Most people assume that the business dress code is strictly a three-piece suit and tie. While that is true in some cases, we’ll show you how to crack the business casual dress code and make it look and feel a bit more casual.
At work, you’re normally trussed up in a three-piece suit and wear perfectly polished shoes, however, many offices are ditching the formal attire and going for what is known as the business casual men's look. To put it simply, it means workwear that fits somewhere between formal and smart-casual. This look can be difficult to get right.
So, what is business casual? Casual business wear is all about achieving balance; if you go too formal, you give the impression that you don’t have a clue about the proper dress code, or worse still, you’re implying that you don’t care. If you go too casual, then it becomes inappropriate for the workplace and it may result in your not being taken seriously. So, we’re going to try and help you out with a few suggestions on how to crack the business casual dress code.
Work With The Suit
The best place to start is to look at the formal suits you wear on a normal working day and see how you can alter it to make it a little more casual. Men's suits are usually pretty formal, but they're easy to dress down. Dressing down allows you to have some freedom with your attire, but you’re still expected to look professional and respectable. So I’m afraid it’s a big no-no to comic or slogan t-shirts and baggy shorts. Let’s start at the top.
Instead of your standard, formal blazer, go for a plain black or navy Harrington jacket and team it up with an Oxford shirt. You can stick to white or choose a light blue colour. That way you can achieve a more relaxed style but still look professional. This combination will look great with or without a tie. Of course, you can keep the blazer and just pop on a textured jumper over the shirt. It will still make you look presentable and works well with or without a tie.
If you’re happy with sticking to the formal shirt and blazer, you can always just change your trousers for something more casual. Jeans can be tricky and not all workplaces will allow them even on dress down days. If your workplace does allow them, go for a darker colour. Light jeans are usually associated with casual wear and therefore won’t look appropriate. A darker jean tends to have a ‘smarter’ look about them, and goes well with a shirt and blazer. However, do avoid skinny jeans. They may look good when you’re in a skate park or down the pub with your mates, but they don’t say ‘business wear’. Slim fit jeans are a much better choice.
If jeans are a no-go area, then try a pair of slim-fit navy or beige chinos. These will look and feel more relaxed than normal trousers and will go with almost anything. If you can, roll them up just above your ankle for a trendier look.
The Right Shoes
Choosing the right kind of shoe is just as important as choosing your outfit. So it’s definitely a no to trainers and please don’t even think about sandals…It might be acceptable in warmer climates but I doubt you’ll even be allowed through the main door over here. A pair of brown or black Chelsea boots will team up well with your outfit, especially if you wear jeans or chinos. Another good choice would be a pair of classic brown leather driving shoes. It’s a great all-rounder and will suit any style.
You may decide to ditch the tie, but you don’t have to leave the house without any accessories. Try a plain cravat or one with a subtle print to lift your outfit. The colour of it would depend on whether you want it to stand out or simply blend in with your shirt.
If you wear a watch, consider changing the strap to one that’s more colourful. If you normally have a black strap, go for beige or a light shade of brown. It will instantly liven up your look. You could also swap your watch strap for another material. For example, if the band is made of metal or leather you could change it for silicon or a fabric type material. You’ll find it gently hints at casual and won’t look overwhelming. If you want to be more adventurous, try a completely different watch. Something a little sportier is just the right thing for a casual dress code.
Generally speaking, you’ll probably travel to and from work with some kind of bag. In most cases, it will be a satchel and if this is you, try swapping it for a messenger bag. These still maintain a professional look and still hold quite a lot of stuff but don’t appear as formal as a standard satchel. It’s best to steer clear from rucksacks. There are some leather rucksacks on the market which look more presentable than the normal ones, but the general look of them says ‘weekend’ rather than ‘work’.
How To Dress Business Casual
- The easiest way to dress business casual is to switch elements of you formal suit for more casual pieces. Trade your pinstripe waistcoat and blazer for a more relaxed, plain blazer.
- Ditch the tie. Don't worry though- you can still carry on in your bag, or leave one at work for meetings.
- Re-think the shoes you wear. Leave your shiny brogues behind and wear a pair of loafers or Chelsea boots instead.
- Accessorise your look. Watches are a powerful accessory and can change an outfit. Equally, use a stylish bag instead of a briefcase.
On That Note
Subtle changes to accessories can have a big impact and you may even set off a new trend in the workplace. Don’t forget the key to the business casual dress code is down to individuality. Look at your formal workwear and see what alterations would suit you best. Our advice would be to look around and observe how your peers and bosses are dressing. This will give you a solid guideline to work your look from. Just keep these two words in mind: professional and respectable.