The business casual dress code sounds easy. After all, I would wear what I usually do to work, and that is it, right? The business casual dress code guidelines are a source of frequent confusion for workers.
Business casual can mean different things to companies, cities, ages, and industries. Although this particular dress code has such loose perimeters, our custom clothing style experts are there to help you decipher the dos and don’ts of the business casual dress code.
WHAT IS BUSINESS CASUAL
The Oxford Dictionary describes the term as “a style of clothing that is less formal than traditional business wear, but is still intended to give a professional and businesslike impression.”
Although that definition puts loose perimeters on what business casual should be, we like to put our own definition to it. Business casual is “A style that takes elements of traditional office wear and combines them with coordinating elements of a less casual wardrobe. It is more formal than smart casual but less formal than business professional”.
THE HISTORY OF BUSINESS CASUAL
The term business casual was invented relatively recently. Up until the 1960s, casual wear was exclusively worn on the weekends at home. On the weekdays, men were expected to wear a suit and tie everywhere they went. In 1966, a company based out of Hawaii began producing Hawaiian shirts as a way to celebrate their state’s pride. This company came up with an idea for an ad called “Aloha Fridays.”
They began targeting local businesses to allow their employees to wear Hawaiian shirts on Fridays. It quickly spread from stores in Hawaii to a trend across the US. This trend of incorporating casual wear into business wear carried over to the 1990s when Levi’s introduced their Dockers line into the corporate community.
Employees were beginning to complain to upper management that they did not have a good in-between casual bottom to wear to work. They were either spotted wearing shorts or dress pants to work but nothing in between.
This new line of khaki pants introduced by Levi’s was a great in-between for employees to wear to work. Ever since then, the trend of business casual has become popular in offices across the world.
BUSINESS CASUAL EXAMPLES
When wearing business casual, you should always try to abide by the principles of style and sophistication when deciding on your look. If you are conflicted about what you should be wearing, we recommend airing on the side of caution and sticking to more formal options. It is better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed.
BLAZERS OR SPORT COATS
Wearing either a blazer or a sport coat is an excellent option for the business casual dress code. Both jackets can carry over nicely from the boardroom to an after-work cocktail hour. With thousands of patterns and colors to choose from, the type of jacket you go for is all based on your personal preference and sense of style. If you are unsure about what would look best on you, we recommend reaching out to our dedicated team of custom stylists to help you choose what is best for you.
Blazers and Sport Coats would look great when paired with a good pair of khakis, chinos, or complimenting trousers. Just keep in mind, never wear the same color bottoms as your jacket. In the office, stick to wearing button-downs or sweaters underneath your jacket. Avoid the T-shirt unless it is the weekend.
For shoes, we recommend pairing them with either a leather or suede-based shoe in classic earth tones. Try pairing your jacket with either a monk strap, loafer, Oxford, or derby shoe.
BUTTON-UP DRESS SHIRTS
A good button-up is essential for the business casual dress code. You really can not go wrong by wearing a good crisp, clean white button up to the office. For a more relaxed approach, you can pair your dress shirt with an Italian style knit tie, like the one pictured from Hook & Albert.
Just remember that if you are going to wear a button-up by itself, the fit of your shirt is going to be most important. You don’t want to show up with yards of extra fabric tucked into your pants. At that point, it tends to look sloppy vs. professional. If at all possible, we highly recommend going custom for all of your work shirts.
LEATHER OR SUEDE SHOES
Given the broad perimeters of the business casual dress code, there are a number of different shoe options that are acceptable. We recommend sticking to more classic styles of shoes that are made out of either leather or suede. Oxford, loafers, monk straps, and derby-styled shoes are all great options to stick with. Try to get your shoes in classic earth-tone colors such as brown, tan, olive, burgundy, etc.
CHINOS, DRESS PANTS, CORDUROY’S, AND KHAKI’S
All of these are excellent options for a casual business environment. Your pants should always emulate the sharpness, sophistication, and intent of the rest of your outfit.
The key to mastering business casual is always to wear a different color pant than your top. With a great pair of solid neutral-colored bottoms, you can never go wrong. They are an essential building block to the rest of your outfit, especially if paired with a bolder print-up top like with a sports jacket.
In a business casual environment, it is ok to ditch the tie. Of course, that does not mean that you should not ever wear one. Ties can be a great accessory to show off your sense of style. They take on a personality all on their own! If you decide to wear a tie, try sticking to finer materials such as silk and wool.
Just like the tie, a business casual environment paves the way for incorporating more unique accessories to your outfit. Try adding a tie bar, flower lapel blossom, coordinating belt, a fun pair of socks, or a pocket square for that something special.
ARE JEANS CONSIDERED BUSINESS CASUAL APPROPRIATE?
The short answer is, it depends. Denim sits in the grey area. If your office does allow you to wear denim, we suggest only wearing dark washes and or colored jeans. Avoid denim that is lighter in wash and has any holes/rips in it.
If you are unsure of where to get office appropriate denim, let us recommend getting a pair out of the Paige Federal line. Not only does their denim have a good amount of stretch, making them comfortable throughout the entire day, but they come in a wide variety of colors. We love to pair them with one of our custom sport jackets!
Our best piece of advice is that if you are unsure, ask your boss or take a look at others in your office. If you do not see anyone coming in wearing jeans, I would leave them for the weekend.
WHAT BUSINESS CASUAL IS & WHAT IT IS NOT
- Sports jackets & blazers
- Chinos, trousers, corduroy’s, khaki’s, and other dress pants
- Button-up dress shirts
- Cardigans, turtle neck, & cable knit sweaters
- Ties, pocket squares, belts, lapel blossoms, and other related accessories
- Colored or dark wash jeans
- Leather jackets
- Bomber jackets
- Tennis shoes
- Slip ons
- Flip flops
- Hiking boots
- Beanie or other casual hats
- Athletic wear or anything you would wear to the gym
- Light-washed or ripped jeans