Learn about business casual attire

If you’re wondering how to stay within the professional norms for dressing in the workplace, you’re not alone. Now that companies have loosened their standards from professional business attire to business casual attire, many employees may have questions. That’s to be expected. Your workplace may not have a dress code guide, or it may be vague if it does.

Following the norms of dressing in business casual attire is important. You don’t want to come to work inappropriately dressed. Although, it’s always safest to err on the side of overdressing versus dressing too casually.

Even those working remotely need to consider the professional attitude of their individual “work place” to appearance when it comes to regular Zoom meetings, combining the reality of being at home or in a rented office space with being in a team meeting, or waiting to contribute as the CEO breaks down the previous and upcoming quarter. While ties are pretty much out in such a scenario – many scenarios, in fact – professional attire isn’t.

Finding that perfect middle spot can be tricky without examples of business casual wear. You may have questions like, what is business casual attire? Are jeans business casual? Is business casual different for men than for women? Answering these questions will help you achieve the right look for work.

What is business casual attire?

Business casual attire can be defined as a code of dress that is a step down from the most formal type of workplace attire, which is business professional. It’s not quite as formal as a full suit and tie, but not as casual as cut-off jeans and a tee shirt. Each gender has slightly different guidance for business casual wear, but for the most part, the underlying principles are the same.

Keep in mind that many companies that allow business casual won’t mind if you step it up a notch and wear more professional clothing. If you’re in the mood for the full suit or have a special meeting, go for it. Of course, if you feel out of place wearing such items, you may want to forego doing so.

Why dressing appropriately matters in the workplace

You might not think twice about it, but your appearance means a lot in the workplace. It can set you apart from others in a similar position. You may stand out by dressing in a way that conforms to office standards. A clean, neat, and orderly appearance is sometimes hard to find in a business setting. So, those who adhere to the business casual dress standards will be looked on favorably by the company leaders. If it comes down to choosing between two equally skilled employees for a promotion, the person who always dresses for success may be the one to get the job.

Business casual attire for men

Business casual attire can vary from office to office. So, it’s always a good idea to check with your company to ensure that they don’t have any particular rules or “dos and don’ts.” If not, you should be safe wearing the following:

  • Cotton, khaki, or gabardine fabric for the pants. You can also wear certain blue jeans (see the section on jeans below).
  • Any button-down cotton shirt or a knit polo shirt with a collar. Avoid pullover knit shirts unless they are mock or turtleneck styles.
  • All styles of sweaters.
  • Dress in casual shoes, such as loafers, slip-on shoes, or Oxfords. You may be able to pull off an athletic shoe if it’s at least slightly dressy, which several brands are doing.
  • A belt and tie are optional.

Business casual attire for women

  • Any top that is dressy or casual in most fabric types, such as a button-down cotton blouse, polo knit shirt, cardigan, twinset, or sweater. Even a casual pullover knit shirt can look business casual with the right accessories or jacket.
  • Bottoms that are twill, khaki, cotton, or corduroy fabric.
  • Bottoms that are twill, khaki, cotton, or corduroy fabric (See jean section below).
  • Dress-casual shoes, slip-on loafers, short boots, or dressy athletic shoes.

Are jeans business casual attire?

Some people may wonder if wearing jeans is appropriate in a business casual setting. As always, it’s best to check your particular office guidelines. Make sure there aren’t any rules in place that prevent you from wearing jeans. If not, you can follow these tips for appropriate jean attire:

  • Make sure jeans are nicely cut (leave the skinny jeans for the weekends).
  • Don’t wear jeans with tears, holes, or fraying.
  • Don’t wear distressed jeans.
  • Don’t wear faded or worn-out jeans.
  • You may wear neutral-colored jeans, such as tan, white, gray, and black.
  • Dress jeans up with a blazer, sweater, button-down top, etc.
  • If you opt for blue jeans, go with a dark wash. They have a more business casual look.

Jeans can certainly be a business casual look if paired with the right top, jacket, or sweater. Additionally, women can accessorize the outfit to dress up a jean outfit even more.

Tips for business casual attire

When you’re just starting to work at a company, it may be difficult to know the exact rules, especially if there isn’t an office handbook that addresses the issue. So, what can you do if you don’t have clear-cut guidance on how to dress for the office?

For one thing, you can look at how the other employees are dressing. Be sure to look at people at the same level as you. Once you get more comfortable with the environment, you’ll get a better idea of what is acceptable. Then you can start to explore what style and look to choose for yourself.

Don’t be afraid to ask your manager questions if the dress code isn’t spelled out in writing or is vague. They will appreciate you checking with them instead of just wearing whatever you want. This is often a good idea when asking questions before a job interview, too.

If all else fails and you can’t get any answers, go ahead and dress it up a notch to play it safe. You won’t be looked down on for dressing more professionally than you need to. However, if your work attire isn’t up to par, you might have a problem.

Dressing for work doesn’t have to be complicated. With business casual attire, you have plenty of options.