Business casual clothing bears a murky definition that leaves many professionals uncertain of what clothing is appropriate at certain events. Although there isn’t a clear, consistent definition, the general assumption is that business casual attire should be relaxed and comfortable while still being neat and clean. This gives men a lot of options in terms of how they can dress in certain situations.
Although some functions will specify on flyers or invitations that the dress is business casual, there are some places where this type of dress should be assumed. At job or career fairs, for example, business casual is the norm, although some will specify interview attire, which is more formal. Employee events, such as those held in the evenings or outside of regular work duties, are also typically business casual.
If you’re unsure of what to wear to be “business casual,” here is a quick-and-easy guide to keep you from sticking out in a bad way.
Nice pants, with a belt
Options for men’s pants are easy: go with gray or khaki pants, or even a pair of dress pants. These pants will look nice and can be paired with a variety of shirts and jackets, giving you mix-and-match options if you’re traveling with a limited wardrobe. Always be sure to wear a nice belt with your pants.
Ditch the dress shoes
While most dress attire calls for nice, freshly polished dress shoes, business casual lets you cut loose on your footwear. That doesn’t mean reverting all the way back to sneakers, but you can still wear leather shoes that are a little looser in style than dress shoes. Rubber soles instead of leather soles are acceptable, and you have more flexibility in the colors, patterns and other design elements of the shoes.
Dressing up your torso
The safest bet for dressing business casual is opting for a dress shirt with a button-down collar. You don’t have to wear a tie, but the button-down collar will keep the collar nicely positioned even when the top button is undone. You can also wear a blazer or sports coat with this shirt, provided the coat fits you and does not clash with the colors of your pants and shirt. And make sure to tuck your shirt neatly into your pants, which the buttons aligned with the belt buckle.
Any accessories worn should be conservative in nature, complimenting the rest of your attire without overwhelming it. A conservative watch looks best, and depending on your industry, it might be best to take out earrings as well. Avoid pulling out your cell phone under any circumstances.
Prepping your attire
It should sound like common sense, but your clothes need to be well-maintained and clean when you wear them. Make sure shirts are neatly pressed and are wrinkle-free, and polish shoes before wearing them. If you doubt your abilities to press your own clothing, take your outfit to a dry cleaners and have the outfit professionally prepped. Do your best to make sure you are looking your best even when an event calls for casual.
Although business casual is a common type of attire at many events and functions, it doesn’t mean you can let your guard down. Expect other professionals to judge you based on how you look, and go out of your way to make sure you’re looking your best. Your appearance within those established constraints shouldn’t be brushed off; first impressions are important, and your personal sense of fashion and neatness plays a large role in how other professionals perceive you.
Danielle, who blogs on behalf of Sears and other prestigious brands, loves thrifting for vintage shoes and scarves. She also likes to upcycle her old shoes into 3D art pieces. Read her work at eatbreatheblog.com.