Business casual

Business casual for men: the most complete guide

In this article, I will talk about business casual for men extensively, after this reading (hopefully) you will gain your own ability to understand when it’s time to wear business casual for men and how to put it together.

Why is it so important to learn the nuances of dressing? When you are dealing with people, when you need to sell an idea or a product and be influential it’s extremely important to connect with your audience. And you do it by “talking the same language”.

It’s important to visually talk in the same language and resonate with them. You will have less resistance and more connection.

The problem of business casual is that it involves your personal approach. Like many other things that involve taste and sensibility, it takes time to learn details, because this guide is not just ” wear this, don’t wear that… ” And sometimes you need to learn it from your experience and your colleagues.

Style and taste most of the time are just an agreement on what it should and shouldn’t be, and those things change through time, type of business, and geographical location.

That’s why a general guide that covers all the minimal aspects and is true all the time is quite impossible.

But at the same time, there are few basics that will stay true for a long time and that’s why we will talk about it here.

Business casual is becoming more and more a standard in American work environments, so it’s worth analyzing and understanding this dress code.

What is business casual for men

Definition by Lexico: “Relating to a style of clothing that is less formal than traditional business wear, but is still intended to give a professional and businesslike impression”.

Check out the definition here [External Link]

Definition by Oxford Learners: “a style of dressing in which people who work in business wear clothes that are suitable for their profession but less formal than traditional business clothes”.

Check out the definition here [External Link]

This is exactly what business casual for men is:

  1. Made by clothes suitable for a profession.
  2. Intended to give a professional impression. 
  3. less formal than traditional business wear.

Business casual for men respects these three rules all the time. Let’s make some examples: is a graphic t-shirt respecting these rules? No.  Is a formal suit respecting these rules? No. Are khaki pants respecting these three rules? Yes. check out this guide I wrote on khaki pants.

Jonathan Sigmon, in a business casual attire.

I also asked Jonathan Sigmon, the director of Alan Flusser Customs what is business casual. This is his definition.

Business casual is a rather generic term these days that can be used to identify a wide variety of attire, depending on the office. There is no one definition as it can be viewed quite differently by different people, however, it is generally agreed that it includes separate trousers, a dress shirt with no tie, and a blazer or sportcoat.

Jonathan Sigmon – Director of Alan Flusser Customs

What is the business casual dress code and what is not?

Accordingly to x university this is the do-don’t list.

  • It shouldn’t look like a cocktail party attire.
  • It shouldn’t look like a formal attire.
  • It shouldn’t look casual.
  • Your clothes should fit you properly.  not too tight, or too saggy, Just perfect. 
  • It should be classy rather than trendy.
  • Your outfit should be neatly pressed.

These style guides also depend on geographical location, industry size, number of employees, interaction with customers, climate, the average age of the workforce, culture, and traditions. Make sense right?

Business casual attire should be different in Miami than in Central London. Business casual dress code at Google is different from the business casual dress code at Goldman Sachs.

So these variables all together create each time a unique scenario that you might have to learn. The answer is: look and learn. 

Business casual is never lackluster in any case. Not too tight and not baggy,  It’s very neat and stylish. It should be appropriate enough for any kind of meeting, even the CEO of the company (at least this is what this article sais).

It is more, dressing down in formal wear instead of dressing up in casual wear. It’s not meant for you to be noticed, You should stand out by your class and good taste. You should know how the business casual dress code in your office affects how you dress.

There are several tips below that make it easier for you to choose the appropriate clothing.

History of Business Casual for men

We need to thank Hawaii and California if we have this semi-formal semi-casual business attire confusion.

Everything started with aloha shirts that were usually worn in Hawaii on Friday, because of the climate.

Casual Friday slowly spread east to California, continuing around the globe until the 1990s when it became known as Casual Friday. 

Casual Friday on wikipedia

I want to introduce a personal note here. Companies embraced and rode the wave of this newborn dress code. They were able to create a whole new market with a new demand.  

Read also  Are jeans business casual?

Business attire is pretty straightforward, colors and fabrics are very limited. So there was a needing for a new model in order to let more companies market their products. One of them was Dockers with chinos khakis pants for men.

Scale of formality

There is something called the formality scale, which is basically how clothes rank from informal to informal. This is something that helps you especially in point three: “less formal than traditional business wear”.

The scale of formality is a concept that is very easy to understand:

Scala della formalità
From the left, we have a tracksuit that represents no formality. On the far right, on the other hand, there is a white tie formal dress whose maximum degree of formality.

