Did you know that the entire casual fashion business began with the oil crisis? That is real. We went through one of the first true oil crises back in the 70s, and OPEC became a household name. In part of its response to the shortage, the government requested all companies to upgrade the thermostat setting in their air-conditioned workspaces to cut down on electrical power and thus save on oil fired by those power plants.Do you want to learn more? visit
You probably already know that in an atmosphere of 80 degrees, a suit and tie are not really intended to be worn. So the memo comes from management essentially stating that during the national air conditioning crisis, formal business attire is not necessary and business casual was born as a trend.
The memo usually characterised business casual back in the 70s by specifying what was not appropriate instead of what was. Even, pantyhose had to be worn by women. It explicitly banned jeans, T shirts, sandals, shorts and basically everything that management considered unacceptable. As a consequence, for many men, business casual meant no jacket and no tie, and for women, it did not mean anything more.
When the recession passed, so did daily business casual wear. It was replaced by “Casual Friday” a human resources ploy just before the weekend to make everybody feel good about the business. And something happened then. The fashion industry smelled of a new opportunity and began to promote the idea that companies that were cutting edge and hip, such as two new hot Microsoft and Apple stocks, recognised the importance of letting their employees have some flexibility in dress rather than conforming to the uniform of the company.
43 percent of all corporations today have a relaxed dress code.
Although each company sets out its own definition of what is casual, their policies usually provide some common ground. American University’s career counselling office describes business casual as halfway between formal and street wear for business. They offer this advice on what is and is not casual business to their graduates looking for a career.
It is a skirt or a casual dress for women as long as the length is acceptable (no minis). You may top the skirt with a dress shirt, polo, jumper or a selection of sweaters. So long as they are full length and not made of denim, pants are OK. It’s a collared shirt for guys, casual slacks, a belt and boots with socks. You’ve got to tuck the shirt in and the trousers can’t be jeans.
Now, realise that American University is located in Washington DC near Embassy Row, so their definition of casual is just a little more formal than companies in Los Angeles say. The bottom line is that the business sets the norm, but irrespective of the constraints in almost every case; it is just so much more convenient to work in casual dress than a suit. OPEC thank you.