The Meaning of “Wine Country Casual” Revealed
I don’t know exactly what “Wine Country Casual” means from a fashion perspective.
All I know for sure about this mysterious dress code is that it instructs attendees to events that formality in their dress is not required. But in thinking about this dress code, I may have figured out a few of its other helpful insights into its meaning.
1. Your ensemble should include shoes.
2. Men should avoid coordinated shirts and ties
3. Shorts are ok, as long a they are not frayed at the edges
4. Bathing Suits are inappropriate apparel for the event.
As far as I can tell these are the only real rules associated with the term “Wine Country Casual”. The most important thing to understand about this fashion term is that it really just means “casual, but not sloppy”. The “wine country” appendage to the term “casual” seems only to be a way of saying “you are in wine country so you are better than those attending casual events in a Minnesota suburb.”
In a 2005 Santa Rosa Press Democrat article by Virginie Boon and Diane Peterson, Boots Brounstein of Diamond Creek Vineyards in Napa Valley offers a definition of “Wine Country Casual” that makes one’s decision on what to wear quite easy:
“Wine Country Casual’ is what anybody really wants to put on. It’s being comfortable with yourself; and if you’re comfortable with
yourself, you’re going to be comfortable wherever you go.”
She can’t possibly mean this. I, for example, am very comfortable wearing nothing but loose-fitting boxers and a wife-beater tee-shirt. And I had a roommate in college who demonstrated regularly that he was very comfortable only wearing his diamond earring.
A WineCountry.com article suggests that “Wine Country Casual” means “casual, yet sophisticated and chic.” This definition just goes to show that Boots probably got it right since the term “chic” is really another word for “my personal style”.
My compatriot in spin, Jo Diaz, considered this subject of “Wine Country Casual”. She, like me, has used the term without really understanding what it truly means. But in the end, she has some advise for staring blankly at an invitation that says “Wine Country Casual”:
“when they’re putting on a gathering, stuffy walls come down, and the casual walls go up.
When you’re planning to attend anything related to the wine
business, if it’s black tie, you’ll be told… otherwise, dress down so
you’ll blend into the [wine country casual] crowd.”
Dress Down. Ok. I can do that.
Steve Heimoff, Wine Enthusiast editor and wine blogger, offers one more example of just how meaningless this “wine country casual” term is when, in the comment section of Jo Diaz’s article he states, “Being a certified member of the Fourth Estate means I can wear a T-shirt and blue jeans anywhere and get away with it!”
I don’t think Steve’s ability to dress in a tee-shirt and jeans and get away with it has anything to do with his being a reporter. I think it has do with an underlying statement that goes with the “Wine Country Casual” notation on those invitations.
That statement is, now that I think about it, quite simple: “Protocol and expectations be damned. We are the Wine Country set and we make no judgments about who you are, what you do, how you dress or where you come from. You are in Wine Country now, you are buying our wines and you can dress any damn way you want and be better for it…as long as you buy our wine.”
Wine drinking is a lifestyle statement. We marketers and anyone who has ever produced a $30+ wine know this…or at least insist on this. As a lifestyle statement, wine drinking is also a process of choosing between literally thousands of bottled options. And if we in wine country are going to promote diversity of drink and demand that our customers be prepared to try many different styles of drink, why would we demand they dress a certain way?
What “Wine Country Casual” really means is this: You are a better person for drinking wine. You are a better person for supporting our wine. And we love you for it, no matter how you dress.