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Thread: Has casual office dress gone too far?

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    Elite Member celeb_2006's Avatar
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    Default Has casual office dress gone too far?

    Has casual office dress gone too far?

    Remember the late 1990s and early 2000s, when "casual Friday" was a naughty thrill?

    How innocent we were. In the past decade, those seemingly harmless polo shirts and khakis have spawned a five-day sartorial office free-for-all that's led to low-cut jeans and "tramp stamp" tattoos.

    According to a 2007 Gallup poll, the most recent data available, 43 percent of workers said they regularly wore casual business attire at the office, compared with 32 percent in 2002. Even scarier, the lax precedent has allowed them to make their own decisions about what's acceptable or, worse, cool.

    Managers are striking back. A survey released in June by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 34 percent of bosses officially permitted casual dress among employees every day, a dramatic drop from 53 percent in 2002.

    Some executives are hiring image consultants and fashion experts to crack down on everything from muumuus to "Little House On the Prairie"-style pioneer dresses.

    "American society has become so ridiculously casual," said Clinton Kelly, co-host of the Learning Channel's "What Not to Wear" series. The problem, he suggests, may be the lack of office-fashion role models.

    "Outrageous people are getting the most attention now," he said. "Kids coming out of college are watching Lady Gaga on YouTube. They don't understand that Lady Gaga is selling albums, and they're in accounting. A meat dress just doesn't fly at the office."

    Popularized in Silicon Valley, the casual office look has sometimes been the result of noble intentions.

    "At Google, we know that being successful has little to do with what an employee is wearing," said Jordan Newman, a spokesman for the Mountain View company. "We believe one can be serious and productive without a suit."

    That may be the case for engineers dealing with complicated algorithms. However, professional image coach Lizandra Vega remembers meeting a male worker at the New York staffing firm where she's a managing partner. He arrived for a meeting in thin white cotton slacks - and no underwear. "He was hanging loose," she said.

    Even upper management isn't immune to terrible dress habits. Diane Gottsman, owner of the Protocol School of Texas, recalls teaching a business fashion workshop in Houston last year during which she met an executive "wearing a straw paperboy hat pulled sideways," she said.

    "He had on suspenders and black-and-white spectator shoes. He asked, 'What do you think of my look?' " Gottsman tried to be diplomatic, suggesting he take off his hat indoors. "He couldn't do that," she said. "The hat helped him with his 'swagga.' "

    While workers may not like rules, some need them. A 2002 survey by the recently shuttered department-store chain Mervyns, which was based in Hayward, revealed that 90 percent of office workers didn't know the difference between formal business attire, business casual and just plain casual.

    Companies such as General Electric Co. force employees to make these distinctions every day by asking that they "use good, professional judgment," as GE puts it.

    Ginger Burr, president of Total Image Consultants in Lynn, Mass., recalls a fashion workshop she conducted with a national bank.

    "We were talking about sandals," she said. "There seemed to be a consensus that sandals shouldn't be worn. Then this beautifully dressed female executive walked in wearing sandals, and said, 'We should be able to wear nice sandals.' When you get into personal taste, that's where it becomes tricky."

    Sandy Dumont, an image consultant from Norfolk, Va., says the biggest challenge in overhauling an office worker's wardrobe is avoiding hurt feelings. Her suggestion: Hire a professional.

    She was brought in to help a female employee at Rolex Group who was offending an executive with her "klutzy" footwear - which turned out to be orthopedic shoes. "She had a slightly deformed foot," Dumont said. Fearing that a confrontation would offend the woman, Dumont led her on a guided shoe-shopping spree on the Geneva company's dime.

    Those accustomed to a personal business style aren't taking these changes lightly.

    "The uniformity of dress serves the current American business model by pressing individuals into the service of the corporate person," said Jack Tuckner, a New York employment attorney who briefly represented Debrahlee Lorenzana, a Citigroup Inc. employee fired earlier this year for wearing provocative clothing.

    "It's a largely paramilitary model that eschews independent thinkers," he says.

    In 2008, Tuckner was sued by a former colleague for allegedly wearing a "bondage collar" at the office.

    Tuckner denies the allegations. "As a fastidious dresser myself," he says, "I'd be excessively worried about unsightly neckline bulges caused by the lock."

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    Elite Member BITTER's Avatar
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    When I started my job last year, every Friday was jeans day. But then some of the enlisted folks started wearing ripped jeans, manpris and flip-flops and the commander put an end to it - including for the civilians like myself. I was so pissed 'cause now I have to press pants on Thursday nights now; before I could just grab a pair of jeans and be done with it.


