Dressing for the office was quite simple. If you worked in an office, you wore a suit and tie. There was no real reason to deviate, as many companies that had offices were also in contact with customers. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and dressing for the occasion is the way to do it.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Silicon Valley became a place where results trumped everything else. While many companies lived on processes, some of them antiquated, the tech field began to focus on their product processes and letting their employees feel comfortable in their jobs. cabinets. Thus, the idea of business casual was born and the suit became a whole other high level of office wear.
What is business casual?
Ah, the decades-old question: what do employers mean when they say “business casual”? Here’s the catch: there’s no simple answer. Every company has a different idea of what the phrase means and what suits their workspaces. The only thing that is certain is that the dress code is higher than streetwear but not formal enough for a suit. Your company’s position on this spectrum will depend on the company’s mission.
Let’s start with the basics. If you work somewhere that has a vague casual dress code, here’s a good starting point to help point you in the right direction and help you figure out how to dress casually.
Shirts: Replace your typical dress shirt with a more relaxed version with a buttoned collar. Patterns work best in this level of dress because you can ditch the tie.
Pants: Ditch the dress pants. Your dry-clean-only pants can go in the closet, and you should invest in a few pairs of elevated chinos.
Shoes: Dress shoes are a sure way to upgrade almost any outfit. However, dress shoes might be a little too high with business casual attire. If you want a pair of shoes that can enhance some outfits and tone down others, go with Chelsea boots.
What not to wear for business casual?
Although there is a greater variety of clothes you can wear when you dress casually, there are certain clothes you should avoid wearing either because they are too formal or too casual. Business casual takes the spectrum of sartorial levels, from streetwear to formalwear, and cuts the extreme ends to focus on the middle.
Shirts: Obviously, you shouldn’t wear your formal tuxedo shirts, and hardly anyone will try to find ways to fit them into their wardrobe. However, you will start to see people inserting a t-shirt into their office wardrobe. even elevated luxury t-shirt falls too far towards the laid-back end of the spectrum.
Pants: Dress pants are going to be a bit closer to the formal side of the business casual spectrum. However, while they may be acceptable to wear with an open-necked dress shirt, they are generally more expensive than chinos and should be reserved for more formal settings.
Shoes: There are basically only two types of shoes that we recommend against wearing with your business casual attire. Your athletic sneakers and steel-toed work boots won’t work in the office. Sure, if you’re a construction worker and have time in the office, you might wear them, but you probably don’t wear casual clothes. More likely, you’re just putting on a polo shirt over your work clothes.
Can you wear jeans as a business casual?
The short answer is yes, but there are a few caveats if you want to wear jeans to work. The first rule of wearing jeans in an environment where jeans aren’t generally seen as your choice is to wear upgraded jeans. Dark denim is what you are looking for. You definitely shouldn’t be wearing the same jeans you wear when you’re walking around the house on the weekends. These should be a dark wash and in a slim silhouette.
The second rule is to breed them. Jeans are the pinnacle of casual wear, which means they’re designed for streetwear or tougher outdoor work. They were never meant for the office, but after years of expanding the uses of denim, they can now be worn to work as long as they are the most casual item you wear. Pair them with a sports jacket and dressier shoes or Chelsea Bootsand you can absolutely pull off jeans in the office.
Can I wear sneakers for business casual?
The rules for sneakers in business casual are similar to the rules for jeans above. First, they should be upgraded and they should be what many shoe companies call dress sneakers: slim silhouette, leather uppers and soft soles. Two, they should be the most casual item in your outfit. Pair them with chinos and a sports jacket to take these sneakers to the next level of the dress code spectrum.
Ultimately, business casual is a harsh and vague statement that can be very confusing. Some companies will lean more towards the formal side and want to see everyday sport coats without requiring a tie. Other companies will lean more into the casual look and just ask you to wear chinos and a polo shirt.
Either way, the best way to approach a casual business environment is to lean more formally until you know what others around you are wearing, and then find your place on the spectrum. Remember, the higher you go in most companies, the higher you will go on the dress spectrum. In other words, dress for the job you want, not the job you have.