Posted by: Jen J. Ashley | May 23, 2011

Business Casual: What’s the Deal?

What exactly is business casual? We have all heard the statement and could probably point out a workplace that follows this style. But what exactly is it? When typed into Google, (because lets face it, its 2011, we Google everything) Wikepedia pops up saying in the first sentence that “there is no generally accepted definition of business casual.” Well that is helpful.

I recently have received the opportunity to intern with a company this summer. Being the responsible young adult that I am I emailed the Human Resources Department to ask what the dress code was like. I was quickly answered with “we are business casual here.” Yeah… and? I work on a student-run PR firm on my campus. We meet every Tuesday night for meetings. The attire you ask? Business casual. Many of times people show up in jeans and a nice blouse. So, in the back of my head I thought ‘alright, I can wear jeans every now and then, sweet.’ Then I read on. “It is different in every department, you will see some people wearing suits to work and others dresses. Sandals are not allowed, but open-toed shoes are.” Maybe it is my sweat-loving college-going side speaking, but that sounds fairly formal to me. Which got me thinking, why do we have the same definition for two widely different things?

Has anyone ever stopped and thought, ‘Huh, business casual, that’s an oxymoron’. Because it is. My casual does not look anything like my business. If I was to stay true to these words I would have a pony-tail, make-up on, sweater, yoga pants, and heals. Why do companies create such an ambiguous statement on how to dress appropriately? Personally, I believe it is for the luxury of saying the words – business casual. It says ‘we are professional, but can still relate to everyone.’ In college it is to make us sound more mature, and ready for the step beyond. In the workplace I believe it is to try and create more of an inviting culture in the office. Whatever the reason behind it, it is confusing.

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