Dress Code: The History Of ‘Business Casual’

See on Scoop.itFashion From Home
Business CasualWell, it’s Friday, which for some people means it is Casual Friday. Maybe a button down shirt and khakis.

Our story starts in 1966, when the Hawaiian garment industry was trying to sell more shirts. Their answer?

Mufi Hanneman, the former mayor of Honolulu, was a kid when Aloha Fridays first launched. He says what began as a gimmick to wear Hawaiian shirts to the office once a week became a cultural statement.

Cut to the recession of the early 1990s. Aloha Fridays had drifted to the mainland in the form of casual Fridays and they’d become a perfect “no cost perk” for strapped companies trying to make their employees feel more relaxed — just not too relaxed.

Rick Miller was doing PR for the Levi’s Brand Dockers back then.

And people were showing up in the Hawaiian print shirt or sandals and shorts. Frankly, there were concerns on the part of management that work might become too much fun.

What management saw as a concern? Levi’s saw as a way to save itself. Jeans sales were slowing now that baby boomers were getting older. So, in 1992 Miller’s team had an idea. They printed up a “Guide to Casual Business Wear” and sent it to 25,000 human resource managers across the country. That showed different business casual looks.

And, surprise, a lot of them involved Dockers. Dockers sponsored in-office fashion shows, and a hotline for dress code emergencies. Soon, they were everywhere. Dockers was considered revolutionary.

Teri Agins writes in her book “The End of Fashion” about visiting an executive at Alcoa and being shocked by his outfit. Slacks, cashmere v-neck sweater. Looked like he was there like on a Saturday, but actually this was a regular work day.

Of course, now, Dockers doesn’t seem quite as revolutionary.

Jennifer Sey is a VP for Global Marketing at Dockers. She said that “We’re aware. We’ve become sort of the uniform of the cubicle dweller. The guy who doesn’t care.”

But, she says, they’re fighting that stigma, with something called the Alpha Khaki.

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