Attention Casual Office Dwellers: Come Over To The Trad Side

office trad

This post may seem like it’s preaching to the choir, but in any given month about 50% of Ivy Style’s traffic consists of first-time visitors. So this is one is for those who are logging on for the first time. And for all you regulars, here’s something to pass along to your coworkers to help recruit them into our little trad fraternity.

Recently a couple of corporate America’s last defenders of traditional dress codes — JP Morgan and PricewaterhouseCoopers — annouced they would be relaxing their standards. Almost immediately, the Wall Street Journal reports, retail giant Saks Fifth Avenue began producing a guide called “The New Office Casual,” hoping to convince guys in the financial industry to buy a new wardrobe. saks manualAfter all, almost everyone can figure out the uniform of dark suit, white shirt and random necktie, but the freedom of business-casual terrifies a lot of men. It’s kind of like back in the old days with social dancing. Learning to foxtrot or jitterbug took some time, but at least it gave you a structure. Once dancing became freestyle, what exactly are you supposed to do?

So for those just entering the workforce or at a company growing increasingly casual, allow me to present the virtues of the genre we refer to as trad (“preppy” and “Ivy League” are a bit outmoded). It’s perfectly illustrated in the top image by the blogger known as “Oxford Cloth Button Down.”

Trad consists of safe, timeless basics that will keep you from looking too fashionable and also from looking like you’re wearing fashion that’s expired. Everything goes with everything else, so little calculation is required. Trad clothing commands respect thanks to its classic restraint, and won’t offend clients with ostentation. It doesn’t cost a lot, and almost everything transitions from your casual wardrobe into your business wardrobe — performing double duty, so to speak. What more could you ask of your clothes?

The Saks manual features seven wardrobe essentials it calls the Refined Top, the Perfect Fit Pant, the Dress Shoe Hybrid, the Sporty Suit, the Clean Sneaker, the Easy Layer and the Leather Bag. Here are trad versions that cost less and will serve your career better.

The Refined Top


Unlike a standard or spread collar, which looks sloppy and unfinished without a tie, the buttondown shirt looks neat without a tie. It’s a casual shirt and dress shirt all in one.


For a short-sleeved option, the popover is a sort of cross between a buttondown and a polo shirt.

To go full-on polo shirt, choose one that’s made well from good fabric, like this one from KP MacLane:

polo-m-navyThe Perfect Fit Pant

Joggers and cargo pants aren’t trad, and who wants to sign a million-dollar deal with a guy who looks like he belongs in a gym or on a telephone pole? Lands’ End offers chinos, lightweight wool trousers, and corduroy pants which in most cases you can specify the length down to a quarter of an inch, and, for added trad style, add cuffs.



The Dress Shoe Hybrid

Allen Edmonds is increasingly rolling out shoes with traditional uppers and various kinds of rugged rubber soles, making them more casual and easier to walk in. They cost more than cheap shoes, but you’ll look more successful and over the long haul they’ll turn out to be the value play.


Alden has a category called Dress Casuals with the same formula of traditional upper and casual sole.


The Sporty Suit

Let’s replace the “sporty suit” with a sportcoat, which are more casual than suits anyway. A gold-buttoned blazer might not look right for business, and a heavy tweed sportcoat might give the impression you’d rather be teaching Latin. Choose a patterned jacket in a shade of blue that you can wear with a tie when needed, and with everything else on this page. This one is from O’Connell’s, is made in North America by the fine folks of Canada, and runs only $695.


The Clean Sneaker

Replace with classic Sperry boat shoe.

0195115_1_1200x735The Easy Layer

The trad approach to dressing already takes layering into account, since, as mentioned before, everything goes with everything else. Not only when it comes to color, but through a sort of inherent logic. Buttondown collars tuck neatly under crewneck sweaters, which fit perfectly under sportcoats.

Below, cotton crewneck from The Andover Shop.


