Skip to main content

What Business Casual Is Not. . .

These are examples of what is acceptable Business Casual wear for men and women.  Do you see any flip flops, cargo pants, jeans, or club wear?

This post is inspired by a young man in my Contemporary Global Cinema course, who gave his term paper presentation today.  Before starting, he loudly proclaimed that he had read the ten detailed presentation guidelines (only one of which had to do with clothing), uploaded to our Moodle course page last week, and he had thus, "dressed for success in Business Casual attire."  His exact words.  

Here's the skinny on Business Casual.  It is not old sneakers, dirty jeans without a belt, a wrinkled untucked shirt worn with a loosened necktie and tie clip.  Neither is Business Casual a hairy, pale pink, prematurely flabby belly peeking out now and then.  As you might imagine, the student's presentation, while not awful, was not exactly stellar either.  Clearly attention to detail is not this 22-year-old senior's strong suit.   The young Mr. M. needs to rethink his approach somewhat.

What about the content of his presentation itself?  Well, various questions raised by his classmates during Q&A afterwards brought several problems with his argument to the fore.  And the barely stifled, open-mouthed belch in the middle of Mr. M.'s presentation was yet another indicator of the overall quality of things during this particular 20-minute segment of class.  It really should not have been surprising given the detailed nature of an e-mail that this same young man sent me just before Midterm, in which he shared far too much personal information -- Super-dooper-mega TMI -- about why he was absent from class one day.  

Someone needs a little refinement.  So, I'll bang this old drum yet again for any average guys reading this who might actually realize that something is amiss, and that there is a very real need for them to kick up their everyday style several notches as they move kicking and screaming into adult life.  Here it is.

Guys, you've got to present yourself well -- that includes how you behave -- and dress appropriately if you really want people to sit up, shut up, listen up, and take what you have to say seriously.  You've got to look like you know what you are talking about.  Failure to understand that point does not instill confidence in others when it comes to your knowledge and abilities.  Neither does it matter how bright and degreed you might be.  The way you conduct yourself -- and appearance is a part of that like it, or not -- matters as much as what you say, and what you might know.  

If you plan on a life in the white collar, professional world, and if you want to come across as at least upper middle class -- excuse my dragging class into this discussion.  It's difficult to avoid doing so, but if we are honest, "class" is about more than just simple economics -- then you've got to look and act a certain way.  That's not an indictment of anyone, their backgrounds, abilities, opportunities, or lack thereof.  It's just how things are if we look at it realistically.  As the cliche goes, you've gotta walk the walk and talk the talk.  You must look the part in other words.

Now, people either get that, or they don't.  It's a fact of life that many don't like to think about, or have brought to their attention, and some take great offense at the mere suggestion.  But it exists nevertheless.  And no, that's not fair, but life isn't always fair.  In any case, this means that you help your cause as you go through life by presenting yourself for public consumption in a way that is more pulled together and polished than might be the case during the evenings or weekends.  I'll come clean here and admit, for the record, that I don't sit around in a suit and tie all of the time either.  I actually enjoy Levis 501s and cowboy boots during my off hours at home, that is when I'm not in leather deck shoes and chino shorts or corduroy jeans, depending on the season.  But I digress. 

Let's look at a hypothetical case to help illustrate the point.  Two job applicants have applied for the same position and, on paper, look more or less equally qualified.  Both get through an initial round of telephone interviews, and second, in-person interviews are set up.  The big day arrives, and both guys turn up, a few hours apart, to meet the the people in charge of hiring.  Who would you call back for to offer the job in the end?  The disheveled slob, who, although he is marginally stronger on paper, looks like he has trouble getting out of bed in the morning, much less getting his shoes on the right feet?  Or the neatly groomed, well-dressed guy who, while he might be slightly less qualified, nonetheless looks like he can hit the ground running, handle a number of simultaneous tasks without batting an eye, and function well with his colleagues without any hiccups?  The guy who looks and acts ten times worse than Oscar Madison ever did?  Or the guy who comes across as polished and even urbane in his actions and speech? 

On a closely related note, how you present yourself also has to do with a less pleasant aspect of personal habits and behavior, an issue that fewer and fewer people seem to take seriously.  Here it is.  Guys, you've also got to take control of your body and stop bodily noises and odors before they happen, at the very least when you are around other people.  That kind of thing is repulsive, highly offensive, and it destroys your credibility because absolutely no one will remember what you said after you fill the room with the fetid aroma of your last meal.  Moreover, it is definitely NOT the way to behave with a love interest even once that careful early dating behavior wanes.  At best, others will begin to see you as that poor schlub who can't seem to help himself.  At worst, you'll come across as a completely inconsiderate pig.  Do you really want to risk leaving others with that kind of impression?  Here's the deal.  No one else should have to endure your intestinal issues.  It's foul, ok?  We aren't wild street dogs or cavemen, and presumably you weren't raised in a barn, so don't do it. 

