What exactly is business casual?
Business casual is an ambiguous term, often described as white-tie or semi-formal wear, but with certain aspects of a suitably formal lounge outfit taken from more traditional, black-tie or business casual attire. For simplicity’s sake, business casual is usually thought of in these terms. But it can also be more diverse and much more colourful than that. It just means that the clothes you wear to a business meeting aren’t quite ready for a cocktail party!
So, what kinds of clothes are business casual? The modern workplace is a diverse place, and so are the criteria for what makes a suitable business attire. In the US, business casual is usually interpreted to mean that you’re dressed in a manner that makes you comfortable and less formal than the usual workplace attire. It’s important to bear this in mind when choosing your business casual wardrobe: a bow tie might be a good option for a conservative office suit, but it’s best avoided in a more casual environment. And for women, the business casual wardrobe will include more skirts, dresses and tops rather than pants, suits and blazers. The key is to choose clothing items that you feel comfortable in, that make you look good, and that doesn’t break any rules when it comes to being professional.
Shoes are one of those things that are considered business casual, and this encompasses more than just the shoes. Your shoes need to be appropriate for the environment where you are going to be working, as well as for the time of year. For example, shoes for a summer day should be more airy than those worn during winter. While you may consider dress shoes with dressy attire, you might find that your heels are too tall, or you won’t feel comfortable walking around in those with very thin soles. While it is perfectly acceptable to wear athletic shoes in many workplaces, consider that your shoes can be considered business casual if they have a sports’ theme.
As far as wearing shirts go, it is acceptable to wear a polo shirt with dress pants, and a dress shirt with a suit. It is considered acceptable to wear a dress shirt with a jacket in the winter. Remember that you need to dress for the climate as well as for yourself, and these days, even in workplaces, your workplace should not be dressed in an overly fashionable light. In most workplaces, business casual attire means being fairly casual. You don’t need to have a tie, and you don’t need to wear too much.
For office wear, it is acceptable to wear dress shirts with dress pants. However, be sure that you dress down, meaning that you might consider shorts instead of dress shirts, for instance. Also, it is acceptable to wear a tie, but not necessarily a dress necktie. In the workplace, business casual attire might mean dress shirts with dress pants, and a blazer, or perhaps a plaid tie, rather than a conventional necktie. Remember, too, that in the summertime, a business casual outfit might mean something else entirely!
For business attire, a nice choice is khakis or slacks. These can be combined with a tie, especially if the jeans are dark. A blazer is a good choice for working in the summer time, and it’s not considered business casual if it is paired with a skirt. In fact, some companies won’t hire you if they think you’re wearing the wrong clothes!
One example of a business casual outfit that often gets a pass because it fits with the others is a t-shirt and jeans outfit. In fact, many business owners choose to wear this type of outfit when they attend casual holidays such as barbecues. The outfit looks great, but it does not have to be as formal as you might think. You can get a stylish t-shirt and jeans combo, but in a non-business casual length and worn with a nice pair of jeans. You can also wear a sweater and a cardigan, or even skip the sweater and choose pants instead. Just keep in mind that you’ll probably want to add a button-down shirt underneath in the case of inclement weather.
Shoes, however, are often seen as another problem for business casual attire. Business shoes can be worn in any style, but Oxfords, Chelsea boots and sneakers are among the most common choices. Oxfords are great because they go well with just about any color of dress, and they are affordable as well. Chelsea boots are great for wearing with almost any color of the dress, and they are fairly inexpensive.