All across the nation, the average workplace is becoming more casual. But that doesn’t always mean you can wear jeans and a t-shirt to your place of employment. Even if your office has embraced casual business wear, you still need to put effort into how you look.
Traditionally, men’s professional business attire was a fairly safe bet. You’d coordinate a two-piece suit, match it with a tie and dress shirt, and you’d be good to go. But these were the simpler days.
As the industry now embraces the more relaxed business casual dress code, finding appropriate attire has become more daunting than ever. The idea is to achieve a perfect balance – to dress appropriately without appearing too stiff … to be casual without being too casual.
If you find it all a little baffling, this article is for you. We shall go over all the fundamental do’s and don’ts you should consider as you make the transition to casual.
Business casual Do’s
If done right, men’s business casual clothing can be a stylish and highly versatile look. You can wear the same outfit for both formal and non-formal occasions, like a client meeting and then a dinner date right after. But the key here is “done right.”
A few tweaks you can make right off the bat include wearing the suit without the tie or blending your blazers with different colored pants.
Here are a few other do’s to get you started.
Do…Make sure your clothing fits properly
Whether your closet is full of premium men’s suits or you’re more of a button-down and casual men’s pants kind of guy, your clothing still needs to fit you as it should.
In 2016, a study found that American men over the age of 18 spent $85 per month on menswear, but even an expensive jacket can look cheap if you don’t tailor it to your proportions. Overly baggy shirts or too-short pants can completely ruin any positive impression you’re trying to make.
If you’re embracing casual business wear, you still need the fit to be impeccable.
Do…Look around at what people are wearing
Perhaps the most understated way of knowing what to wear is by simply looking around at what people are wearing in your office. This usually sets the tone and will tell you what is acceptable and what isn’t. Are most people in chinos and button-down shirts, or are the majority of guys wearing jeans and plain white tees?
If it’s all too random, you can ask someone in the company’s HR department for advice or higher-ups on what business casual clothing best represents the company’s brand or, better yet, what is totally unacceptable.
Do…Dress down your formal business attire
Rather than thinking of “business casual” as putting a jacket over your jeans and t-shirt, you need to find ways to make your professional clothes a bit less stuffy.
That means starting with a formal suit and dressing down from there. You can easily swap out dress pants for nicely tailored chinos or corduroy trousers. Usually, a collared button-down shirt is still considered to be casual business wear, but you can swap it out for a nice polo shirt in summer. A tweed jacket can be a welcome break from a more formal suit jacket.
But be careful not to abandon those more formal staples completely; you can easily mix and match them with other items to get longevity out of your wardrobe.
Do…Wear clean, wrinkle-free attire
This should be a no-brainer. Whether or not you’re in a business environment, It is vital that you keep your clothes clean and wrinkle-free. This shows that, even though you’re business casual, you still care about how you present yourself professionally.
Keep in mind that it only takes 1/10 of a second to create a first impression. You don’t want it to be a wrinkly one, do you?
Do…wear smart pants
While business casual means veering away from suits and dress pants, not just any casual pants will suffice. You want to go for smart pants. Think chino pants or decent pair of khakis. You can also go for cotton pants, as long as they are well-pressed and clean.
Do…Stick to the classics
Select outfit combinations are a staple in the business casual community. This means they have been tried and proven suitable in almost every business environment. One good example is the smart pants with long-sleeved shirt combination. You can pair this with a jacket or a well-cut blazer and a pair of Oxfords.
The trick here is investing in quality pieces that complement your physique. Consider tailor-made fits for your shirts and trousers. A good tailor will advise on what design and fabric will suit you best.
Business casual don’ts
The danger of business casual clothing is that it’s easy to overdo the casual bit and dress down too much. The rule of thumb here is to lean more on the professional side whenever in doubt. It’s always better to overdress than underdress.
Here are some other key pieces you should avoid.
Don’t…Wear loud patterns or excessive accessories
Basically, you want to avoid anything too bold and bright or too showy. This can be an overly bright tie, branded shirt, or cargo pants with excess pockets. A simple pair of chinos will serve you better while still pulling off the casual look.
The more simple and neutral your clothes are, the more elegant your look appears. Colors like white, tan, black, and blue never go out of style.
On the same note, avoid being too casual with your accessories. Go for a leather messenger bag instead of a backpack. Or match your belt to your shoes. It’s the small details that bring your ensemble together.
Don’t…Wear sneakers to work
Some men see “casual” and automatically think that sneakers are fine. Contrary to popular belief, however, sneakers do not belong in a casual business environment. Regardless of how great your new ‘kicks’ look, you’d do better to save your athletic wear for the gym or weekends. Needless to say, the same applies to sandals or slip-on.
Loafers and oxfords, for example, are versatile and look just as good with a suit as they do with jeans and a polo shirt. That makes them a great investment. It’s best to have both black and brown options to cover your bases.
Choosing your footwear as a finishing touch can make your outfit look complete (or can completely derail your look, if chosen poorly).
Don’t…Wear mismatched clothing
As related to the previous entry, the worst thing you can wear to work is a mismatched outfit. Some obvious examples are a hoodie with dress pants or sneakers with anything official.
Of course, this is not to say that you shouldn’t mix things up. By all means … try that cardigan and collar-shirt combination, but do it in front of a mirror first. Even better, seek a second opinion.
Don’t…Be afraid to mix it up
While you should generally stay away from ensembles that look too casual, that doesn’t mean you have to restrict your style. A high-quality knit can be a great alternative or even a supplement to a button-down and jacket.
And although you shouldn’t look outlandish, you can also be a little freer with color and pattern options with a business casual look. Many top men’s clothing brands now cater to customers who want options that are slightly less formal, so it’s more common to see some deviation from the more boring basics.
The casual business style of dressing is rapidly becoming the new norm. To fit in, you have to quickly settle on a style that compliments you. A good place to start is dressing formally and then dressing it down bit by bit.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that “casual business wear” doesn’t mean you can wear whatever you want, in most cases. And ultimately, it’s better to be a bit overdressed than to look messy.
At the same time, you have to get the right fit. A bespoke, well-tailored outfit will almost instantly transform your everyday outfit into a statement piece.
By utilizing more formal wardrobe basics and mixing them with slightly more casual elements — and working with an experienced tailor to ensure everything fits properly — you’ll look professional in any situation. Contact us today for more professional insights and business casual clothes for men.