Here's a little style secret that might help.  It's called self-control, a concept that is almost never mentioned anymore.  With that in mind, hopefully, you won't let it all hang out when you're alone either.  That's probably expecting too much of many people these days though.  And again, you'll either grasp that, or you won't.  I suppose if one has not had certain grooming and polish instilled in him by Mom, Dad, and/or other adult family members as a child and adolescent, it's difficult to realize the need and see the point once you are on your own.  As with so much else, pleasant behavior and knowing how to present oneself start at home.  Or they don't. 

So what's the point then?  Clearly, the term "college man" no longer means what it once did, at least not with respect to personal decorum.  And that's more than a little troubling.  If we can no longer count on the observance of even the most basic polite conventions from most of the people with whom we interact, life is certainly less pleasant for everyone.  Is this a byproduct, intended or otherwise, of ever greater egalitarianism over the last half-century or so?  If so, then color me a filthy elitist.  I prefer the company of polite people.  Guilty as charged.  So, shoot me.  Line me up against the wall when the Revolution comes.  I'll even give the command to fire.  Until that happens, however, please spare the rest of us the sight of your sagging young tummy, your indigestion, and your apparently chronic flatulence.  Thanks.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


  1. Tough day in the classroom then! This is one of your best 'rants' yet. I feel your pain, but now viewing the whole style issue from England after 10 years in North America I am noticing the younger men here are taking an interest in style. There is more work to do with the middle aged men though.
    Best wishes

  2. Ugh! It wasn't a pretty sight. It never ceases to amaze me how far deeply we have sunk when it comes to basic decency. Used to be children and younger people would mind their social Ps and Qs around older adults. As Robert Graves so eloquently stated, "Good-bye to All That."

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich von B.


Post a Comment

All opinions are welcome here. Even those that differ from mine. But let's keep it clean and civil, please.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Popular Posts

Avoid Careless Chatter. . .

    E specially about the personal details of our lives.  There is a lot that OUGHT to be kept more private in 2022 than has become the accepted norm for many.  With the conscious and intentional cultivation of classic style in mind, however, we want to avoid oversharing and keep a bit more of ourselves to ourselves.  Exactly what personal information and how much of it to keep private seems to be a slippery concept though.  Here’s my take based on what I was told and observed as a child and young person at home.  Basically, one should keep oneself to oneself in all respects (finances, personal worth, accomplishments, politics, sex, dirty laundry, etc.).  As my late father used to advise when we were very small, and I am talking preschool and kindergarten, there were particular subjects that were not discussed outside the immediate family.  There is a time and place for sharing certain details of one’s life, but most of the time, those should be played very close to the chest,

I Might As Well Be Spring: The Attire for Monday. . .

    C old, blustery, and wet here in Mid-Michigan today although we might possibly have a couple of inches of wet snow at some point.  It just started actually.  Still some limited cross-country skiing up north at one of the Nordic ski centers we like, apparently, but I have not been able to get away for that. But it is springtime according to the calendar.  Attire-wise, I managed to stow the fall and winter stuff and bring out the spring-summer-early fall gear on Saturday.  Always fun to rediscover what you have not thought about in several months. Equally satisfying to discover items that have not ever seen the light of day.  Such is the case for today's shirt from J. Press (hanging in the closet for a year or more) and the necktie, which (hanging on the back of my tie rack, where I keep all of my repp stripe numbers) for 8-10 years.  Imagine that. -- Heinz Ulrich     P.S. Believe it, or not, someone actually just used word "please" (rather than the brusk "Can I ge

A Little Sisterly Advice. . .

    A s promised, my Washington, D.C.-based sister (she lives within walking distance of The National Cathedral) has sent some photographs of one recent combination of items that are pretty typical of her attire for both work and during her off hours.  Without further ado, let's turn things over to my sister for her particular philosophy on how to present oneself in a put-together way regardless of the situation or occasion: As a wardrobe minimalist, and one raised on Ivy Style, every item in my wardrobe has a purpose. Living in the city, and walking almost everywhere, my clothes need to function in an active capacity.  While I have a classic style, it is most often married with functional edgy pieces (boots, skinny jeans, etc.). In the past 15 years, I have gravitated to a neutral color palette for the clothing items in my closet and, at present, my wardrobe is comprised of 65% black items, 15% blue (including denim), 15% grey, with the balance most likely white (shirts, tees, p