A Man’s Guide to Dressing in a Business Casual Environment

Many companies began instituting a business casual dress code many years ago with the creation of “Casual Friday.” Over the last ten to fifteen years, casual Friday has turned into everyday for many businesses. If you find yourself in a business casual environment, care should be taken in the choices of work attire. An employee in this environment must remember that casual or not, their appearance makes the first impression, and each employee will, at some point, be the “face” of the company to someone. Gentlemen, business casual means much more than khaki pants and a polo golf shirt. Don’t be afraid to show some personality through your appearance, just be sure to show some restraint. For example, T-shirts, either printed or plain, have no place in a professional workplace. Also, do everyone you work with a favor and do not wear any shoe that exposes your feet. Leave the sandals for the beach and always wear socks to work.

Now that we have looked at two rules that should be considered unbreakable, let’s tackle some options that the business casual man does have.

The Suit

Believe it or not, this is an option in the business casual environment. Today’s suits are designed to be more versatile. Many styles can be worn without a tie or with a crew or mock neck shirt. A sweater can even be added during the colder months.

The main thing to remember is that it is still a suit. It should be worn only after being pressed and cleaned. Also, be sure the pants have a clean and crisp crease. You can dress the suit down, but it still has its place and appeal. The point of the dressed down suit is to look more casual and relaxed, but still look sharp and well put together. In terms of keeping the suit in good shape, try not to have it cleaned any more than four times a year. Dry cleaning too much can compromise the fabric.

The Sportcoat

Today, there are too many options available to touch on each. The important thing to remember about the sportcoat is, much like the suit, look for versatility. Many jackets can be worn in a business casual environment by day and dressed down with a nice pair of jeans by night. Also, be sure to keep it in good condition, just like the suit.

There is a difference between a sportcoat and a Blazer. Really, no man should be without a Navy Blazer in his closet. This is simply one of those items that every man can use at some point, and in this man’s opinion, it is just as necessary as a pair of jeans or khakis. Stick with wool for your Blazer because it just looks and feels better than blended fabrics. The blazer is not as casual as many sportcoats, but, like the suit, it can be dressed down and keep that well put together look.

Shirts

I cannot say this enough, but do not wear t-shirts, printed or solid to work. They simply are not appropriate in a professional environment. The three options here are polo or golf shirts, mock neck shirts, or button-up shirts. Mock neck shirts come in a variety of fabrics and look great under suits and sportcoats. Polo shirts also come in variety of colors and fabrics and are a fairly traditional option for business casual.

More and more men are wearing button-up shirts, normally worn with a tie, with an open collar. The important thing here is to be sure to keep them clean and pressed. Just because the look is less formal doesn’t mean it should be sloppy. There are several different collar choices, from button down, to spread, to pinpoint. There is really no rule here, but my suggestion is to try all styles and choose what you are most comfortable wearing.

Another note about button-up shirts is the French-cuff shirt. It has become far more acceptable to wear a tasteful French-cuff shirt with a nice set of cufflinks, without the tie. It adds a little touch of a classic look without dressing you up too much. Again, this is another one of those personal preference things. My suggestion is to give it a try. If you don’t like it, don’t wear it.

Pants

Don’t wear jeans to work. Now that we have dealt with that, what should you wear? Khaki pants are a very traditional option. Be sure the ones you wear to work are clean with a crisp crease, and that they fit properly. Wearing these everyday can make you seem, well…boring.

Change things up with charcoal, black, or olive. Even a pair of gray pants can work with the right shirt and jacket. We come to another personal preference with pleats versus flat front. Again try both and go with comfort.

Something to be mindful of is how you wear your pants. Many men (most men) in America unfortunately have a bit of a gut (including yours truly). Stop fooling yourself and stop hiking up your pants twenty times a day. If you have a gut, accept it and don’t wear the pants below your true waist line. You may think it looks better, but it doesn’t. Actually, it makes your stomach look bigger because it hangs over the waist of the pants. One option here is to add a pair of bracers. Bracers are becoming much more acceptable for men under 70 years old. In fact, I know many men that can’t stand wearing a belt now that they were willing to take the leap of faith and try a pair of bracers.

