FASHION - Note to self... don't wear a hoodie to work, even if its "Casual Fridays".
The term "Business Casual" can be rather confusing... you can get away with small things. Little bits of casualness. Not too much however. No bikinis for obvious reasons.
Lets say you have a good understanding of your company's policy allowing business casual attire.
And then one day you get pulled her aside by one of the IT staff who then tells you it is inappropriate to wear Bermuda shorts, sleeveless tops and capris. Seriously, the nerd is telling the fashionista what she can and cannot wear... Has the world gone completely upside down???
Each generation seems to have a different idea of what is acceptable in the workplace... and in such a situation you can't help but be offended. Seriously. Capris! Get a life loser!
On one occasion I was actually not allowed to attend a meeting because my attire was deemed 'inappropriate.' People my age are taught to express themselves... but then when we enter the workforce we're supposed to shut up and do what we're told. We're told to follow our own initiative and think for ourselves, and then told to suddenly become brainwashed zombies... maybe our schooling system should be training sheep instead?
I mean let's say we go to a Toronto accountants school and we're taught to keep track of numbers on computers... sounds pretty dull right? So dull they could probably make a computer program that could track numbers and do accounting for us, erasing the need for accountants in the first place.
In which case we shouldn't need to dress like boring accountants, right? If we replace all the boring jobs with computer programs the only jobs left should be creative jobs, which implies workers should be encouraged to be more imaginative in terms of their artistic freedom.
Next: Are flip-flops appropriate business casual attire?
How about Crocs? (I'd argue Crocs are a fashion don't wherever you are!) They belong at home in your backyard, maybe the beach (if you don't care who sees them), or maybe in greenhouses or sunrooms. Any place you would normally wear sandals, but not necessarily want to be seen in them.
Anywho back to the office...
Business casual has become a staple of the office, but some idiotic companies are trying to enforce rules that set at least a minimum standard of dress (and this minimum is sometimes raised to gestapo like levels). These companies are increasingly enforcing more formal attire, despite calling it "business casual". Its become an oxymoron (smart idiot). Especially at meetings or on days when clients may visit the office, it reaches a point where you wonder what exactly is acceptable in terms of clothing (when in doubt, ask the HR rep, that way if someone asks or says your clothes are inappropriate you can pass the buck to the HR rep who said it was okay).
As summer heats up and fashion trends become even more laid back, employers are wrestling with how to adopt dress-code policies that encourage both productivity and professionalism... and I'd argue that if they really want to enforce gestapo black suits in the height of summer they had better have a good air conditioner in the building. Because if the AC is shoddy, don't expect people to wear thick clothing...
Business casual is a largely popularized topic in the dot-com crazed Silicon Valley. The argument has permeated the workplace, with 60% of employers allowing a dress-down day at least once a week, according to a 2006 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.
And a backlash is brewing: The number of employers allowing casual dress days every day has plunged from 53% in 2002 to a new low of 38%. Eventually this has to reach a tipping point where people rebel against these often idiotic rules.
And what is even sillier is what is acceptable for "blue collar jobs". You know, work men. Construction workers, factory workers, and so forth. The type of people who fix Ottawa roofing, build decks, dig holes to put in pools, you get the idea. What is acceptable there is a t-shirt and blue jeans. Show up in something different and you will be open to ridicule by the manly men.
So this idea of appropriate work attire isn't limited to the office.
The reason for the return to more dressed-up attire is, in part, is because of the confusion generated by business casual standards. Companies will often lean towards the more gestapo-esque clothing rules when in doubt and then it just becomes a slippery slope.
Lets say for example that flip-flops aren't allowed. What about tennis shoes, jeans and shorts? Sleeveless dresses? T-shirts? Younger employees are more likely to push the envelope, which annoys more veteran workers who have long worked in offices where ties and shirts were expected no matter the day of the week. Such people resent younger workers breaking the rules they've become used to over decades being broken. Meanwhile employers resent becoming fashion police and having to solve disputes between generation gaps (and often managers are older themselves and thus err on the side of the older workers).
Are Casual Fridays getting out of hand?
"It started with casual Fridays and got out of hand," says June Webb, a fashion consultant in Alexandria, Virginia. "Now companies are starting to clamp down a little bit. They've found women have a tendency to show off too much skin, and men tend to show up in clothes that are wrinkled and not ironed."
Seriously. They want us to iron our clothes for "casual fridays"? I have never in my life ironed a pair of jeans.
Despite the push towards gestapo fashion, employer policies still run the gamut and often don't bother to write any official rules down, preferring to handle things on a case by case basis. I'd argue this is because it makes it easier for them to fire people on short notice for "inappropriate attire". An useful tool for bosses who want to fire people and are just waiting for an excuse. Show up wearing capris, get fired.
According to marketing firm McGrath/Power in Santa Clara, California they used to allow shorts, T-shirts and baseball caps on Casual Fridays. But now they require a more businesslike attire, with business casual including 'slacks and skirts'. Like its a school uniform at a prep school.
At McGrath/Power there have been situations where employees were asked to take off a baseball cap, leave on a sweater or not wear something again. With the third warning, employees are sent home to change.
"The pendulum has swung," says McGrath/Power CEO Jonathan Bloom. "We went through a too-casual period. … In the aftermath of the dot-com bubble, we tightened things up a little. When we were very casual, the quality of the work wasn't as good."
Bullshit. Nothing to do with the quality of the work. The economy prior to the dot com bubble bursting was skyrocketing. Unemployment was down. Job satisfaction was up. Companies were in the black (the red is the bad one, because that implies you are bleeding money).
Meanwhile in Auburn, New York, the city manager made headlines in April when he banned most city employees from wearing jeans on Fridays, a day that had long been reserved for casual attire. His office did not return calls seeking comment.
In contrast IBM has thrown out dress codes altogether. Once known as a traditional company of button-down shirts, cuff links and pinstriped suits, today it's an anything-goes approach. People just use common sense.
"As society has changed, so has IBM," says Donna Riley, the human resources vice president at IBM. "We do have a Birkenstock crowd in some of our locations. Many years ago, it was a suit and tie for men and skirt, dress and stockings for women. [Today's policy] says we trust our employees to use good judgment."
General Motors, where suits were once expected, now is also much more casual. Perhaps this is because the managers want to feel more relaxed around their blue collar employees. Not everyone gets away with this however. Employees representing GM to customers, suppliers and visitors are expected to dress consistently with the norms and expectations of the meeting or event, officials say. Business casual does not include athletic shoes, jeans, shorts, tank tops or sweatshirts.
Procter & Gamble also allows employees to dress more casually than in previous generations. Ford Motor Company has a casual business dress code, which is more laid back than 15 or 20 years ago.
"We ask them to use good judgment," says Marcey Evans, a Ford spokeswoman.