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    Elite Member KrisNine's Avatar
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    I'm all for casual days...heck, I'm for always being casual at the office. Personally, it takes me less time to get ready when I'm dressing casual. That being said, casual in the workplace has gone way too far. It's casual, not tired old mess. We had people coming in that had no sense of what to wear...at all. Dirty white flip flops, with dirty feet, messy hair pulled up in a scrunchie, capri-ish, nylon/rayon pants that go up your ass, low cut tops with floppy boobs, too tight jeans with ass crack showing, etc. It's like they just rolled out of bed and wore what they had on at the club last night.

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    I guess it depends on your job. You almost expect IT backroom geeks to dress like slobs but if your job involves any kind of direct contact with clients then first impressions still count IMO. If I was giving my business to someone then I'd probably pick the guy in the suit who obviously made an effort to look (and smell!) nice.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BITTER View Post
    When I started my job last year, every Friday was jeans day. But then some of the enlisted folks started wearing ripped jeans, manpris and flip-flops and the commander put an end to it - including for the civilians like myself. I was so pissed 'cause now I have to press pants on Thursday nights now; before I could just grab a pair of jeans and be done with it.
    Oh that's just an abomination!!
    I Bleed Purple-Baltimore and Proud!

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    Quote Originally Posted by *DIVA! View Post
    Oh that's just an abomination!!
    LOL! Especially when said wearer has legs like baseball bats!


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    I think some people confuse casual dress for work as an invitation to wear work-out clothes.
    I didn't start out to collect diamonds, but somehow they just kept piling up.-Mae West

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    It just pisses me off that a couple of people will ruin it for everyone else.


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    I hate to say it but I agree Americans have become ridiculously casual.

    Back in the stone age, when I started working, we spent a fortune on "work clothes" because only suits, dresses or very tailored pants were allowed in the office. Pantyhose and close-toed shoes were a must too!

    Then they started this "business casual" Friday crap which I never did figure out. Guys could wear polo shirts, dockers and top-siders, but what the hell were the women supposed to wear?

    Next thing you know it's jeans casual and people aren't even making the slightest effort anymore. I suppose next they'll just wear their pajamas to work, like they do when shopping at the wal-mart.

    /rant
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    Elite Member BITTER's Avatar
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    I'm very casual - t-shirts, jeans, thermal tops and sweat shirts is pretty much my modus operandi from a fashion POV. But of course there has to be standards at work.


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    I'll never forget walking through the streets of downtown Sydney Australia at lunchtime back in 2001. Everyone was really dressed up in dark or gray suits.

    Back in America, everyone I was working with were wearing khaki pants and polo shirts. And those were mid-level executives and engineers who visited customer sites.

    However, government contractors still wore dress shirts and ties, and only went casual on Fridays. Contractors that worked with the military did not have casual Fridays at all.

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    Elite Member BITTER's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MohandasKGanja View Post
    I'll never forget walking through the streets of downtown Sydney Australia at lunchtime back in 2001. Everyone was really dressed up in dark or gray suits.

    Back in America, everyone I was working with were wearing khaki pants and polo shirts. And those were mid-level executives and engineers who visited customer sites.

    However, government contractors still wore dress shirts and ties, and only went casual on Fridays. Contractors that worked with the military did not have casual Fridays at all.
    I know in DC the federal employees tend to dress up a bit more than in other cities. I like my polo shirts and khakis.


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    We do casual (jeans) day on Fridays, because none of the financial advisors in the office book clients on Fridays. If one happens to pop in, they get to see us in jeans. Some of the advisors wear shorts/capris/college sportswear on Fridays too. However, we have a really small office so there isn't much that isn't appropriate, and nobody takes anything to extremes. When I was still at Ford, we had casual Fridays too, but it was BUSINESS casual there, not jeans/spandex/tank tops etc. (and there was a written policy that had been distributed indicating what was considered inappropriate).
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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Whatever, i wear dress pants, dress shirts and tie all week.. casual friday is nice jeans, nice sneakers, and a nice t-shirt. I don't look sloppy.
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BITTER View Post
    I know in DC the federal employees tend to dress up a bit more than in other cities. I like my polo shirts and khakis.
    It also depends on the agency. At NASA, there are a lot of quirky types who dress up almost like farmers.

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