Men can dress casually for work. When you see it on a dress code, it makes your stomach turn. What’s the meaning? How can a suit work for both work and play? How can you know what to wear if you don’t know what you want?
Business casual for men is one of the most talked-about fashion topics among our clients, and sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin. So we asked the people at Oliver Wicks to explain what “business casual” means so that you never have to worry about it again.
“Business casual” seems to be one of the most confusing words in men’s fashion, which is funny. Most men’s first experience with it is in their workplace dress code, which is not a place you want to mess up.
At its core, men’s business casual wear is a more relaxed version of the classic business clothes you see in movies and TV shows. If you’re not a lawyer or an accountant, you probably have to wear it to work. It’s become the standard workwear for men, so how do you dress to do well at the office and in business? Let’s talk more about what men wear to work and how to make it work for you.
What Does “Men’s Business Casual Clothing” Mean?
Let’s start from the beginning. How do men dress for business? If the word has ever confused you, don’t worry. Part of the problem is that men’s business casual clothes are not all the same. Even after you’ve thought about what we’ve said here, you should check with your workplace to make sure your outfit meets their standards. It can be different from country to country, city to city, and even industry to industry.
But the main thing to remember is that you don’t want to look either too casual or too formal. You want to find a balance between being dressed up and professional and being too dressed up. It might be easier to think of it as part of the “dress code hierarchy” as a whole:
- Smart Casual
- Dress for work.
- Business professional attire for men can easily bleed into business casual attire.
- Business Formal
- A black-tie event
- White Ties
So we want a polished, yet comfortable, business-appropriate look that looks good to clients and makes you look like you’re on the job. But it doesn’t make you sweat like you’re at a white-tie wedding for your fraternity brother.
If you work in a good office that takes its dress code seriously, they will give you some clear guidelines to help you figure out what they mean by the term. However, not all workplaces do this.
What do most people think of when they think of business casual for men? Think:
Shirts: short sleeves are okay, but they should have buttons. Polo necks are controversial, and it depends on where you work. Shirts with collars, sports coats, and sweaters all pass the test. Most of the time, a long-sleeved shirt is fine, but if it’s a “fancy” shirt, it might be too formal. Ties and shirts that can’t be worn without one are usually not allowed, but there are some exceptions.
Trendy places of work do have business casual shorts and other daring looks for men. But it’s best to save those for certain workplaces and men who aren’t afraid to push the limits of what’s fashionable. Most of us think of chinos, dress slacks, or dark jeans that look as little like denim as possible as professional or casual pants.
Shoes: Men can almost always wear dark leather loafers or casual dress shoes with their business clothes. Sneakers are close to the edge. Well-styled, non-flashy sneakers in a dark color that look as little like sports shoes as possible can work for business casual, especially in less formal fields like technology, but tennis shoes and your latest Nike kicks won’t.
Some business casual ideas for men include a jacket, like a sports coat, but most of the time, this is not a good idea. Depending on the weather, of course. During the season, you may need a sport coat, but keep it smart but not too formal.
What should you never do? men’s sandals, unstructured T-shirts (especially those with prints), distressed, ripped, or “fashion” jeans, sports shoes, hoodies, boat shoes, sportswear or “athleisure” looks, and (usually) shorts don’t wear loud prints or styles that stand out.
Work boots are usually on the list, too, unless you’re looking for business casual men’s shoes in an industry where protective gear is used on-site and you might need it. If you ride a motorcycle to work, choosing the right shoes can be hard because you need the right safety gear. You’ll have to plan around this and make sure it fits with the way you do things at work.
Anything edgy or avant-garde that isn’t in the creative industries probably won’t work as business casual, either.
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE BUSINESS CASUAL DRES’S CODE
The idea of business casual clothing for men is a very new one. Before, business meant, well, business. You wore either a uniform, work clothes, or a suit. There was no way to act casually. But times change, and so do places of work.
With the growth of the tech industry, modern workplaces are different from those of the past, and they also have a different look. Today, most people wouldn’t want to deal with someone who wears a full three-piece suit every day, unless they work in the legal or financial fields. Even there, what’s acceptable and what’s not has changed over time. For example, Wall Street has recently become less strict about fashion.
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