As “business casual” attire takes over the workplace, it is arguable that we have finally reached the end of the austere business dress code. Yet the concept of “business causal” can cause great uncertainty, since there is no one-size-fits-all formula, with its ambiguous definition varying between industries.
Indeed, “business casual” can mean different things for different industries, but it is universally agreed upon that the key to making it work is to strike a balance between smart and professional, and a more casual, comfortable look.
Business casual: A guide
Formal men’s suits are no longer a requirement in some workplaces, yet it is not uncommon for employees to combine a blazer and shirt with a pair of chinos, for example. Therefore, while less formal than traditional business attire, a business casual outfit should still come across as business-like, and perhaps prioritise implementing elements of formal attire over those that are perhaps overly-casual.
Ideas for a business casual look
If you’re still struggling to get to grips with the concept of “business casual”, don’t worry! Here are a few ideas that could help you strike the balance between the two.
- Shirts: polo shirts, collared/buttoned shirts.
- Jackets: blazers, cardigans, suit jackets.
- Trousers: chinos, suit trousers, corduroys; denim jeans may be accepted in some workplaces.
- Shoes: closed-toe shoes like Oxfords, derby shoes, brogues, or monk shoes. Avoid things like trainers or tennis/running shoes.
- Socks: avoid brightly coloured options and go for dark coloured dress socks.
- Ties: you may wish to wear a tie, but with the “business casual” look, its typically optional.
So, “business casual” is all about finding that sweet spot in the middle. Not too dressed up, not too casual. If you’re ever in doubt, it’s always best to go for the least “casual” option; after all, you are still the face of your employer, and your clothing choices reflect your workplace professionalism!
Knowing how to dress
The first thing to establish is what type of workplace environment you have: as discussed above, your workplace clothing requirements will depend entirely on the industry in which you are employed. You’re going to be the best judge of this by looking around at what your colleagues are wearing or simply by asking them what they feel most comfortable wearing to work.
Whilst we have discussed at length as to what constitutes business casual attire, and how to correctly strike a balance between the two, it is equally important to know what does not constitute business casual. Often, due to lack of proper communication, the policies aren’t clear.
This leads to confusion, leading to inappropriate dressing. Therefore, knowing clearly what does not constitute business casual would solve that problem. Here are a few examples that would not be workplace appropriate:
- Oversized or tight clothing
- Bright shades, such as neons
- Mismatched colours
- Distressed or torn clothes
- Low-cut tops or backless blouses
- Lycra outfits
- Tank tops
- Strapless top-wear or dresses
- Shorts or minis
Understanding the business casual dress code is not as confusing as it may sound, despite the word itself being an oxymoron. As we have mentioned several times, the best way to crack the code would be to strike the balance by ensuring you are comfortable, whilst still looking professional and smart.