• Kevin Kenealy

The Business Casual Evolution



Business Casual is an album by an Omaha, Nebraska, band Beep Beep they produced in 2004. Oddly, before then there was also a work dress code known by the same name, ‘business-casual’, that has been around for 30 plus years that keeps evolving every year. It is an odd name for dress code that is ironic, fun, increases work-place productivity and yet the name screams contradiction. What genius/odd-fellow invented that not so genius concept?


Business-casual reeks of nonsense like light beer and low-calorie bread and yet its goal of putting workplace staff in a relaxed mode with the hopes of more productivity has produced fruit since its inception. People are more productive on business-casual day. It also adjusted the mores of what is appropriate workplace apparel at white collar workplaces. The tech boom changed things in the workplace in more ways than just technology.


Today tech giants show up to work in jeans, cool sneakers, and a dark gray t-shirt. With that style in mind it makes one wonder how or why there would be a discussion about business-casual, but it is a dress code that is as relevant today in 2020 as it was back in the mid-80’s when it started. Keep in mind, wearing board-shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops might be okay to wear, but when you get right down to it, it probably is not a wise choice. When it is business-casual day, you should get dressed up, but not in business formal wear.


The Birth of Business Casual.


Business-casual became part of the lexicon of phrases bandied about at the workplace starting in the 80’s and then it became the approved dress-code norm on one Friday a month at a handful of companies and at some companies business-casual was the set dress code on every Friday. It created a camaraderie among employees and bosses that was not possible before because the boss was able to dress better because of a bigger bank account. Now the boss and the staff were able to join, have fun, and do a great job in a positive atmosphere. The suits and knits were out, and khakis and polos were in.


During 1992 Dockers decided to take advantage of the development of American office workers bucking the tradition of wearing work formal wear 5 days a week and send out written piece called ‘Guide to Casual Business Wear’ to 25,000 HR managers across the country. The goal was to increase sales and boy did it. The response to the mailing was tremendous.


The Meaning of Business-Casual in 2020


Similarly, the so-called titled dress code, business-casual, has been an on-going moving target to say the least. To some extent business-casual basically switched dress formal wear at work such as a suit and dress shoes or a blazer, tie, slacks and dress shoes to business-casual, which normally turns out to be long-sleeve or short-sleeve polo and khakis.

Business-casual has become an all-encompassing philosophy due do impact California’s apparel and style prominence in America. High-tech corporations started the business-casual trend and now due to their dominance, business-casual has become mostly the norm. Casual Friday’s, or Dress-down Friday’s dress-code is now the norm 5 days a week at a greater percentage of companies across the country.


The world has also adopted business casual as a dress code norm, not a trend or an exception. Many legislatures and convening governing bodies are not going with a dress-code known as ‘businesslike attire’ and the dress code for important international meetings with several countries in attendances is ‘smart-casual’.


Many banks have also adopted business casual as a dress code. Each bank sets its own version of a business casual dress code. Some only allow its technology division to wear business casual attire with a direct policy built-in directing those same employees to wear business apparel when meeting with clients.


Business-casual is defined by showing innovation and improving and augmenting your own personal look, but also being certain to demonstrate style and grace for your job, the company, customers, and most of all one’s self.


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