Cotton-cashmere V neck from J. Press:

JKR0101SZ_033_511-SS16__60021__48270.1455074931.1280.1280Scottish lambswool from O’Connell’s:


The Leather Bag

And now that you’re dressed, you can get those contracts signed with a bag like this one, made from Horween leather and available from The Lodge.

lodge bag

In Conclusion

Over the years I’ve liked to repeat that one of the chief virtues of the “trad” genre of clothing is its flexibility. It can be whatever you want it to be — and whatever you bring to it — from the cool to the elegant. Which means it can also be perfectly simple everyday office wear, from entry level to corner office. In fact, you can climb the corporate ladder and never need to buy a new wardrobe. — CC

28 Comments on "Attention Casual Office Dwellers: Come Over To The Trad Side"

  1. Mountain Cat Prep | August 12, 2016 at 3:28 pm |

    A great list of recommendations for people getting into the style. I especially love adding corduroy pants to an outfit. A great material that is both comfortable in the fall and eye-catching.

  2. Mitchell S. | August 12, 2016 at 3:34 pm |

    Chin-chin, Christian, chin-chin. You out-styled the fashion panjandrums at the Journal.

    No offense to SFA, but any guy who takes seriously “The New Office Casual” will raise a lot of eyebrows, stir up a lot of sniggers, and start rumors that all the men who buy their new wardrobes from Saks are moonlighting as gigolos.

  3. Office Casual? What next Windows 95?

  4. Hmm…might want to try a little nicer brand of trousers than Lands End. Maybe Brooks Bros. Advantage chinos, corduroys, or gabs. Better still the same materials from O’Connell’s or JPress. Otherwise, the recommendations are right on

  5. Charlottesville | August 12, 2016 at 4:34 pm |

    Nice picture and plug for OCBD. Could not agree more with your take. I love my subscription to the Journal, but definitely not for the men’s fashion. Always hawking ridiculously overpiced trendy frippery. I might suggest adding a Baracuta jacket (or reasonable facsimile, given the current price).

  6. August West | August 12, 2016 at 4:57 pm |

    $175 for a polo shirt? I think not.

  7. So, Saks recommends a $2k office casual ensemb. Guffaw! I can but never would. Careful with the Lands End cuffs. Just gave away 4 pair to the SA because, even for only $25, their cuffs were bulky and their fit was too full from the knee down. I’ve since opted for RL’s slim fit chinos. Roll the ankle hem up once and you’ve got a great fitting chino for most avg builds. Outlet mall price around $35 with discounts and coupons.

  8. I sure hope you get the first time readers before they become first time Saks buyers. Reminds me of a GQ “infomercial” type article that showed cotton pants, a tee, light jacket, and suede(?) PTBs that came in just shy of $2K. A lot of the target audience for the above article probably has no idea what price/quality variances are out there…or that there even ARE “casual” alternatives to denim, black, and sweatshirt grey.

  9. JPM and PWC must hold some Saks equities. This “New Office Casual, Guys, C’mon In the Water’s Fine!” seems to me to be just so much churning. Then again, fashion has always been about churning whereas style is the hallmark of Trad. Could also be a clandestine attempt at luring the posers to out themselves by wearning cargo shorts and nasty Nikes to dress-down Fridays — makes the culling easier when that time comes, as it cyclically does. Fun piece. Thanks.

  10. Someone once recommened that I dress like my bosses boss. Allowing for more economical interpretations of the high-end labels involved (at least in the beginning), I was never able to find fault with that advice. Example: Big Guy wears Alden shell cordovans, Kid wears Florsheim longwings…but they’re both black, and Kid polishes his several times a week. Big Guy wears Speedos and flip-flops to weekend office pool party — you and I both know it ain’t gonna happen!

  11. Bags' Groove | August 13, 2016 at 7:30 am |

    A patterned jacket in a shade of blue? Heaven forbid. As for that tie, ditto. Newcomers should be shown the sartorial pinnacle, to know what they’re aiming for, and told that it doesn’t come cheap, even at sale time.

  12. James Redhouse | August 13, 2016 at 10:41 am |

    CC: Am I mıstaken, or have you finally accepted the term and the concept “Trad”? I seem to remember your arguing that it was a Japanese thing. Forgive me if my memory is playing tricks on me.

  13. G. Bruce Boyer | August 13, 2016 at 10:49 am |

    A Brilliantly reasonable approach to wardrobing for the younger guy on a tight budget. But then it always has been.The EEE [Eastern Establishment Elite] never spent their money frivolously and always expected good value. That’s what places like Brooks and Press were about.

  14. @August

    The $175 polo is for the JP Morgan guys.


