What is Business Casual for Men?
Business casual is a dress code men can use in workplaces. It’s one step up from casual, but not as formal as suits and ties or other traditional work clothes that are considered business professional.
Business casual for men, quite frankly, is more “business” than “casual”. Think being stuck in the office at your regular hours but can be taken to a semi-formal function like a christening, your rich uncle’s 55th birthday or even an engagement party afterwards!. Now in this article we’ll break down the clothing articles that pass for business casual attire.
So, what is business casual for men? Let’s take a look.
In a nutshell, business casual for men means wearing slacks, trousers or chinos, a button-down shirt, and closed-toe shoes. You can also wear a blazer or sport coat if you want to look extra sharp.
If you’re not sure whether an item of clothing is appropriate for a business casual setting, err on the side of caution and don’t wear it. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. Keeping in mind that you can always remove flashy clothes when the situation calls for it .
When in doubt, remember that business casual is supposed to be comfortable while still looking professional. With that in mind, avoid anything too tight, too loose, or too casual.
10 General Tips to Make Sure You Do Business Casual Right according to Oliver Wicks:
- Avoid shorts
- Avoid denim— ripped or not (no matter how cool you think it is)!
- Avoid hoodies
- Avoid printed shirts
- Stick to neutral colors like black, brown, cream, white, gray, and navy.
- Wear dress shoes or loafers. Avoid sneakers and sandals.
- Add a non-hooded jacket or blazer if you want to look extra sharp.
- Accessorize sparingly. A watch and wedding ring are usually fine, but avoid wearing multiple rings or excessive jewelry.
- Hats are not necessary
- Avoid sneakers in general especially for beginners in the world of business fashion
The Best Color Combinations for Business Casual Attire for Men
Color scheming for men’s fashion comes in a few but really classy combinations. It’s a tempting stereotype to contradict and may urge you to wear a printed shirt or bright hues for a pop of color. Heaven forbid you wear floral blazers just to stand out in the office! In this section we’ll explain how to add a bit of those without overdoing it or looking like your boss’ mother’s heirloom carpet.
Stylish Business Casual Color Combinations for Men
Assuming your main concern is the pants and shirt, here are three color combinations that look great.
- White and Gray: A casual workaholic’s choice
- Light blue and Cream Chinos:: Another classic combo that works well together.
- Navy and Gray: A great option if you want to look a little more formal.
Of course, you don’t have to stick to just two colors in your outfit.
Fashionable Suggestions: You can add a pop of color or print through your socks! Yes, your socks! With the rise of the statement sock brand, Iconic, and their funky, cute, hobbyist-oriented prints— many white-collar men are jumping on the bandwagon of showing a bit of personality through their footwear.
Business Casual Outfit Ideas for Men
- A classic combo that always looks sharp.
Black slacks, white shirt, gray blazer:
- A more relaxed take on the classic look.
Blue jeans, white shirt, navy blazer:
- A great summertime option.
Khaki pants, white shirt, light gray blazer:
- A great fall/winter outfit that looks stylish and unique.
Brown corduroy pants, tan sweater, brown blazer:
- A good choice for a night out or a more casual setting.
Black jeans, white shirt, black blazer:
Men’s Business Casual Shirts
There are many different types of shirts you can wear in a business casual setting. We’ll take a look at some of the common ones used and explain the most common terms regarding shirts.
- Button-down shirt
A classic choice that always looks good.
- Polo shirt
A great option for summertime or warmer weather.
- Henley shirt
A more relaxed alternative to the button-down shirt.
- Long-sleeved shirts
A good choice for fall/winter, especially when layered over a collared shirt. This can also include mid or high turtle neck sweaters. Very classy-looking!
Only appropriate in very casual settings. Avoid unless you’re sure it’s okay or it’s crisp white made with high-quality material. Typically worn under a blazer or smart jacket in business casual settings.
What shirts are considered business casual?
Among the 5 common men’s shirts above, a button-down, and polo shirts are typically considered business casual for the fashion-naive office man.
Do I have to tuck in my shirt?
For business casual, the short answer is: Yes! Unless you are wearing a custom fit shirt that perfectly styles your upper body, you’ll still need to tuck in your shirt.
What’s the Difference Between a Button Up and Button Down Shirt?
You’ll find the difference between these two is funny! A button up shirt is any shirt that has buttons running up the front. While a button down shirt is actually the same but has additional buttons on the collar that helps button-down the collar!
Men’s Business Casual Pants
Business casual pants lay out a good foundation to going for a certain look— in this case business casual. You could buy a trouser in 5 different neutral colors (preferably in the colors listed above) and you’re good to go! But if you like a bit of texture and choice for different days, below we’ll show you the general types of pants to wear for business casual.
A classic choice that always looks good.
A more relaxed alternative to slacks.
A good choice for summertime or warmer weather.
- Corduroy pants
A great option for fall/winter. Opt for neutral colors like brown, tan, and black to avoid erring on a casual look. If unsure what to pair for a shirt, it’s best to stick with slacks, chinos, and khakis.
Only appropriate in very casual settings. Avoid unless it’s more casual than business.
What kind of pants are business casual
A general rule of thumb for business casual pants is to avoid denim at all costs. No matter how good it looks to pass off as business casual— don’t!
Men’s Business Casual Shoes
For starters, sticking to black loafers day in and day out can ease the pressure from the office fashion gods. But if you’re a rebel looking for adventure, below we’ll be introducing you to a few different types of shoes you can wear in a business casual setting.
A classic choice that always looks good.
A more formal alternative to loafers.
