It May Not Be What You Think

Generally speaking, men’s business casual attire means:

  • Pressed chinos or trousers
  • Shirts with a collar
  • Sweaters, blazers
  • Relaxed but sharp footwear

What men’s business casual attire does not mean is:

  • Shorts
  • Tee shirts
  • Athletic shoes
  • Sandals or thongs
  • Clothes bearing slogans

In terms of colors, stay away from black. It’s too formal for business casual. Earth tones — navy, certain shades of green, red, and brown — tend to work best. "Stick to earth tones or dark colors for business casual jackets," The Art of Manliness advises. And white socks are a no-no.

Business casual basics

"Just because the workplace has gone casual doesn't mean you have to look like every other drone in the office," GQ notes: "in shapeless pants and oversize dress shirts." A sharp business casual outfit begins with a sharp collared shirt. Look for one with a semi-cutaway collar, a lighter lining, and crisp button cuffs. You could also wear a washed Oxford shirt or a checked button-down. Most elegant are soft finishes with subtly contrasting fabric in the collars and cuffs.

In cold months a merino or cashmere pullover will keep you warm as well as jazz up your outfit.

Business casual pants include cotton chinos, corduroy trousers, and, under certain circumstances, dark-wash denim jeans. It’s always safer to dress up than to dress down. Be absolutely sure beforehand that dark-wash jeans are acceptable in your workplace.

Separates tend to work better than suits for business casual. The blazer you choose should fit well and match your shirt and pants. It should be subtly textured with a relaxed construction. Tweed jackets are perfect, especially if you’re working on the East Coast. They’re versatile enough to see you through any occasion.

For business casual footwear stick with loafers, brogues, and rubber-soled leather shoes or boots. They should always be spic and span, so plan to polish them frequently.

No matter what you wear, all your clothes should be clean and crisply pressed. "Your shoes and belt don't have to be exactly the same color," TimeOut Chicago advises, "but keep it close." Your hair and nails should also be clean and neat. Check your clothes for any stray threads, creases, stains, or loose buttons.

Like a boss

In some workplaces business casual attire is limited to Fridays. In others it’s standard. Yet every workday should see you looking sharp, energetic, and focused. "The objective is to look cool and casual and feel comfortable," Fittery.com notes. "Not to look like you might fall asleep with nachos on your chest or like you just finished a ten mile run." With a laid-back but professional look, there's nowhere you can't go in your career.

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