The workplace norms continue to change during modern times, so do the dress codes. For instance, men’s business casual dress code now is a more liberating form of formal attire. However, it remains a somewhat uncertain concept, that lacks established rules. On the one hand, business isn’t particularly something that you want to be very casual about.
In a world where almost anyone can hit down the office in jeans and a T-shirt, the concept of business-casual can seem not so relevant at all. Yet, just because you can do it, doesn’t mean that you always should. So where lays the balance? We are here to break those things up.
What is Business Casual Attire About?
By definition, business casual attire is not quite as formal as traditional office wear but is designed to create a professional or business-like impression. Business casual typically includes slacks or khakis, dress shirts, open-collar or polo shirts, tailored blazers, knit shirts or sweaters, loafers, dress shoes or ankle boots that cover all or most of the foot.
History of the Business Casual Dress Code
The history of business casual attire can be linked to the notion of ‘casual Fridays’, which originated in Hawaii around the 1960s. The Hawaiian garment industry pushed the idea of ‘Aloha Fridays’, where men were encouraged to laid back a bit by wearing Hawaiian shirts to work at the end of the week. Later on, the concept converted to the ‘casual Fridays’ in the USA.
However, this attire was too casual in the eyes of bosses. To fill that void, Dockers made a crucial entrance into the business sphere by knocking well known khaki slacks. To boost awareness, they sent brochures named “A Guide to Casual Businesswear”, that showed different business casual looks, to over 25,000 HR departments across the US. Eventually, a new business-casual dress code was born, and Dockers khakis became an absolutely central piece of it.
Avoid These 5 Business Casual Attire Mistakes
- Avoid wearing a fancy suit jacket;
- Don’t wear a polo shirt or a t-shirt;
- Don’t wear baggy sweaters;
- Avoid wearing casual or street style jeans or trousers;
- Avoid wearing informal sneakers, sandals or any other kind of casual footwear.
8 Business Casual Attire Tips
- Do wear a tailored blazer of quality material;
- Do wear a long-sleeved button-down shirt;
- Do wear a fitting sweater or cardigan with a shirt underneath it;
- Do wear dress slacks, chinos, khakis, or perfect-fitting denim of high quality;
- Do wear neutral, monochromatic colours;
- Do wear dress shoes;
- Try mixing textures or patterns.
4 Essential Business-Casual Pieces
1. Business Casual Pants
It’s crucial to point out that pants should give as much sharpness and sophistication as the rest of the outfit. That means look for clean, tight-fitting trousers. Make sure that the length and the whole fit is just fine.
2. Blazer Or A Bomber
Keep in mind that a double-breasted or a suit jacket with wide lapels is way too far for a smart-casual look. Instead, go for a tailored slim-cut blazer. Normally, you have a range of styles and materials to choose from. The safest way to go would be to get a classic single-breast blazer of light wool, cotton or linen. Opt for darker, neutral colours like navy, charcoal or brown –it will do wonders for your figure and will be easy to coordinate with other items.
Furthermore, with its connotations of military uniform, a lightweight bomber jacket can perfectly serve you for a business-casual look. In this case, go for classy-looking colours and materials instead of the usual shiny nylon with colourful hipsterish patterns.
3. Oxford Shirt
Oxford probably forever will be a tasteful and trusty choice. The shirt should be tight and perfect fitting to the shoulders and your frame. The length of the shirt is crucial too: the optimal shirt length depends principally on your plan to wear it tucked in or untucked. Moreover, stick to monochromic colours like white, light blue or black. One more tip – try playing around with your style and go solo-shirt, that means no cardigans or blazers.
4. Business Casual Shoes
Key factors to keep in mind: quality and style. To play it safe, we recommend sticking with modern dress shoes such as oxfords, monk straps, Chelsea boots or suede ankle boots in materials like leather and colours like chocolate, dark red, brown or black.
Essential Business-Casual Accessories
1. Backpack Or A Messenger Bag
Generally, a backpack (and no matter the style) is a bit more casual and is often used in informal occasions whereas a messenger bag tends to be associated with a briefcase and therefore seem to be more formal and used in professional situations. Nowadays there are hundreds of leather bags for men in various price ranges. Go for a classy style, soft leather messenger bag in brown or black. It should be functional, sleek and clean.
There’s a whole science about choosing a perfect watch and matching it with your style. For a smart-casual situation, pick a handsome and minimalistic watch. If a watch has a metal bracelet, it is generally considered less formal. A metal band is suitable for casual wear while a leather band is suitable for any purpose.
The main thing to learn is that business casual is still far more ‘business’ than it is ‘casual’. Business casual dress code gives you space to demonstrate creativity and enhance your style, while at the same time showing respect for your position, partners and colleagues you’re working with.