Some colors are more formal than casual. Some textures and fabric are more formal than others. the rule is:

  • The cleaner the pattern, the more formal is the garment.
  • The darker the color the more formal is the garment.

Business vs business casual

Business attire is another chapter that I should explore in a separate article. I already covered a lot of the points of business casual and by now you should be able to understand exactly the difference between the two. We said that business casual is less formal than a traditional business wear. Well, that’s the entire difference. 

Business attireBusiness casual
SuitYesNo
TieYesYes but can be easily taken off
slacksnoyes
White shirtyesyes
JeansAbsolutely notmaybe
PolosnoYes, with precautions
blazersnoyes
bright colorsUsually nomaybe
Brown, khaki, green colorsnoyes
Denim Jacketnono
Double breastYes yes
Dress shoesyesyes
chinosnoyes
Leather shoesyesyes
t-shirtsnono

Business casual outfits men

It’s time to dig into this subject in a more practical way: let’s try to put together some business casual outfits for men. Let’s review some common practices.

Basic core values:

Colors 

There are not a lot of options in business attire: white shirt,  lead-gray, dark gray, blue, brown, and black for leather. You can use khakis for a trench but that’s all.

Colors are usually pretty dark. Fabric is very thin without textures. As you see, not a lot of options.

In business casual, colors allowed are a little bit more informal. You can use neutral color but make sure to avoid very bright colors and textures that are too informal.

Neutral colors scheme chart. Neutral colors can be combined together without any problem.

Learn how to bring attention to your face by using colors here:

Fabric Textures

The main rule is: the smoother the texture, the more formal is the outfit. As you probably already discovered business casual for men is kind of a step down from business formal attire rather than casual style with a blazer.

Business casual Jackets

As mentioned before, the whole point is to be conservative. Don’t try to be too creative with business casual because you still want the agreement of the office. The perfect jacket for this role is a navy blue blazer. A great companion and the workforce of any business man. Wear that and you are good to go everywhere.

Business casual shirts

Still in doubt on what to wear? Well, start with a button down shirt a clean well-pressed shirt will do always the job.

The best option for business casual is long sleeve shirts even in summer. Short sleeves are not considered business casual.

What colors: if you are in doubt choose light solid colors (either white or light blue). Be conservative, don’t try to impress.

Business casual polo

Be careful with polos, because they can be accepted easily in casual situations. Tuck in polos like shirts. Choose light colors, not too bright. 

Ralph Lauren Custom Slim Fit Pique Polo

Check out this article to know more about it.

Socks

The only way to wear socks is by using dark socks that don’t show any skin when you sit.

Business casual shoes for men

You should wear exclusively leather shoes. A big no for sneakers, sandals, espadrilles, or hiking boots.

Color range: black to light brown, dark brown. Match the color of your shoes with the color of your belt.

Business casual boots

As we already said, avoid hiking boots. I suggest in this case Chelsea boots if you really want to wear boots with business casual.

Business casual men summer

It’s summer and very hot. You are stuck in the office or simply live in Florida. the answer should still wear a long sleeve shirt.

Are jeans business casual?

are-jeans-business-casual
Jeans are not allowed on business casual dress code

Unfortunately no. There is no room for jeans and denim in the business casual dress code. So keep denim out of the outfit. 

This article explain more in detail the matter.

Are polos business casual?

Yes, as mentioned before, polos can be part of this dress code.

Final thoughts

Dressing correctly, and connecting visually with your audience is not only something for big corporations. Promoting yourself can lead you to a better wage, and better condition. Sure it’s not just that, there is more. But this is part of the rules of the game that need to be learned.

The more you need to promote yourself the more you need to learn how to dress correctly.

Some of you could say: Steve Jobs was an example of someone with no dress code, no style and he still made a fortune. Well, yes. But I could answer, How many Steve Jobs do you know, out of millions of businessmen?

He was obviously unique. In his position, he could do whatever he wanted. That’s not the case for the rest of us.

In this article, you learned the basic concept of business casual, history of it, and some examples. In the next videos, I will cover specific aspects that you might want to know.

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And also: do you think this article can help some of your friends? Make sure to share it with them. Let me know in a comment if you have any questions and see you soon.

Hello my name is Alex, welcome to my blog. I believe that every man can transform himself and become the person he has always wanted to be. If you like my articles subscribe to the newsletter and join in the community I'm creating. I wish you to become the man you want to be.

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