Nailing down the perfect business casual look can be tough. You need to expertly mix pops of professional with hints of laid-back to be taken seriously in the office and feel great on the job. Companies with business casual dress codes don’t require employees to wear full-blown suits and we’re ever-grateful because no one wants to be stuck at happy hour in head-to-toe wool or polyester.
Next time you find yourself staring blankly into your closet on a Monday morning, stressing over how to put together the right outfit for your workday, keep these tips in mind to make the right impression every time.
What Is Business Casual Attire?
The biz-caz dress code is a bit less fussy than your standard old-school suit and tie. You can ditch the jacket for business casual shirts paired with stylish chinos or men’s khaki pants. A tie is usually optional, but you might want to break one out if your calendar shows a meeting with the higher-ups or an important client.
Go Classy But Comfy
Comfort is so important when it comes to your everyday work outfits. Obviously, you can’t rock those super comfy sweatpants you’re usually chillin’ around the house in or that worn-out men's graphic tee you’ve had for years, but feeling good at work boosts your confidence and makes you more productive, too.
Imagine you made the mistake of wearing some that weird, stiff, starchy shirt- the one that feels like you’ve basically encased yourself in sandpaper. Rather than focusing on the task at hand (slaying at work, obviously), you’ll just be obsessing over your poor outfit choices. No thanks. Remember that comfort is key, even in environments a little more formal than your living room at home.
To keep your business casual attire comfy but definitely still classy, we like to work sports shirts into your outfits. The lightweight material is comfortable and high-tech—it has moisture-wicking technology and built-in sun protection— but still looks like you have a sense of style. You’ll also need to add a few men’s long-sleeve button-downs into your business outfit rotation. This style can be worn under a blazer or on its own, tucked into a pair of khakis, giving you plenty of options for how to style the rest of your outfit.
Pick a Versatile Style Pant
You’ve got the business casual shirts down. Time to decide on the pants. We like to say keep it simple whenever possible. A few good pairs of neutral-colored pants allow you to get creative with funky-patterned or brightly-colored shirts. If your style is a bit more low-key, then a pair of gray, black or khaki-colored pants will set off white or blue shirts of any shade. Men's chinos are the classic style choice for the office - and for good reason. Chinos go with any style shirt and never look like stuffy formal suit pants or too-casual shorts.
Ditch the Distressed Denim
Depending on the company, jeans might be acceptable, especially if you pair them with a business casual shirt and a sharp sport jacket. But, if you’re going to go the denim route, definitely stick with darker washes because they’re undoubtedly going to look more professional. Don’t even think about showing up in jeans with defined fades or rips. This look might be totally fine for happy hour, but in the office or during a business meeting, it’s more difficult to seem professional or serious when you look like you’re about to head to the bar.
Layer It Up
We like to add a sports jacket over a business casual shirt on occasion to create some real layering potential. While you’re working solo in your office, feel free to hang that jacket up to get yourself more comfortable (or, if you’re always feeling like whoever is controlling the office temperature must be native to Antarctica, throw that jacket on and stay warm). When you’ve got a midday meeting with a client or superior, you can toss it back on to appear more formal.
Dress It Up with Accessories
Accessories add a nice touch to any business casual outfit attire. Cufflinks can really bring your outfit to the next level, but don’t go too flashy. Gray, silver, gold or mother-of-pearl cufflinks add an elegant touch without drawing too much attention. Really, the only other men’s accessory we recommend for business casual attire is a solid timepiece. If you’re one of those guys who already have a large watch collection, use the office as an excuse to break out some of your best pieces to match your outfit.
Business casual attire confuses almost everyone these days. How do you avoid looking too casual or too formal? The best way to nail down the look is with comfortable business casual shirts, like lightweight button-downs or sports shirts, paired with a darker-colored chino or a pair of khaki pants. Add the sports jacket if you’re trying to seem a bit more formal and use accessories like cufflinks to personalize your look.