West Coast Casual

Today, at the office, one of the girls came in wearing an extremely cute and well co-ordinated outfit…which happened to include a T-shirt and trucker cap. By noon, all three of us girls in my department had been hauled into the hallway and informed that we needed to dress more professionally. This came as a shock to us, since we’re the interactive department of an ad agency. Internet and advertising are not areas of the workforce expected to dress in business attire on a daily basis.

I grouched about this to a friend later in the afternoon, and she told me that there had been an LA Times article on this very subject. The West Coast casual dress standards have devolved into being too casual.

So I’m curious. Is this a trend in Los Angeles? How many workplaces do accept jeans and T-shirts – even designer ones – as everyday wear? How many employers are tolerant of the ubiquitous L.A. flipflops? (Flip flops, especially, seem to be a hallmark of Los Angeles casual office fashion) And with the heat as bad as it has been this summer, how many companies have had trouble with weather related dress code violations? Is the Times exaggerating, or is casual really going too far, even for the West Coast?

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13 Replies to “West Coast Casual”

  1. at my workplace as long as you’re wearing clothes it’s all good.

    they would prefer you shower more than once a week, but they’re flexible.

  2. I guess I’m old or something, but when the heck did flip flops stop being something you only wore to the beach and in jail???

  3. The last 2 companies I worked for are fairly casual (including flip flops), however, it only takes 1 supervisor in your dept. to want to be more stingent with the dress code that pushes the standard back up. And most people didn’t complain too much since everyone knew that the dress code was so laxed to begin with. Aside from management, it also depended on the frequency of clients or customers walking by the dept.

    My current job has “tie tuesdays”. Philosophically, I think companies have evolved from casual friday and dress shirts the other 4 days to formal friday and loose tees the remaining days.

  4. At my last job, almost anything was tolerated, until one hairy-backed co-worker wore a tank, which quickly ammended the dress code.

  5. The little software house I work at pretty much a dress-as-you-please philosophy. The boss generally wears suits or business casual but occasionally shows up in shorts and tee. My manager often wears flip-flops and will kick them off in the office and walk about barefoot. And most of us worker bees dress in jeans and tees.

  6. In my office-worker career, I started working in the L.A. area 91-96 where the standard M-Th attire for male workers was slacks, a dress shirt and a neck tie. On Fridays, jeans and a T-shirt were typical. I became known as the guy who wore birkenstocks and sometimes forgot his tie.

    Then I moved back to Chicago. Everywhere was permanent casual, but I generally went for jeans or khakis and a polo shirt or dress shirt sans tie.

    My sense, though, is that the continual devolving of the office dress code is facing a backlash. Certainly, I wouldn’t mind wearing a suit every day, but mostly because I look damned good in a suit.

  7. This kind of stuff drives me nuts! I’m so glad I don’t work somewhere that worries about this stuff. I am a botanists who spends lots of time in the field though so if i don’t wear good boots, a good hat, long pants, etc, i will be punished – not by the workplace but by poison oak, mosquitos, the sun, etc…

  8. I think it really is a matter of common sense and practical outlook. Most of the places I’ve worked have a tendency towards jeans and fashionable tops/accessories. However, when clients or big meetings are on the agenda, everyone seems to want to up the ante a bit and look a little more ‘put together’. But that’s rarely a suit, exept when I worked for a big corporation. Flip-flops are hard to deal with for a lot of reasons….they definately don’t tell the clients and the boss you are serious….and in my job which can have me meeting with execs in the morning and shooting in the desert in the afternoon, they don’t work for speed, safety and convenience alone. Personally, I see a lot of scary looking feet, so I say cover that shit up! Who wants to see someones grimy toenails? Super manicured toes are another matter. Can anyone say ‘foot fetish’? Also, I’ve had women who work for me come in with super exposed cleavage and super short skirts. It’s really uncomfortable as a boss…and a female one at that….to have to tell a woman to please dress more appropriately. You gotta figure it out pretty early that slingin your breasts around at work doesn’t say ‘Pro’. Anyway, to answer your question, we do seem to have evolved into a much more casual mode, which I love, but when people take it too far in the name of creative freedom, it’s hard to believe they are focused on the work at hand. Wow! I didn’t realize I had so much to say on this subject. Sorry to go on and on…

  9. You lost me at “even designer ones.” I think a large portion of dressing confusion stems from our acceptance and purchase of t-shirts that cost more than $30 or jeans that cross the $100 barrier. Just because they cost more doesn’t make them dressier. It just makes your poorer and kinda goofy. (Side rant: clubs that stop you at the door and then say “no, but what KIND of jeans are they?” – because discrimination is bad unless it’s economic.)

    If the office in question here regularly allowed Ts and trucker hats, then you’re right to be confused by the sudden change of heart by management. But generally speaking, we are a sloppy workforce.

    And it’s not just LA. SF is plenty casual and here in Sacramento, in certain buildings, the outfit choices can be downright laughably inappropriate.

    If you have to wonder whether what you’re wearing in the morning is appropriate, it probably isn’t, otherwise there wouldn’t have been a question.

  10. Before you think newspapers and TV are reporting “news” like changes in corporate dress codes, you need to read this article:
    http://www.paulgraham.com/submarine.html

    Briefly, it shows how most “news” is really just advertising – and uses as an example a news story about how the suit was coming back. Tracing back the sources, naturally the story originated at a PR firm hired by Men’s Warehouse. The linked LA times story may be a similar case.

    There’s an entire coalition called the “Men’s Apparel Alliance” (MAA) that has a small blurb here on their PR firm’s site:
    http://www.maximumexposurepr.com/middleMAA.html
    From the page:
    “For the MAA, MaxPR developed a national publicity campaign to increase awareness about professional dress in the workplace. The program focused on linking the resurgence of business attire and its connection to increased business productivity.”

    I guess all those corporate managerial types, deep down, really hate freedom. ;)

  11. I worked for a copmany in Santa Barbara that made maps. The cartographers could wear just about anything – flip-flops, shorts, t-shirts. It wasn’t a big deal. The web group and IT person was pretty much the same thing.

    The sales guys and the management team all wore business casual. Polos and slacks. No ties. I was a cartographer for a long time, but later moved into sales. First summer in sales, I attempted to wear Docker-type shorts with a polo. Was immediately given the slap down. Never got to wear shorts again after that (I had it so good when I was a cartographer!)

    I work for the Federal Government now. I wear jeans and polos every day.

  12. I work at a government site where our gov’t executive is a retired Army Colonel. He is very strict that our dress code is business formal at all times and he means at all times ! If you go in on weekends to get caught up on work, you better have those dress slacks & dress shirt on. On dress shirts, they better be long sleeve regardless of the intense heat outside, short sleeves are not acceptable !

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