Oh boy! What great feedback has come through on my blog, Shorts Friday? Is it really cool biz?
Hemant Sachdev, formerly CMO of Bharti Airtel and later with Microsoft was in splits, writing in to say, “… this is a hairy subject! … specially if guys are wearing shorts to work.”
Sangeeta Swamy, director, RK Swamy BBDO sent me a sizzler, “The agency crowd emulates their own conception of a combination of the Silicon Valley + Investment bankers life style. Very shallow.”
Abhijit Saxena, founder of Mobilox, messaged to say, “Even I have felt at times that a service provider when he dresses extremely shabbily, shows casual and don't care a hoot attitude. Somewhere saying 'I am the boss of my field and you have no choice'!”.
Gurpreet Singh Arora, MD Orion Electronics, Budapest, wrote in to express his views, “Very specific: country you are in, country the person/s you are meeting are from, business you are in, business the person/s you are meeting are from … almost a complex matrix.”
Kanwarjeet Singh, who was my client at Andrew Yule many years ago, wrote in from his tea-garden experiences, “Sandeep as you must be remembering, planters must have been a emancipated lot. Wore shorts throughout. Of course no (Hawaii) chappals even for them. However my own experience when I had to send a new assistant back to the bungalow who turned up in a frilly red short short!” Funny, for sure.
Feedback from those in advertising was even more incisive. It was obviously a subject that had set many thinking.
Arunava (Joy) Sengupta, founder director, Scarecrow Communications
To Each His Own
First and foremost for me wearing shorts or chappals for client meeting is a complete 'no, no'. According to me the seriousness of the business goes out of the window and a sense of casualness can easily creep in.
That said, I also don't think we need to wear suites and ties all the time. One should be smartly dressed and presentable. Now whether to wear a tie or a suit or semi formals, to look presentable is completely upto the individual.
However, every organisation has their individual polices, and hence that should be respected. So if a client has the policy of only formals at work, doesn't mean as the client's agency, the agency should follow suit, if that is not the culture of the agency. And either party should respect that.
Everything official about it
Time was not too long ago, when shorts were equated to 'chaddis' in India. Men exposing their calves and legs in a formal (read office) environment, were considered an anathema. However the trend is fast changing. Shorts are coming out of the closet and are smartly stalking official corridors. First it was jeans that broke down the doors of the 'formals' bastion a few years ago. And now, shorts seem to be following suit.
Men, who all these years prickled over the fact that their sartorial options were heavily limited to the 'shirt-pant' routine, with a jacket being the only source of variation, now justifiably have reason to celebrate. Shorts offer the opportunity to make a fancy new fashion statement at the work-place, besides of course the obvious advantage of being long on comfort.
There is scarcely any doubt that shorts present a means to infuse dreary formal settings with new style, colour and joie de vivre. However for them to be truly accepted at the work-place, a few dos and don'ts need preferably to be adhered to.
It might come across as trifle ironic, but there is such a thing as a difference between 'informal' and 'formal' shorts. Shorts held up with wrinkly elastic and made with ultra-thin material to look like the kind you would wear to bed, or in lieu of your underpants are what would fall into the informal section. Try not wearing them to work, especially paired with bright-coloured rubber slippers, however cool you think you look in them. You will be doing the whole of mankind a disservice and be singularly responsible for the abbreviated garment being shooed out of the office. Instead, wear shorts made of good quality, thick cotton or linen, with a proper waist-band and preferably loops which also give you the option of slipping in a sharp, fashionable belt. And gentlemen, go to proper lengths with your shorts. They should reach your knees, or stop just short of your knees. Tight, Jitendra-style badminton hot-pants are a definite no-no. Besides getting you into hot water, they also expose acres of obnoxious hairy thighs, especially when you are sitting.
