FashionBeans: Men's Fashion & Men's Style Guide
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  1. #1

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    Did I miss the memo?

    I've recently been asked to change career paths by my boss. We're a small manufacturing company, and we were deep in the red in July. The owner, who mostly works on the shop floor, cleaned house and pulled me out of the shop and into the office. I'm a welder/fabricator by trade.

    We've managed to get back into the black for the year, taking about three months to undo six months of damage.

    I've taken my new position seriously, and have been building a wardrobe that would be best described as business casual. Quality trousers and long sleeve collared shirts in several colors, mainly. No ties, no jackets. I've also been slowly upgrading my accessories. Going from a sport style watch to a more elegant one and ditching the wide, faded work belt for a nice dress one, things like that.

    Anyway, I pretty much handle the office. I deal with customers, place orders, and do the engineering. Due to this last bit, I was asked to attend the roll-out for the latest version of our drafting software, Solidworks. I called and asked, and was told that the dress code was "business casual". Great! No last minute suit shopping for me!

    I did realize that, as with most such events, there was a very good chance that the room would be ice cold. So, I needed a jacket. I purchased a decent enough herringbone grey sport coat for the event. After trying several different shirts, I realized that basic white worked best with the jacket. And it also needed a pocket square. Ok, I can do that.

    The day of the event I wore charcoal trousers, white oxford shirt, the herringbone jacket, slim belt, and the only thing in my wardrobe in real dire need of an upgrade, my "dress" shoes, which are really cheap shoes designed for waiters. And yes, my socks matched my shoes, and my shoes, my belt. I figured I'd be about middle of the road, dress wise.

    I was very, very wrong.

    Khakis and polos. It was a sea of khakis, with some jeans thrown in for good measure. And there were a handful of actual button down shirts, in various loud patterns, as well as several people sporting long sleeved t-shirts. Shoes ranged from Nike to Converse. There was only one other person with a jacket. A rather stunning woman in a tan pantsuit.

    When did business casual become casual? Did I over think the whole thing? I admit I'm very new to all this, as my trade typically required me to wear sturdy boots, heavy jeans and a t-shirt, along with a jacket in the most charming shade of puke green. Now that I've moved into a more "professional" role, I find myself a bit lost.

    On the plus side, I was right about the room temp. I was cold in three layers, jacket, shirt, undershirt. The polo wearing masses must have froze.

  2. #2
    MarcLager's Avatar

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    Khakis and polos... That's casual. Not casual casual, but definitely casual. Sadly, polos seem to have reached the same level of smartness as a button down shirt in a lot of offices. And worse than that, people don't seem to realise polos need ironing too. Too often will people wear them, with the color cluelessly poiting in every direction. Crumpled up like they've slept in the poor thing. It's very male-middle age-middle management, I'm affraid. The wife does the shopping, but the man has to at least dress himself, and this is what we get.

    Personally, I think you were in the right, and - from the sound of it - most of the others were in the wrong. You might have been in the upper spectrum of what I see as business casual. From the sound of it, you looked quite sharp!

  3. #3

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    Thanks for the compliment. I was rather embarrassed at the time. I'm still not quite settled in with my new position, and am trying to find a level of formality that works for the job. Suits would be way overboard, but jeans and t-shirts don't really cut it either. I felt mortified when the owner of one of our vendors stopped in wearing a suit and tie, and I was dressed in jeans and a flannel. By the same token, the owner of one of our other vendors stopped in wearing jeans and a polo. So I have no real steady baseline to dress to. I'm just trying to find my way.

  4. #4
    Ivan Condor Aasllani's Avatar

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    I think that dress codes are much less important nowadays for 99% of workplaces

    However, if in doubt, dress smarter. There is no negative aspect to being better dressed than your peers tbh

  5. #5
    MarcLager's Avatar

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    @Noob: I think the problem is you're tackling two insecurities at the same time. You've not yet found your business roll, and you've not yet found the way you feel you should dress for it.

    My regular advise is to go through a bunch of lookbooks and street style sites, find out what you like, and start homing in on what you're comfortable with wearing. Find a level you are comfortable with, and never mind what the others wear. When you feel you look your best, you'll feel more comfortable. I'm not saying you should wear sweats and crocs to a business meeting, but if you feel at your best in well fitted jeans, flannel shirt and a pair of leather boots, wear it!

  6. #6

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    @MarcLager: I don't view it as insecurity, not exactly. More like an uncertainty, if that makes any sense. I have a pretty good idea what my style is for the office, which is simple trouser/shirt combos with good shoes(just got a pair of Johnston and Murphy oxfords) and a nice watch. I just don't know what each event calls for, as I've never been to such things before.

    For example, on Wendsday I'm going out to lunch with a vendor. I'm guessing that my regular office wear will work for that, but I don't actually KNOW, thus the uncertainty.

  7. #7
    MarcLager's Avatar

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    I see your point. You should follow Pin Money's advice, when in doubt, go for smarter. The worst thing that can happen is that people think you're a sharp dresser!

  8. #8

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    Yes, dress smarter when it doubt.

    A historical look at our current predicament helps (from Suits to Zuckerberg's hoodie and tee shirt)

    DRESSED FOR SUCCESS | THE REPORT | The Journal*|*MR PORTER

  9. #9
    MarcLager's Avatar

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    Hmmm, interesting read there, CharlesQ. They do actually mention chinos and polos as "business casual", though directly after "hideous".

  10. #10

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    The problem is that 'business casual' tends to be one of those dress codes that can cause as much confusion as help. Depending on the circumstances, it can cover anything from one step down from a suit to one step up from jeans. Relaxed but smart office wear is covered but so might be the business weekend away. It sounds to me like you were both smartly and appropriately dressed, however.

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