Great Tips on Business Dress and Business Casual For Men

Adhering to a business casual dress code often poses a challenge for many men. You want to be comfortable and relaxed, yet still maintain a professional look. On the contrary, when maintaining a business dress etiquette, where do you draw the line on incorporating sportswear? Whether you’re a young professional just starting to build your wardrobe, or are well seasoned in the business world and want to add new inspiration to your men’s apparel, you’re in luck. Discover the differences between business dress and business casual for men and how to incorporate the appropriate style for your situation.

What to wear: Every work environment is different. What may be considered appropriate for business casual in some work spaces, may be too casual for others. Your best bet? Check out what your co-workers and leaders are wearing. You don’t have to copy their style, but it will give you an idea of how to dress business casual.

Suits and suit separates: A fine suit is the prime differentiating factor between business dress and business casual. The standard business dress code always requires a tie. A suit made from fine materials, well-fitting dress shirt, and silk tie are go-to items for business dress. However, make sure your suit, shirts and ties are clean and pressed each time you wear them. Wearing fine clothes that sport stains, rips or tears can be worse than not adhering to a business dress code at all. And in most cases, you can remove your jacket once you’re in the office or a meeting.
Dress trousers and khakis: Dress trousers are always suitable for any business casual dress code. Depending on your work environment, khakis will most likely be considered appropriate business casual apparel. Pair either with a sportshirt or turtleneck, sportcoat and leather shoes for a professional yet comfortable look.
Dress shirts: Dress shirts balance the look of your outfit and visually complement your accessories. For a business casual dress code, try pairing a pinpoint dress shirt with tweed trousers, penny loafers, a leather belt and cashmere scarf, and you’ll look instantly dashing. When adhering to a business dress code, a point collar is the most versatile for business or dress. Button-down collars look best with a sportcoat and khaki pants; they are not typically worn with a suit. Also, look for dress shirts that come in wrinkle-free and stain resistant materials. They’ll keep you looking fresh even during your busy travel schedule.
Shoes: Shoes are a versatile category. Many dress shoes that can be worn with a suit, can also be paired with your business casual attire. Tuxedo shoes, or black patent leather dress shoes, are too dressy for the office and should be reserved for black tie affairs. Historically, sneakers have been too casual, although designers are coming out with more sophisticated styles that may be appropriate for your work setting. Choose a pair of shoes that offer clean, crisp lines and are made from genuine leather. Be sure to treat them with a leather protector and clean them regularly, as a shoddy pair of shoes can instantly spoil an entire outfit.
Briefcase/laptop bag: A distressed leather mail carrier style bag, messenger bag and laptop case in subdued shades is acceptable for a business casual work environment. For business dress, however, a briefcase is best. Look for a classic case in a versatile shade such as cognac, burgundy or black.

What not to wear: Be forewarned in case you were debating wearing any of the following to work:

Obnoxious t-shirts: Wearing a soft tee shirt made from finely woven cotton underneath a V neck sweater is perfectly fine for business casual apparel. However, wearing your Spring Break tee from 1999 is not. Prominently displayed logos can look tacky as well. Save the raucous bachelor shirts for weekend use only.
Jerseys of any kind: Absolutely not. No. Not ever. A basketball, football, baseball, or any other kind of sports jersey is never appropriate for the office. The same goes with baseball caps, giant finger gloves, track jackets, or any other sports apparel you’re tempted to wear on a day when you’re not feeling so fresh. Others will notice your lack of effort and inappropriate attire immediately.
Sandals: While flip-flops have a charming, beach-hippie sort of appeal, you should avoid wearing them in a business casual work environment. No matter the designer or materials, they are simply too casual for the office.

Business Casual Examples

In today’s modern world, there are no longer many work settings where one must wear a suit and tie to work every single day. Some work places have, in the last 25 years or so, been deemed “business casual” or many have a business casual day each Friday. But what exactly does this somewhat subjective term mean? What should you wear to a business casual office?

When determining what to wear to work, you will want to put a little more focus on the word “business” and a little less on the word “casual.” This term was created in order to prompt people to be more comfortable in the workplace. But you still need to look professional every day. So if the term were slightly more accurate, it would perhaps be called “business comfort” instead. Key pieces for this type of wardrobe are:

Flat front pants in cotton or wool, in black, gray and khaki.
Button down shirts in pastels, pinstripes, and dark/brights such as aubergine and teal.
Lightweight knits such as cotton, wool and cashmere.
Patterned ties.
Sport jackets.
“Non-sneaker” shoes such as boat shoes, penny loafers, or derby shoes.

One of the keys to creating a stylish and appropriate business casual wardrobe is look for staple pieces that you can mix and match. For example, a pair of charcoal gray wool pants can be worn with a lightweight knit, a button down shirt and tie, or a button down shirt with a sport jacket. A solid colored cashmere v-neck sweater can be worn over a button down shirt and tie, layered over a ribbed cotton crewneck, or worn underneath a sport jacket. A button down shirt with a light pin stripe can be worn by itself with the sleeves rolled up (on a hot day), worn with a tie, layered underneath a sweater vest, or worn with a suit.

Wait… a suit, you ask? In a business casual setting? Yes, there are times when a suit is definitely still appropriate and even warranted. If you are going to be meeting with clients or if you have a business meeting, it’s time to suit up. Earth toned suits such as those in brown, khaki and olive green are generally regarded as more casual than those in black or navy. You can also look for a suit with an interesting pattern, such as light plaid or pinstripe. A key to appearing a little more relaxed and casual in a suit is also definitely in what you wear under it. You should avoid character or novelty ties. But this is a good time and place to experiment with different tie styles. Try wearing a tie in a lively color such as purple, mauve, orange or yellow. This is a great way to add a touch of personality to your outfit, and it appears much less conservative than, say, a traditional navy and red diagonally striped tie.

The bottom line to building an appropriate business casual wardrobe is that while it is supposed to be “business comfort,” you are still in a work place. It is a great idea to wear ties with a bit of color in them, to casually roll up the sleeves of your button down shirt to your elbows, or to wear a sport jacket with a pair of khakis or wool pants instead of a suit. However, it is not a good idea to wear tee shirts with written slogans or sports teams on them, faded denim, plastic sandals, or anything with holes in it. Remain conservative and professional with your wardrobe, but inject some comfort and creativity into it.