Business Casual?

What is business casual these days? Last week I spoke at a conference in San Francisco. The dress code was business casual and I had to spend time on the Internet exploring what that really means these days. If you work for a company that does not dress up, what does that mean when you have to take it up a notch? Business casual does not exist for me. Every day is casual. So when you are in a situation where you might be interacting with customers, vendors, clients, or partners what is the true meaning of business casual?

From what I can tell it means no jeans. However, is that really true? With today’s tech world, are jeans still out of the realm of business casual? I barely had an outfit to wear to speak at the conference and I realized I went from working from home for so many years (and basically living in my pajamas and sweats) to my current company which is very laid back. Why should I add outfits to my closet that I will never wear? I know the origins of business casual are probably not much different then “casual Fridays” — a chance to dress down and be more relaxed. In my mind everyday is “casual” Friday. Yet, my terminology for business casual is not in the traditional sense. My version of business casual equates to: “Am I comfortable?”

Yes, I am not a traditional one. Going from my early career where I had to dress nice (and no, I no longer have any of those clothes) to spending almost a decade hoping that I had showered before Chris came home. I would roll out of bed and immediately go to my laptop instead of acting like a normal human and actually getting dressed. Why should I have when I saw practically no one all day? When you spend most of your day as the voice in a grey conference room speakerphone in the middle of a long table 3,000 miles away from your house to now, where I have a lot of work outfit options. I can be comfy and I can dress nice, so what is the 2015 version of business casual? Has it changed too much? Have we evolved and become a more laid back society? Or do lawyers and Wall Street exec’s still dictate the definition of business casual?

So I ask you, what does it mean to you?

Look nice or be comfy?

I read an article yesterday about looking nice while traveling on an airplane, and my first thought was: “Hell No!” Apologies if you feel that it is kind to dress up for your fellow passengers. I think about the miles you sometimes have to walk to go from one terminal to the next, often running to catch a plane on a layover. I am amazed when I see women do so in five-inch heels. I can barely make it a few hours at an event while in 3 inch heels, I cannot imagine doing it while traveling. Next, you sit for hours. Whether at the airport waiting for your flight, and then to take off, during your flight, and often waiting on the runway once you have landed. Why, oh why should we be dressed up?

I for one feel like there is a happy medium. I want to be comfortable at all costs. Think about it. You are in a pressurized cabin, things contract and expand. All the more reason that I want to have an elastic waistband. The temperature goes hot and cold and you have no way to regulate it. I want breathable fabrics. Depending on the size of the plane your floor area might be freezing and the ceiling much hotter. I make sure to wear layers, and have a pair of socks, and a jacket if needed.

I think back to a recent TV show called: “Pan-Am” that truly showed and reminded us of the glamour associated with flying the friendly skies. This Boston Globe article brings that idea to life. Men in suits, women in their own form of suits. Dress codes. Can you imagine today if there was still a dress code to get on a plane? In some ways, maybe it is not such a bad idea (I know we have all seen a scary sight on a plane, even smelled some too), but if dress and style supersede comfort, than I would take comfort any day.

The Boston Globe article mentions how you dress is how you get treated. Yes, but remember we are not going into a five-star restaurant. An airplane is no longer a place to be seen. I am the girl with the flip-flops, and while I am not wearing my pajamas, I am wearing comfy tights. Should the conversation be more about hygiene than about clothing?

That just covers style, comfort, and clothing. What about the food?