Business casual is a new buzz phrase that refers to a style of dress that is still considered professional-looking, yet is more relaxed in tone. It is different from the typical three-piece suit and pantsuit attire typically worn in the workplace by men and women, respectively, but it is supposed to still give a businesslike impression.
This means that you cannot overemphasize the casual part, such as coming into the office in an oversized sweatshirt and leggings, but you don’t want to place the emphasis on the business side either, strolling in like an overpriced attorney. Here are some things to consider when determining business casual style:
Keep Dressing for Success
You should keep dressing appropriately at all times. A good rule of thumb to go by is the “meeting” assessment. As you look in the mirror in the morning, think to yourself, “Is this an outfit that I would feel comfortable in if there was an impromptu meeting called with a client or customer?” If the answer is yes, then you are most likely dressed appropriately.
For both men and women, button up, slacks, khakis, polo shirts, sweaters, and shirts without any visible logos are key components of a business casual wardrobe. Men should also try sport coats and black or brown leather shoes and belts. Women can wear anything from twin sets, blazers with maxi-skirts, and professional, solid-colored dresses. Open-toed shoes may be acceptable, depending on the company.
What Not to Wear
You don’t ever want to make the mistake of going too casual, however. Try this: if you wouldn’t feel uncomfortable wearing it to a wedding, then you probably shouldn’t wear it to work. For example, men should probably stay away from concert shirts and basketball shorts, while the ladies should refrain from yoga pants, sundresses, and anything else featuring spaghetti straps. And, no one should entertain the thought of wearing sweat pants, sneakers, flip flops, and outrageous patterns or colors.
At the same time, keep your stuffy suits at home, as well. You don’t want to look overdressed on Casual Friday. However, if in doubt, you should always err on the side of being overdressed.
Company Culture Matters
It should be said that the business culture and climate actually determine what is considered to be business casual dress. There are many factors that go into this, including the median age of the people that work at your company, the number of employees, the industry you work in, and the amount of time that you spend with clients or customers.
Jeans or No Jeans
Most companies that encourage a business casual form of dress have a stated jean-wearing policy. While most companies forbid them, many newer start-ups are allowing jeans if the wearer abides by certain rules. For example, you should only wear your best pairs, not any that are acid-washed, stained, or contain tears and holes. They should also only be black or blue in color, not red, orange, or other out-of-place colors. Lastly, they should not sag and show your underwear, but they also should not be tight enough to be inappropriate or cause a distraction.
In conclusion, the term “business casual” still causes a whole lot of confusion for office workers. Maxi dresses with a necklace or a button-down shirt with chinos will be safe. However, if you stay neat, clean, and professional-looking, while being a little less formal than the traditional office dress code, you should hit all the benchmarks of what it means to be business casual.