As workplace norms keep adapting to modern times, so do dress codes. Proof of this is the men’s business casual code, which provides a wider and more liberating take on the type of formal attire worn by office workers just a few decades ago. Imagine mens business shirts with a cotton blazer on top of it, no tie, and you’ll get the picture. Having said that the business casual code doesn’t have defined principles and rules, and it’s still considered a somewhat blurry concept. For instance, it can be hard to know when it’s appropriate to wear business casual jackets, pants, slacks and other corporate office wear. As a result, a lot of men are left wondering what exactly the business casual dress code entails.
Business casual, by definition, as a style that’s not as formal as conventional office wear, but it still designed to give off a business-like and professional impression. Of course, this definition leaves a lot of room for interpretation, as for some men, casual refers to shorts, hoodies and t-shirts. To get it right, go more towards business than casual, and you’ll get a good idea of what’s appropriate and what’s not. That being said, there are still a few sophistication and style principles that you should look to follow. However, business casual is far more relaxed than the business professional dress code that entails wearing Oxford mens business shirts and suit jackets.
A dress shirt and a tailored blazer are always a safe bet. Ties are optional, and they’re often left out. As far as bottom wear goes, you may get away with wearing jeans, depending on the industry you work in, but you’ll have to make sure the jeans are REALLY nice. Otherwise, your best bet is to stick to trousers like cotton chinos. And when it comes to footwear, get a pair of comfortable dress shoes such as Oxfords, loafers, monk straps or derbies. And of course, make sure your entire wardrobe matches.
Dos and Don’ts When Wearing Business Casual
- Do wear blazers over the shirt when possible
- Do wear a cotton, button-down men business shirt
- Do wear dress trousers, slacks or denim of high quality
- Do wear tight fitting sweaters and cardigans on top of the collar men business shirt
- Do wear simple patterns
- Do wear dress shoes
- Do wear neutral colours
- Don’t wear suit jackets that are too fancy
- Don’t wear t-shirts or polo shirts
- Don’t wear baggy sweaters
- Don’t wear street style jeans, casual jeans, shorts or athletic pants
- Don’t wear bright colours
- Don’t wear busy patterns
- Don’t wear informal footwear
Business Casual Staples
Business Casual Shirts
The right shirt can make or break your style. Stick to classic button-down, long-sleeved shirts like Oxford. Even if you decide to go for another type of shirt, make sure it features two straight seems on the back and it fits snugly to your frame and shoulders. Stick to neutral colours like light white, light pink or light blue, at least when you’re starting out. As you keep gaining confidence in your choices, you can explore brighter colours and different patterns. You can pull off wearing a business casual shirt even without a blazer, as you can opt for something like a button-down cardigan or a nice fitting sweater, as long as the shirt is collared.
Business Casual Pants
Since you don’t have to wear suit pants anymore, you’ll have plenty of options when it comes to choosing business casual pants. However, the pants you choose should be as sharp and sophisticated as the rest of your outfit. This means you should wear clean, tight-fitting pants like trousers. Alternatively, you can get a pair of cotton chinos that feature flat fronts. And as briefly aforementioned, if you decide to go for denim, make sure the denim is of extremely high quality. It’s easy to tell good quality from bad quality denim, so make sure you get it right.
Business Casual Footwear
Since the men’s business casual code is quite broad, you get to choose from a wide range of footwear, as long as they’re made of quality materials and are stylish. Your safest bets are modern dress shoes like Oxfords, monk straps, loafers, etc. made from leather in tan, chocolate or black colours. If your workplace allows you to experiment a bit, you can get away with chukkas or suede ankle shoes. And if your workplace allows you to wear sneakers, make sure you don’t disappoint and make sure they’re immaculate.
Business Casual Blazer
Last but not least, consider wearing a nice, tight and tailored blazer. Luckily, there’s a range of materials and styles to pick from, and your safest bet are classic single-breast blazers made of light wool with notch or peak lapels to ensure you’re comfortable all year round. Get a dark or neutral colour, such as navy. A blazer will allow you to look great in the office, as well as at happy hour after work.