The term casual originates from Middle French “casuel” meaning occurring by chance or something not thought out or planned beforehand. So the very effortlessness is one primary characteristic of casual attire to begin with.American Claire McCardell famously claimed in her Time 1955 cover story that “play clothes” are going to be future of America. Little did anyone know her words would spell casual clothing’s dominance in the future .
Casual Friday as we know it was coined as ‘Casual Day’ by Levis Strauss and United Cerebral Palsy in 1991.The concept that each employee could buy the chance to dress informally by making a donation to UCPA hit it off so much that companies continued the tradition sans charity and established a day of week for it. So much so that, by 1996 more than 90% of office workers in US were allowed to dress down to various degrees on Fridays.
Owing to socio economic developments and lifestyle changes people all across the world started to forgo coded traditional attire, more and more people embraced articles of clothing commonly referred to as Sportswear. Sportswear (not to be confused with sports-wear) which is day wear like polo shirt, jeans etc became the mainstay whereas Casual clothing was not dowdy ,simple but not sloppy characterized by modern day American sportswear designers like Michael Kors.
But as we stand here in the midst 2016 with endless clothing choices, hammering of self-expression advocates and ruthless fashion police to call out even the slightest sartorial slip-up, one can’t really take things casually. Considering the context is cardinal, who you are and what you do greatly affects what “casual” means to you. Utilitarian comfort could be another major pillar of casual clothing but one can certainly add elements of flamboyance and intricate accessories such as belts, jewelry etc.
As for the question in the start, if it’s that the scenario or even if you are invited to a offsite HR training etc it is advisable that you choose a sports shirt with subtle pattern or microprint, maybe even a polo shirt pair with chinos and loafers as safe bet; you could opt for shoes made of canvas or boat shoes with jeans as well. But you must remember that you are out there ‘casually’ but you still mean business. Unless you work in a gymnasium or sport facility as vocation you should not be wearing a track pants and jogger all day everywhere, the casual clothes have to reflect how casual you are in your life.
As a rule of thumb, darker colors are considered more formal, whereas lighter colors are considered more casual, same goes for Solid colored shirts and Patterns, Jersey, seersucker, polyester and wool silk and high count cotton, shined leather and canvas/suede shoes juxtapositions. One of the biggest faux pas you can commit is to mix formal with casual, you shouldn’t under any circumstance pair a graphic t shirt or athletic shoe with a dressy wool pants, and same goes for abominable hybrid pieces.
Speaking of casual clothing faux pa, renowned American fashion consultant Tim Gunn once described a phenomena called ‘monkey house at the zoo’. In which he described that when you walk into the monkey house you are struck by horrible stench, but after a while you stop noticing that it stinks. But this is not progress! You may have lost your sense of smell but the space doesn’t smell any better than it did when you walked in. Now replace the smell of monkey excrements with the sight of people wearing jeans to weddings and beach sandals to work and there you have my analogy. If you rationalize it by saying everybody is doing it you are wrong. Remember dressing casually can easily result in fashion casualty.