What to wear: how about Richmond casual

Workers in Richmond are trading formal suits in favor of slacks, polos, button downs and skirts, a sign that even a conservative town is getting more casual.

BizSense compiled a survey to figure out exactly what
people are wearing to work these days. A sampling of 20 businessmen and
women (several of whom are business owners) revealed that business
casual is the most popular pick for office wear – and by a long shot.
Seventy percent of respondents said that they rely on business casual
as the sole uniform of choice. And 90 percent said that they opt for a
combination of business casual along with either business formal or
casual/active wear.

Sixty-five percent said that jeans are ok
for the workplace as long as they are clean and presentable. Seventy
percent of men said that ties are optional. Eighty percent said the
same for blazers. And 60 percent of women said that sandals are OK as
long as they’re not flip flops.

In the past, business formal
was mandatory. Matching suits, dark colors and a conservative approach
meant that you were ready for the serious matter of your job. Today,
suits typically mean one of three things: you’re a lawyer, you’re a
politician, or you’re asking somebody for money. A suit feels out of
place in our tech-based, fast-paced business world. Maybe that’s why
Apple CEO Steve Jobs wears turtlenecks. And why music executives wear
crisp jeans and the newest styles from Banana Republic or Brooks
Brothers.

A casual approach to clothing signals flexibility,
creativity, and of course, style. Eighty-five percent of those surveyed
said that looking the part in business shows that you take your cues
from your clientele

“It is very important to understand your
service and your customers and to dress appropriate to what helps them
purchase your product,” said Tabitha Geary, owner of the Tabitha Geary
Company, which organizes and preserves personal photos.

As a
professor at VCU, Jeffrey Krug wears a dress shirt, tie, slacks, and
shoes from Allen Edmonds or Florsheim. He skips the blazer, adding a
casual twist to his relatively formal approach. But his attire at two
previous jobs demonstrates the importance of looking the part based on
your business.

“At Texas Instruments, no one wore a tie because
it was a high tech company. People wore casual shirts and pants, and
the engineers wore jeans. At PepsiCo, we all wore expensive suits.”

Deciding
between casual and formal can also come down to how your business deals
with clients and customers. Go formal when you are meeting with people
outside your company, says C. Mason Gates, president of Internships.com

“Our
business is not often customer-facing, so we’re casual. It helps us
work comfortably, and it’s also a nice perk. When we’re
customer-facing, we are presentable in more formal attire,” Gates said.

For most offices, what you wear reflects the type of business
that you’re in. Staci Vanchieri, president of talent agency Modelogic,
is in the image business.

“We are expected, I think, to look
modern and fashion forward, so that’s what we strive for,” Vanchieri
said. Brands like Anthropologie, Lucky Brand, and BCBG are all popular
choices for fashion forward people who still like a little comfort, she
said.

If your business is a little more active, then casual/active wear is appropriate, and sometimes encouraged.

Shelley
Sowers, VP of communications for the Richmond Kickers pro soccer team,
said,  “I think it is important for our fans to relate to us on a
personal and professional level. At the same time, it is important that
we represent our club and sponsors positively in the community at all
times.”

Sowers and her staff-mates sport athletic gear
emblazoned with the Kickers logo as well as the logos of its sponsors.
You need to create a dress code that fits not only your business, but
your staff as well, Sowers said.

“We work in a casual
environment, so the casual dress code is important. The staff is young
and energetic so the dress code suits the work environment,” Sowers
said.

BizSense asked several gender specific questions to get
opinions on some of the most common fashion questions. The results are
as follows:

For men, blazers are not necessary. Ditto for ties.
Generally, blazers and ties are only needed for special meetings,
presentations, proposals, sales meetings, etc. Most types of footwear
are acceptable, but sandals are a no-no for men. As for accessories, a
simple watch provides more than enough flair. The most popular brands
for men included Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Cole Haan, Calvin
Klein, and Polo.

For women, a skirt’s length should generally be
to the knee. Heels or flats? Either is fine, as long as the shoes look
professional. With accessories, it’s the same as the guys; less is
more. Cleavage is ok if it’s done in a tasteful manner, but too much
skin is definitely a risk. For woman, popular brands included Talbots,
Anne Taylor, Anthropologie, and Banana Republic.

We took the
most popular survey answers and broke them down into two uniforms: one
for men, one for women. We present you with the 2008 Richmond office
dress code.  We’ve dubbed it Richmond Casual.

Men: collared
shirt (polo or button down), cotton slacks, matching leather shoes and
belt.  Tie is optional, but should be worn for special meetings. Same
with blazer. Accessories should be limited to a watch, and cufflinks
can be worn for special occasions. Nice, crisp jeans can be substituted
for slacks. Loafers are ok; sandals are not.

Women: corduroy,
twill, or cotton pants or skirts (skirts should be to knee), sweaters,
twinsets, cardigans and polo/knit shirts. Capris and short pants are
also acceptable. With accessories, don’t overdo it. A watch or bracelet
and a necklace are more than enough. Heels and flats are both
acceptable, but no flip flops. Jeans are appropriate in more casual
settings.

Alec Depcrynski wears slacks and a polo or button
down to work. He prefers to wear sandals, but he’ll strap on a nice
pair of Bostonians if he’s heading out for interviews. He is a BizSense
Staff Writer. Please send story ideas to [email protected]
om.

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