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Business casual shirts: old and new rules in the office

   

Until the middle of the last century men’s fashions were governed by laws that were absolutely non-negotiable. One of these was the use of jacket, shirt and tie in the office or, in general, in the workplace: absolute elegance, for businessmen, was an inescapable requirement. The only possible selection was between day and evening wear, and an exception to the rule was made for more casual dress: a tweed suit for walks in the open air. This is why the business-casual label was very far removed from anyone’s imagination.


The turning point came in 1966, when a company created colourful Hawaiian men’s shirts and an advertising agency in Hawaii came up with the idea of “Aloha Fridays”, popularizing the habit of wearing this type of pattern on Fridays among the local workforce. From being a patriotic symbol, it soon became a revolutionary trend that spread like wildfire in other parts of the world as well.

During the 1990s this trend was taken to the opposite extreme and many top-level firms complained about the wearing of informal T-shirts and shorts by their employees in the workplace. It was then that Levis, with its new “Dockers” brand, introduced into the office the fashion for khaki trousers, unanimously considered a good compromise.


But what are the guidelines for business-casual today and what are the limits that must not be breached?


Suits are banned, but so are jeans: a business-casual style is a happy medium between formal and sportswear. Today, it comes in different variations, according to the work environment and the level of elegance required in individual contexts.

Law or accountancy firms and banks lay down the most standard rules, in fact, with the use of long-sleeved cotton shirts, in pale blue or a pastel colour. A perfect example is the Oxford shirt, possibly open down to the first button or with a knitted tie as a casual element.


Men who work in the tertiary sector but are not in direct contact with clients can opt for a button-down shirt or maybe even a long-sleeved polo-shirt offering a certain elegance. It’s a different matter for start-up companies and younger business environments which, along with business-casual shirts, also allow for the use of more informal garments such as sweaters. 


 


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