The business casual dress code is more often than not the cause of great confusion, when it comes to choosing what to wear. The issue is that the term “business casual” is quite wide-stretched. What is considered as perfectly appropriate at one workplace may be a no go at the next office you’re starting at.
Whilst today for many professionals and corporate gents, custom-tailored suits remain the safe choice of uniform, there are actually some workplaces and industries that emphasise on a, well, more relaxed level of attire. In other words, it’s really not easy to know what is considered as ‘business casual’. Take the ‘dress down Friday’s’ and other “fun” official days at the office, where even those in the smartest of offices are encouraged to wear something a little less reserved, and the confusion is perfect.
So what does business casual mean when put in simple, understandable terms?
Simply put, “business casual” means that suits and ties don’t necessarily need to be worn – at all. The inclusion of the word “business” solely indicates that a certain level of formality should still apply to your choice of clothing and that this is something that you should always keep in mind. In other words, this prevents guys from thinking: “Hey, I can just wear this printed shirt with a funny slogan, and it’ll be perfectly okay”.
Some simple rules that you can follow, in order to help you to maintain an appropriate level professionalism, whilst rocking the business casual code at work can be found here:
Jeans can be worn (at some workplaces)
Many gents will be dying to get the following question answered; “can I wear jeans at work?”. The short answer to that question is, well, yes, you can. And no, you can’t. Whether or not you can wear jeans at the office really depends upon where you work, and the organisation’s attitude to just how casual “business casual” may be considered for them. If your colleagues are wearing jeans, then by all means – go for it. If they’re not, then don’t!
Where the rules lie with jeans comes down to their fit and finish, really. Always make sure to opt for a smart style that is not too tight and definitely not ripped or washed out. If jeans aren’t acceptable at work, then consider the alternative of chinos or flat front trousers. The general rule of thumb to have in mind here is to stick to traditional colours such as black, grey, navy or beige.
Collared shirts? Great idea!
When it comes to your choice of shirt in terms of the ‘business casual attire’, it’s always a good idea to ensure that the shirt you are planning to be wearing has a collar. It doesn’t really matter whether you’re wearing a polo shirt or a formal dress shirt – as long as it has a collar. T-shirts, even under a blazer, are considered as too informal and should be saved for your days off. Try a dress shirt with button down collar and feel free to unbutton the top 1-2 buttons, but don’t go any lower than that – as you don’t want to show too much skin either.
Wear your best knitwear
A benefit of the business casual dress code is that it’s more than acceptable to wear a sweater or sleeveless pullover over your dress shirt, unlike in many formal scenarios, where your warmth comes down to the hidden vest that your parents trained you so well to wear!
At all cost, avoid chunky knits and sweatshirts though, as these are too casual for the office. Invest in quality merino wool and fine cashmere knits instead.
Show your personality
One of the big advantages of the business casual dress code is that rather than conforming to the everyday corporate style, you can choose to dress in a way that better reflects your own personality.
Wearing a solid coloured dress shirt, or one with a subtle print, is definitely acceptable or why not wear a real stand out jacket? Perhaps one in a pattered fabric or with coloured button holes or elbow patches?
If you however prefer to keep your actual clothing more muted, then business casual is also the perfect outlet for you to show off your accessories a bit more.
Add interesting cufflinks or coloured dress shoes to your look, stylish scarves made of cashmere, or perhaps a colourful pocket square to add a bit of colour to the outfit? Whatever you do, just make sure to not go overboard – make sure you stick to including one interesting feature in your outfit to impress your colleagues with – not more!
Always keep a tie in range
Whilst it’s generally accepted that a necktie isn’t required for business casual wear, it is however still a good idea to keep a spare one in the office – just in case a client arranges a last minute meeting. It hasn’t ever hurt to be prepared for any kind of situation.
Make sure to wear closed shoes
As far as shoes are concerned; as long as they’re closed toe shoes to work, you’ll be just fine. Depending on where you work trainers may be acceptable, but, if not a loafer, then a monk strap, or driving shoe, or even a chukka or Chelsea boot will keep you in good standing.
Well pressed clothing – always
No matter what you choose to wear, the most important fact to remember in order to look smart is to ensure that your clothes are clean and well pressed – always. Even a 3-piece suit can end up looking messy if it is creased and crumpled.
As a rule of thumb, keep in mind to leave any trousers with holes in them or frayed bottoms at home with the sweatpants where they belong.
Fitted, not tight
No matter how good you think something may look on you, you always need to maintain a minimum level of professionalism at work. Make sure that your clothes fit and flatter you. Don’t wear anything too tight, or too low cut on the chest – you don’t want to be the source of office gossip for the next week. Do you?
Take note of your surroundings
We’re not talking about that you should copy the outfit of your colleagues, in order to become their evil clone. In-fact turning up in exactly the same outfit that a colleague had on the week before will do you no favours at all, so steer away from that thought, if you ever had it in your mind.
Instead, simply take note of their level of formality, and make your choices from there.
If your boss is wearing jeans then that should be good, but if not, then you shouldn’t either. Actually, no matter if he does or not, don’t wear jeans at work. It’ll just make you look too casual.
Many people believe that a dress down day or business casual dress code gives them the excuse to dress as they would during a weekend. It doesn’t. And no, you really shouldn’t. You are still at work. Always keep that in mind. Save the T-shirts, tracksuits, shorts and flip-flops for your days off.
Instead, make a good impression with one of the tips we’ve mentioned above and you should be good. The ‘business casual dress code’ isn’t that confusing now anymore, is it?
If you should still have questions, please do feel free to contact us via our contact form, Messenger or by phone.