- Derby shoes:
A great choice for summertime or warmer weather.
A good option for fall/winter.
Only appropriate in very casual settings. There may be some pants and sneaker pairing that can pass for a business casual. However, this calls for a more stylish palette and maybe even a bit of dabbling in the sneakerhead community! Try to avoid sneakers in general for business casual until you’ve got the hang of the basics in pairing which is typically material and color!
Business Casual Accessories
Styling accessories in the office must be kept minimal yet high-quality looking. Simply avoid flashy and tacky accessories and you’ll be good to go.
A classic choice that always looks good. Watches in silver, gold, and black are always easy to pair with jackets and suits.
A more relaxed alternative to watches. Just make sure it’s not a worn out rastaclat or a wooden-beaded bracelet you got from a souvenir shop somewhere in Southeast Asia hoping to make it look like you are cultured!
A great choice for summertime or warmer weather. Frat rings, engagement rings, wedding rings always look classy. Just don’t treat your fingers like a jewellery shop.
A good option for fall/winter. If it’s something sentimental but doesn’t really go well with your attire, best to keep the necklace hidden in between collars or inside your shirts!
- Pocket squares
Only appropriate in very casual settings. Avoid unless you’re sure it’s okay. We also wonder why less pockets are considered classy but that’s fashion for us!
Business Casual Watches
A classic watch, nothing too fancy. Opt for metal or leather bands to lean into business rather than casual.
Give guidance, how to combine ties regarding the color with the rest of the outfit.
Basics on which colors the belt should be. And that it shouldn’t be too fancy. Opt for a quality leather belt in black and dark brown.
Skip the pocket squares! They are an essential part of business professional outfits, but shouldn’t be used for business casual.
DON’T wear fedoras! In fact, no hats! Hats in the office are generally considered bad etiquette anyway.
Business Casual Attire for Job Interview
While the standard advice is to “dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” this doesn’t mean that you should show up to a job interview in a three-piece suit.
Of course, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and dress a little more formally than you think is necessary.
5 Tips for Business Casual Attire on Your Next Job Interview
- Stick to neutral colors like black, gray, and navy.
- Avoid anything too flashy or attention-seeking, meaning no printed shirts or bold colors.
- Make sure your clothes are clean and wrinkle-free.
- Go for a more conservative look with closed shoes and long pants.
- A smart jacket or blazer always makes someone look like they’re serious!
Business Casual Do’s and Don’ts
Aside from avoiding denim, below are a few do’s and don’ts that’ll keep you from making any office fashion mishaps! That’s the number one rule you’ve got to know when it comes to business casual as an inexperienced working man.
Knowing that denims are off the table will give you an idea of what else to avoid for this attire. However, if it’s still not clear to you, below are a few hard and fast rules that you should be aware of:
- Opt for neutral outer clothing articles when adding color. Example: A striped shirt can be paired with a solid colored neutral blazer or jacket.
- Always make sure your clothes are ironed and wrinkle-free.
- Opt for custom fit clothes. If not possible, keep them neat.
- Always tuck in your shirt for business casual.
- If accessories aren’t your thing, add a bit of personality through your socks.
- Avoid wearing jeans or sneakers unless your office has specifically announced the dress code.
- Forget to accessorize. Just make sure to keep it classy and minimal.
- Wear boxers with your pants, it bulges and shows lines and it’s not a good look. Can’t be too distracting in the office now can’t we?
- If you have ear piercings, avoid big jewellery. Opt for pin head earrings in white, silver or black colors. In general, it’s best to remove ear piercings for men in a business casual setting but if your workplace allows, then tone it down.
The history of business casual for men!
Did you know? The first recorded instance of “business casual” attire was in a 1958 issue of Esquire magazine. In the article, titled “Esquire’s New Dress Code for Young Men on the Town,” author Jay Fielden wrote:
“Gone are the days when a man could get by with a pair of flannel trousers, a black jacket, and a white shirt. Today’s young man about town needs to be more fashion-conscious…he should think twice before leaving the house in anything less than a sports jacket and slacks.”
Interestingly, the term “business casual” didn’t gain widespread use until the 1980s. It wasn’t until then that businesses began to adopt more relaxed dress codes and “Casual Fridays became a thing.
This is thanks to American men’s fashion brand, Dockers, who at that time sent their marketing brochure, “A Guide to Casual Businesswear,” to over 25,000 HR departments throughout the U.S.! From there on, a new attire for the office was born consisting of Dockers’ Khaki pants!
These days, business casual attire for men can mean anything from a polo shirt and khakis to a button-down shirt and dress pants. As long as you look put-together and presentable, you’re good to go.
Is a polo shirt OK for business casual
Yes, polo shirts are okay for business casual. They’re a step up from t-shirts and less constricting that button up/button down shirts.
Can you wear a short sleeve shirt for business casual
If they are short-sleeved button shirts, then yes, they are okay for business casual attire. If they are your regular crew neck t-shirts, best to cover up with a neat jacket or avoid them altogether.
Is a denim shirt business casual
No. Denims are not business casual. Even denim straps on watches aren’t considered business casual.
Is a black shirt business casual
No. Black shirts are for casual wear and can’t be paired well enough with jackets or pants to be considered business casual.
Is an oxford shirt business casual
Yes, absolutely! It can be worn full-button up, or in a relaxed state with one button at the top undone.
Are cargo pants business casual
Absolutely not! Leave the cargo pants for your Sunday BBQ’a with the crew.
Are chino pants business casual
Yes. They are the pinnacle of business casual pants along with khakis and trousers. They are not, however, for formal business attire to be clear.