Business casual has now become the normal dress code for many work environments. Yet what you wear can be determined by the company and industry you work in. From start-ups to tech spaces, all the way to corporates, each company, department and team will have its definition of business casual.
The advantage of the business casual dress code is that it allows a man to express his individuality and style. This is of course, within the dress code parameters laid out by his place of work.
This guide is here to help you identify some items you may want to add to your collection when stepping into the business casual work environment. Before we do that let’s take a look at how this all came about.
Business Casual, Where did it all start?
Way back in the ’60s, the Hawaiian custom of Aloha Friday was born. In short, men could wear Hawaiian shirts on a Friday. The concept was adopted in California and spread into the western dress code as we know it today. The term ‘Dress down Friday’ or ‘Casual Friday’ made its way into firms across the globe.
It was around this time that organisations started to define to their workforce what business casual meant. They produced guides and still do, on what is allowable for business casual.
Fast forward to the era of remote working and the idea of business casual is ready to evolve. The emphasis on the casual side of the dress code is filtering into the workplace. Looking smart, even if erring on the casual side should always be followed.
When it comes to adding business casual items to your wardrobe, the key is to choose neutral tones and buy interchangeable quality items. This simple rule will garner a collection of versatile garments that will stand the test of time as the trends come and go.
The jacket or blazer should feel comfortable with a relaxed yet smart feel to it. It should be unstructured with soft shoulders, to allow you to move with ease.
Merino wool in darker colours such as navy or even grey is flexible enough to pair with light or dark chinos, and shoes or sneakers.
Opt for a herringbone or a subtle windowpane pattern for that standout accent. A patterned jacket works in the office, out for dinner or at a weekend social event.
The overcoat works as both a business casual coat for work and a dress-down coat for social events. Granted, the overcoat is mostly worn in the cooler seasons or out in the evenings, you know it will always be in style. It’s one to have in your winter coat collection.
The fit should be tailored enough to your frame, to project a refined silhouette.
When choosing a material go for wool such as cashmere or merino A darker colour in a simple style will hold its own as trends come and go.
Keep the shirt simple and plain. A crisp oxford shirt will go with any outfit, its versatility lends itself to pairing with blazers, knitwear, chinos, dark jeans and white sneakers.
Opt for both white and light blue and these will stand the test of time in your capsule wardrobe collection.
The polo shirt is the go-to t-shirt for the business casual look. It has its place in a corporate environment, the tech space, a start-up and everything in between.
Be sure to go for a neutral tone, and pair it with chinos or jeans. The fit should be slim fitting but not tight.
Cardigans, sweaters and jumpers are all essential for the colder climates or when the office air conditioning is just that tad too cool.
The versatility of the zip neck jumper allows it to be zipped down and worn with a t-shirt or dress shirt, or worn like a roll-neck when zipped up.
The crew neck and v-neck jumpers can be worn with a t-shirt underneath, be sure to pair them with chinos and smart shoes so as not to look too casual.
The great thing about chinos is that they work in many social settings. As business casual go-to pants, chinos add a level of comfort, sitting nicely between suit pants and a pair of jeans.
A darker colour works all year round, whilst a lighter colour would be more suited for the warmer seasons and your summer outfits. Pair the chinos with a shirt and a merino wool sweater or a polo shirt.
For jeans to work well with a business casual outfit, they should be slim fitting with no rips or distress marks. Pair them with a nice fitted shirt, unstructured blazer or even knitwear.
Keep the footwear on the smart side, unless the working environment allows for sneakers or trainers.
Depending on the environment, the choice of footwear will range from oxford shoes to smart trainers or sneakers.
Brogues and loafers, particularly a tan or brown, will compliment jeans and chinos.
A desert or chukka boot is more on the casual spectrum of a business casual shoe. Pair the boot with a smart shirt to keep the whole look in keeping with the business casual theme.
Wearing sneakers or trainers will depend on the direction provided by your working environment. For a large corporate, sneakers may be reserved for a Friday, whereas in a startup it may be the standard fare for footwear.