curtis mallet summer wear suggestions.jpgAs the temperature rises, so does the desire to embrace informal summer fashions. Women are breaking out their strapless dresses and short skirts, and men are starting to sport shorts. While casual summer wear is fine on the weekends, don’t yield to the temptation to wear your flip flops to your white shoe firm.

Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle conveyed that message to its New York office with a memo sent out last week. In its e-mail making the case for “business casual,” the firm reminded associates that pecs are not to be admitted into evidence:

By all means resist the urge to acquaint us with your chest hair. If you think it necessary to impress the ladies with your efforts at the gym over the winter, think again – we are not a particularly good demographic for that.

After that, the memo’s author reminds the gents that loose-fitting suits can help hide pounds. We’re not sure what that has to do with business casual exactly, and suspect the firm just wanted to try to give equal attention to men and women so as not to appear to be solely lecturing females guilty of summer-slutty fashion sense. (As the Seventh Circuit did last month.)

After the jump, we bring you the full memo, which advises the ladies to “save it for the clubs or the beach.” According to the tipster who sent this along, the advice “wasn’t well received.”

Curtis has a reputation for being a traditional firm, with formal attire expected. Over the summer, the firm is business formal every day but Friday, when associates can let loose… per the specifications below.

Our tipster tells us:

it has been the topic of conversation since it went out–no one found it funny in the least–patronizing and condescending seem to be the words most frequently used.

Here’s the memo, with our thoughts on particular points that might not have been well-received.

MEMORANDUM

May 29, 2009

TO: All U.S. Attorneys and Paralegals

FROM: [REDACTED]

RE: Business Casual

As summer approaches it is useful to remind all of what is appropriate to wear on business casual days.

For the guys, simple rules for simple minds.

Apparently, the firm expects formality in dress but not in firmwide memos.

Take your regular formal business wear, remove the tie and if you have a wild streak that clamors for expression drop the jacket. Instant business casual. Stray too much from that and you risk humiliation.

If you dare to wear a polo shirt at Curtis, massive humiliation awaits you. Possible tar and feathering.

You will notice I said nothing about changing shoes. And there is a reason God created collared shirts.

Hail Mary… and Thomas Pink.

By all means resist the urge to acquaint us with your chest hair. If you think it necessary to impress the ladies with your efforts at the gym over the winter, think again – we are not a particularly good demographic for that.

We’re not sure whether this means Curtis men are unlikely to have anything to show from their winter gym efforts or ladies at Curtis aren’t into muscular types.

A special note for the mature man. American-cut business shirts and suits are effective disguisers of the extra pound or two accumulated honorably during the client dinner wars. Without them you quickly reach dangerous territory so be advised.

For the ladies, the situation is a bit more complicated, pitfalls abound and I need to be circumspect. In brief, save it for the clubs or the beach. If you have any doubt whether an item of apparel is appropriate, it most assuredly is not. If you need gentle guidance, the more seasoned women are happy to impart their wisdom.

Does being called “more seasoned” rather than “old” really make the senior female attorneys feel better about the adjective? And at what age do Curtis associates become “mature men”?

So how do you know that you got it right:

• if your roommate or significant other who works at that chic gallery in Soho smirks and says you are a capitalist tool, you got it right
• if your spinster aunt who works at the library remarks that little Jimmy or Jane has become a real grownup and she is proud of you, you got it right
• if you look like the most professional yet stylish dresser in the office who comports with your gender, age and body type, you got it right.

If you look in the mirror, and your conformity depresses you, you got it right.

I would hope there is enough common sense out there that I do not have to talk about denim, sandals, flip-flops, sneakers, tee shirts (yes, even designer ones), tank tops, form-fitting or faded or tattered clothes, and other eccentricities.

A special word for the young’uns. You may think we are a step away from walkers and the rest home, but the reverse is that the older group needs to be convinced you are not pimply faced kids. After all, you could be our kids, which is generally good but not if you want to be taken seriously at the job. Business wear is effective lacquer that ages you in our eyes and those of our clients. Casual wear – well, you get the point.

Enjoy the summer.

Welcome to Curtis, pimply-faced summer associates!


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