Perish the thought that your shorts need to be paired with a flimsy, casual t-shirt. That's fine for an afternoon at the beach or a Sunday at the movies. If you want your shorts to win longer stares (appreciative ones at that) you need partnerships with a well-fitted T, that preferably has a collar. A well-pressed shirt will do fine too. This will also give you the opportunity to tuck it in and wear that smart belt, we were speaking about earlier. And if at all you insist on being sporty, think Roger Federer. Sporty, with just the right dash of style that seems to whisper 'I'm always a gentleman'!
Don't fight shy of getting creative with your shorts saga. Throw on a nifty denim or linen jacket. For a sprig of pizazz, you can even wear a slim, rakish tie. Complete the ensemble with smart moccasins or stylish slip-ons. No socks please. And there you have it! A shorts story,that should lead to happy endings.
The long and short of it
Of course men should be allowed to wear shorts at the workplace .The question is what kind of shorts and what are the semiotics of this look? The work place tends to favour a uniform dress code for men allowing for only a few individual variations. Some of these dress codes are archaic. If you are in the fashion, advertising or entertainment industry it is much easier as you are expected to subvert dress codes. But don’t hesitate to go the shorts way. Well tailored shorts worn with a formal shirt and blazer are as good as any other office attire. Bermuda the island that gave us the triangle and the shorts has a strict dress code for shorts. They are worn on formal occasions with a tie and blazer and formal shoes and socks. See the teams marching in their national dress at the Olympics and they look stylishly suave. On the other hand, Lace shorts for men which made a bit of a news splash a few months ago are a definite No!
Friday dressing is still workplace dressing so chooses style over sloppy or see-through. Beach shorts, those teeny -tiny work -out shorts and all athleisure combos should be reserved for Saturdays with buddies. Baggy shorts may have their takers but hey, no one wore them for sartorial elegance. Denims don’t make the cut as shorts for some reason or they need to fit really, really well. Shorts, the well tailored kind are to my mind far more acceptable for Friday dressing than some other casual dressing trends like torn jeans and the now passé lets-show-our-butt crack fashion. GQ magazine will be better equipped to tell you of the correct length (just above the knee and just below the knee are both acceptable) and correct pairing but chinos and linens make for good style and fall. Pink or orange shorts teamed with a white linen shirt and loafers make for a cool yet relaxed look. It is always a pleasure to see a well dressed man at work.
Ranjit Kaul, former Marketing Director, ITC Hotels
The Shorts Story
Completely in synch with your views Sandeep.
Casualness in the workspace up to a point is cool - thereafter it's unacceptable - certainly torn jeans, unshaved looks, rubber slippers as are over the top make up and too much skin show is beyond the realm of decency and respect to both colleagues and clients.
Aditya Sharma, head – Asia Pacific & India, Stambia
The Lucky Jacket
Reading this piece reminded me of when I started working for Oracle. Being the youngest hire in a team of 30-40+ year old Account managers, one way to come across as a serious player was to wear my suit every day. And I was mocked especially during summers for still wearing a jacket to meetings, and these were Delhi summers by the way :). To cut a long story short I did 250 per cent of my assigned yearly quota in 2008 (global recession year). I think I have to thank my Lucky Jacket which I still cherish to this date. And till date there is no Friday dressing for me!
Suits versus Shorts. The jury is still out. There is no doubt that our world, the world of advertising, media, even marketing is changing. Attitudes are changing, couture is changing, attitude to couture is changing. 20-30 years ago, even this subject of discussion would have been unthinkable. May be ten years ago, shorts on weekends at work for the creative types started to make an appearance. Today we have had Adrian and Geeta actually writing fashion treatises on how to, where to and when to wear shorts!
I still remain steadfastly old fashioned. Shorts are no where a part of my sartorial code at work, Friday or not. Office decorum, and a certain sense of respect for your client, dictates my old-fashionedness. You could debate that, even decry that. But shorts really fall short on my acceptability quotient.
In any case, we are a democratic country. And a more than democratic business. To each his own.
Sandeep Goyal’s blog covers everything in advertising and media … campaigns, clients, colloquiums, controversies, critiques, criticism … even couture.
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