    I don’t currently own a patterned sportcoat in a shade of blue, but it seemed like a sensible option for a newbie. You may suggest an alternative. As for the tie, I didn’t get a chance to Photoshop it out.


    I think for a few years now I’ve been using the term “trad” semi-ironically as a term that’s convenient in situations such as this. No interest in debating founding members of Andy’s Trad Forum about whether there is or is not a legitimate genre of clothing called “trad” (there is not, ’nuff said), nor in debating what’s the most trad kind of dog, car or girlfriend.

  15. CC, if you ever need to take a short break, this Dress the Newbie Trad idea [especially if the newbie’s unsure he likes the look] is worthy of a “Dress the Unsure Newbie For Under $___” challenge. It would keep us readers busy for a couple of days at least. Or more, if the challenge is fierce [prizes].

    What got me thinking along these lines was University Stripe’s comment the other day re that JCP cotton crew neck. I checked it out, even got the camel/grey stripe for myself [another female who dresses in guy’s clothes, wearing husband’s outgrown khaki shorts as we speak], that sweater is a really neat item [though selling out fast] — ten bucks with an extra 25% off, sporting some very smart needle detailing at the neck and armhole.


  16. @James

    The tone of this article is pretty contemptuous, and all but declares “trad” as the domain of small minds. I think it’s no mistake that the tepid (possibly faux) endorsements here are for newbies awash in a post-corporate dress code.

  17. Flo, please elaborate on how this would play out. Not sure I follow you.

  18. NaturalShoulder | August 13, 2016 at 2:39 pm |

    I admit to being a bit surprised that JP Morgan is going business casual. I thought that the banks would still hold out for suits. I thought PWC was casual along with all of the other accounting firms. I deal with CPAs frequently and there is only one who comes to mind who wears suits regularly. I like the trad selections Christian laid out. Too many people have no clue as to what is appropriate for business casual.

  19. Bags' Groove | August 13, 2016 at 3:22 pm |

    CC, my suggested alternative to the blues are primal tones, those shades of grey and brown that have served me so well not only sartorially, but also architectonically. Many eschew them as boring, but for me they’ve been the great colours of life.

  20. “Dressy cargo pants” nice use of an oxymoron on Saks’ part.

  21. Plus Que Parfait | August 14, 2016 at 12:38 am |

    Trad has none of the negative connotations of Ivy, and the even more negative connotations of Preppy.

  22. What’s with the guy’s hairdo?

  23. CC, a perceived-by-me-only gap seemed to lie between those in the 50% first time visitors you were addressing in your, no question, gold standard office casual list, and those who’d be trying out trad on the ground for the first time. For example, someone who wants to experiment w/ the Easy Layer crew for the first time, may be less likely to put $150 into a Peruvian pima cotton crew [Andover Shop] than a $12 plain cotton one at JCP. And so on.

    You’re right, going down market to dress a trad newbie idea ain’t go no legs, but thanks for the reply. Let me take this opportunity to tell you what a beautiful writer you are, great gift w/ composition. And with that great impossibly-hard-teach-bugaboo, Taste.

  24. Nice try to find a pony in a pile, Christian. Good for you. But shame on JP Morgan and PWC. The grand oxymoron known as biz casual. So glad Weiner ended Mad Men so I never will have to watch a 60 year old Don Draper wear a size L OCBD with Topsiders and chinos to the office.

  25. Love that quote! Off to tweet it.

  26. Sorry, but men don’t wear popovers. Too queer, too feminine, and I don’t care who that offends.

  27. MDixon: You’re wrong. Sexually insecure much? SAD!

  28. Evan Everhart | March 15, 2018 at 6:07 pm |

    @ MDixon:

    Dear sir, up until the very end of the 19th century, and then only rarely, the popover, was the only shirt made for men. The concept of a shirt which un-buttons to the bottom hem was unheard of. The popover/pull over style shirt was the original style of shirt produced by Brooks Brothers by the way, and this style was a direct lineal sartorial descendant of the tunic/under-tunic made of linen which was the original under-shirt (dress shirts were originally also considered under-garments just as their predecessors were). You just sound really ignorant on that point, and obviously don’t even understand the history of what you’re talking about. Though, I would not wear a pastel rainbow uni-striped popover (My Dad had one and I still cringe at the thought of it).

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