It is becoming more and more typical for workplace dress codes to get a modern-day twist in today’s fashion. But the rules surrounding business casual styling remain a little unknown, and the lines for what is appropriate are somewhat blurred.
That being said, it is still possible to identify and follow specific trends regarding this fashion choice in a way that makes it both stylish and appropriate. Whether that be finding the perfect pair of mens boat shoes or the ideal blazer, business casual is easier than you think.
What is Business Casual?
By definition, business casual style represents a way of dressing that is not quite as formal as the traditional office wardrobe we have become familiar with over the years. However, it is still professional enough to give off a business-like impression. As you can see, the space left for interpretation between these two ends is quite significant.
Despite much more freedom when it comes to dressing this way, the nod back to tradition means that you are still expected to follow certain rules or customs when choosing to dress in this style.
Do’s and Don’ts
While a large part of any wardrobe is left up to personal style and preference, it is helpful to get a better understanding of what those rules might be when it comes to following dress codes that have them. As previously mentioned, the exact guidelines are slightly ambiguous. However, there are some usual ones we do know.
Regarding the ‘do’s’ of business casual, tailored blazers, cotton long-sleeved button-downs and tightly fitted cardigans or sweaters are good places to start. Wearing a blazer that is too fancy will cause you to be over-dressed, whereas polo shirts and t-shirts are far too casual. Anything fitted is instantly considered to be more formal.
You should also opt for dress slacks, tailored pants, or fitted jeans made from high-quality denim and dark in colour, like black or grey. Your outfits should be relatively neutral and monochromatic, at least in the beginning, with little to no patterns until you become more comfortable dressing like this. And lastly, stick to dress shoes, which offer more range than you expect.
If it is too bright, has too busy patterns, and is appropriate for an afternoon at the beach, you are wildly underdressed and much too casual to meet the expectations.
When it comes to the best blazer for business casual, you need it to be fitted and appropriately tailored. It should be a slim cut, with a square fit around the shoulders. The lapel should end just above your backside, while the sleeves end just before the shirt cuff, allowing a little sliver to poke through.
While you have many styles and colors to choose from, you can never go wrong with a soft wool, single-breasted blazer if you feel uncertain about what to go for. Naturally, choose something that is a dark, neutral color. It will keep you warm and looking very dapper all year round.
In this instance, the most appropriate shirt to wear is also probably the most versatile one you can have in your wardrobe, the ever-faithful button-down. This wardrobe staple can be dressed up for formal occasions like business meetings and weddings but can become casual enough for afternoon brunch.
The key is getting it in the right colors and patterns to maintain professionalism. You should stick to neutrals like black, navy blue, or white. However, you can explore light, block colors like pastel pink or pastel blue, and more patterned styles once you become more confident. Anything too bright will be too casual.
Now that traditional suit pants are no longer the only route you are allowed to take, you have a world of options available. But regardless of what you choose, your pants should have a sharp silhouette and carry the same level of sophistication as the rest of your outfit.
You will never go wrong with tailored dress pants, but if you prefer a different style or material, fitted chinos and high-quality dark denim are also very acceptable. There should be little to no baggy options and absolutely no distressing or tears in the jeans.
While the oxford dress shoe will never go out of style and will always be an appropriate footwear option for business casual and formal wear, you do any one or two more options from which to choose. Leather loafers, boat shoes, and monk strap shoes are all very acceptable. However, they do need to be leather, so if this poses a moral conflict for you, simply switch to a faux leather option, as their quality and finish are identical.
Your accessory pool isn’t the biggest in business casual, but there’s one noticeable change in the line-up. Ties are entirely optional. That doesn’t mean you should never wear them again, as they are still a classy addition to an outfit and appropriate for more serious events you attend, like important business meetings or formal evening events. Stick to classic color combinations and when possible, always choose silk.