the corporate tie culture. Remember those first images out of Silicon Valley college-students-turned-millionaires wearing shorts and flip-flops to work? Because of them, big business felt pressure to change its dress code to reflect a new generation of business people. But it took some time to settle on what was appropriate. Finally, after several years of confusion, a look dominated by Docker-style pants and golf shirts emerged. And, it looked like it would rule forever but don't untuck that shirt just yet. A recent study by the Society for Human Resources Management says that only 55% of companies allow casual dress, down from 60% in 2001. And a recent BizRate Research study claimed only 26% of businesses with office environments allow casual attire. Here's a brief primer on the latest styles seen in today's businesses.

Baseline Casual

This is a term that is used for some of the most casually-dressed companies. It is also appropriate for casual days in businesses that require a stricter dress code the majority of the time. Apparel choices for men include denim, cotton, or corduroy pants paired with casual sweaters or button-down plaid shirts, and accompanied with casual leather shoes. Apparel choices for women include denim, cotton, or corduroy pants or skirts paired with knit shirts or cotton blouses, accompanied by open or closed toe shoes.

Mainstream Casual

This is a term that is considered to be the “standard business-casual” attire. You'll find that most department stores and customer-focused places of business will make this their dress code. Appropriate styles for men include high quality khakis or casual dress slacks paired with solid or subtly patterned cotton shirts, polos, or pullover sweaters, and accompanied with dress shoes. Appropriate styles for women include wool blend or manufactured fabric skirts or slacks paired with blouses, dressy tops, or dressy sweaters, and accompanied by closed toe shoes.

Executive Casual (OK. . . most won't call this casual)

This term is used for some of the more professional offices. This style will typically be worn by business owners, senior management, lawyers, and politicians. Typical attire for men includes high-quality dress pants or lightweight wool slacks paired with long-sleeve dress shirts, fine-gauge sweaters or coordinated sports coats, and accompanied with complimenting dress shoes. Typical attire for women includes high-quality suits paired with silk or cotton blouses, fine-gauge sweaters, and accompanied with low-heeled closed toe shoes and classy accessories.

Casual clothes can be in fashion