Business Casual

I am just starting a new job and am noticing a common trend in dress codes for companies; they are no longer splitting it up by gender. Not too long ago the policy would have had a section for men and a section for women, today however it seems all are listed under one policy. I am sure this is for a wide range of reasons but I do think it has to do more with companies not having the need to get accused of discrimination when really most people are not going to cross that gender line. This got me thinking more about my post a few weeks ago and as opposed to looking at women’s clothes in general I am going to look at the mysteries of business casual and if I would want to wear it.
The classic definition of Men’s business casual is dress slacks, dress shirt and an option on the tie. However this is not the reality of the situation as that look is typically considered a little underdressed and hard to manage. Firstly unless you have button down collars on your shirt there is almost no amount of ironing that will keep the collar up and not spreading out like a 70’s disco star unless you have that top button done up. If you are in a rush then really a suit is the best option as you only have to iron the front of the shirt and not the whole thing as no one is going to see that back of it. The traditional dress slacks are almost too boring and jeans have become an accepted pant for the work place so in reality business casual is just not wearing a suit. This does give men a fair amount of flexibility in their clothing choices which helps alleviate the traditional limitations of men’s fashion. So men are finally able to have the flexibility that women have had for some time. But we all of that desire to cross the gender line so no matter how flexible the rules become, so onto the crossdressing.
Now I do not know nearly as much about women’s business casual as I have never worn I so I took some notes around the office and did some internet research. Really it is fairly similar to men’s as far as what is accepted. Traditional women’s business formal is a variation of men’s and you have a pair of pants or skirt, blouse, and a jacket. While this is tempting it is really not something I have a personal interest in as I actually enjoy wearing suits and quite frankly am able to wear them properly, not every man can wear a suit properly it is a matter of proper fit and an attitude of being completely comfortable in the clothing. Women’s business casual is fairly similar to men’s in that it is a shirt, pants or skirt, and nice shoes. I could get into that because unlike men’s shirts where there are limited cuts and types of shirts women’s shirts and blouses for business are extremely varied and wide ranging with extra flair and patterns that would allow me to be much more flexible. And women’s pants while having stupid pockets are extremely comfortable in their design and a slightly baggy look is very acceptable. The fabrics are also varied and have a tendency to have a bit more stretch in them which is something I wish men’s clothing had, just a bit of spandex makes a huge difference. The fabrics are also more likely to be soft and silky and we all love that, though the Calvin Klein wool suit I picked up this weekend has pants that feel like wearing a negligee around your legs all day but this is not the rule.
So would I want to wear women’s business casual to work? Yes without a doubt I would love to. There are limitations such as footwear; I have large feet in men’s and in women’s everything is a special order and men’s dress shoes just do not look quite right with women’s clothing most of the time. The second issue is general fit as women’s pants have a tendency to highlight my manliness more than is acceptable and tucking has never been my thing and doing it all day would be torture. However the greatest limitation is social as even though according to the policy I am allowed to wear women’s clothing social mores dictate I am not supposed too. This got me thinking about what items of women’s clothing I could wear that are more neutral as I regularly wear women’s jeans because if you get the right pair no one is likely to notice. Shirts are for the most part are out as they are at eye level and people take notice of them. Skirts are also obviously out as the only item of clothing that is in a similar shape and is acceptable for men to wear is a Kilt, and unless you are Scottish or of Scottish ancestry and have a really good reason for doing so (wedding, graduation, funeral, curling, playing bag pipes, or seeing how far you can throw a tree trunk) you should likely avoid the kilt. All that really remains is pants and thankfully this is one item of clothing that can be neutral enough to get away without anyone really noticing what you are wearing, if you search long enough.
The questions becomes if I am willing to take the plunge? Am I man enough to wear women’s clothing to work? Not tomorrow but I think I will look for a pair of women’s pants that are neutral enough and can fly under the radar enough that no one will notice. Perhaps then I will take that plunge and see what happens as such a minor infraction is unlikely to be noted coworkers and would fill me with joy if I could pull it off.
Am I right? Would you ever take that plunge as being a man wearing women’s clothes a work?

5 thoughts on “Business Casual

  1. So I am reading this and I am thinking that the biggest difference betweens men’s and women’s business casual is that men don’t really accessorize (except for a tie). A straight guy might try to make sure his shoes and belt match, but that is about that. Women tend to check out their earrings, necklaces, bracelets, scarves/wraps, etc – and are more fussy about whether their shoes and bag match their outfits. They are also more likely to add pattern and color into the mix.

    For years I wore masculine attire (as a butch lesbian) into the office and did it along the male lines of color and accessory – and mixed and matched men’s and women’s clothes according to what fit. However, it is so much more acceptable for me to do that than for you, that I can’t imagine flipping it around gender wise. Any guy in my office who wore colors was assumed to be gay.

    I hope you find some combination that passes muster and that you feel comfortable in. I never figured business casual out and first wore chinos and then dark jeans.

    1. Men can accessorise many just don’t. I have several watches to choose from, change up the belt buckle, and I have a weakness for shoes. Though changing up watches gets pretty expensive pretty quickly (but checking your pocket watch really classes things up). So while men can accessorise women are encouraged to do it more and more easily as there is a wider collection. As for business casual it is a mess to deal with mostly as there is no real rules it seems.

  2. I pretty much only wear women’s business casual at work. I don’t usually post links to my own stuff in comments, but at the risk of spamming I wrote a whole thing about this issue:

  3. The real key is to get more used to the idea of wearing clothes that are smaller and closer fitted. As a boy, I wore larger, baggier things. As a girl, I find that I need to wear things that give me a bit of curve. I had to get over my hangups about revealing the shape of my body. Most men wear clothes that are too big and could benefit from better fitted shirts and more tailored jackets.

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