Shoes

Do not wear tennis shoes, sandals, or flip flops. This is simply poor taste. Look for a nice dress shoe, either lace up or slip on, and keep them polished. By the way, stick with the basic colors such as black, brown, or burgundy. While your taste may lean towards the indigo dress shoes, they simply are not professional.

There you have it. Business casual done right is really not that difficult, but many men would rather have a root canal than spend much time on how they dress. If you are that guy, and you just can’t get it right, your best bet is to visit your local men’s store. Make sure it s a men’s store, not one of the big anchor retailers in a mall. Any rep at a men’s store worth his salt will be able to give you great advice.

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Business Casual Examples

In today’s modern world, there are no longer many work settings where one must wear a suit and tie to work every single day. Some work places have, in the last 25 years or so, been deemed “business casual” or many have a business casual day each Friday. But what exactly does this somewhat subjective term mean? What should you wear to a business casual office?

When determining what to wear to work, you will want to put a little more focus on the word “business” and a little less on the word “casual.” This term was created in order to prompt people to be more comfortable in the workplace. But you still need to look professional every day. So if the term were slightly more accurate, it would perhaps be called “business comfort” instead. Key pieces for this type of wardrobe are:

Flat front pants in cotton or wool, in black, gray and khaki.
Button down shirts in pastels, pinstripes, and dark/brights such as aubergine and teal.
Lightweight knits such as cotton, wool and cashmere.
Patterned ties.
Sport jackets.
“Non-sneaker” shoes such as boat shoes, penny loafers, or derby shoes.

One of the keys to creating a stylish and appropriate business casual wardrobe is look for staple pieces that you can mix and match. For example, a pair of charcoal gray wool pants can be worn with a lightweight knit, a button down shirt and tie, or a button down shirt with a sport jacket. A solid colored cashmere v-neck sweater can be worn over a button down shirt and tie, layered over a ribbed cotton crewneck, or worn underneath a sport jacket. A button down shirt with a light pin stripe can be worn by itself with the sleeves rolled up (on a hot day), worn with a tie, layered underneath a sweater vest, or worn with a suit.

Wait… a suit, you ask? In a business casual setting? Yes, there are times when a suit is definitely still appropriate and even warranted. If you are going to be meeting with clients or if you have a business meeting, it’s time to suit up. Earth toned suits such as those in brown, khaki and olive green are generally regarded as more casual than those in black or navy. You can also look for a suit with an interesting pattern, such as light plaid or pinstripe. A key to appearing a little more relaxed and casual in a suit is also definitely in what you wear under it. You should avoid character or novelty ties. But this is a good time and place to experiment with different tie styles. Try wearing a tie in a lively color such as purple, mauve, orange or yellow. This is a great way to add a touch of personality to your outfit, and it appears much less conservative than, say, a traditional navy and red diagonally striped tie.

The bottom line to building an appropriate business casual wardrobe is that while it is supposed to be “business comfort,” you are still in a work place. It is a great idea to wear ties with a bit of color in them, to casually roll up the sleeves of your button down shirt to your elbows, or to wear a sport jacket with a pair of khakis or wool pants instead of a suit. However, it is not a good idea to wear tee shirts with written slogans or sports teams on them, faded denim, plastic sandals, or anything with holes in it. Remain conservative and professional with your wardrobe, but inject some comfort and creativity into it.

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Business Casual

Did you know that the whole business casual fashion was started by an oil crisis? It’s true. Back in the 70′s we went through one of the first real shortages of oil and OPEC became a household name. The government in part of its response to the shortage asked all businesses to up the thermostat setting in their air conditioned work spaces to cut down on electrical power and thereby save on oil that fired those electrical power plants.

You probably already know that a suit and tie are not really designed to be worn in an 80 degree environment. So the memo comes down from management basically saying that formal business attire is not required during the national air conditioning crisis and business casual was born as a fashion.

That memo back in the 70′s typically defined business casual by defining what was not acceptable rather than what was. Pantyhose still had to be worn by women. Jeans, T shirts, sandals, shorts and basically anything that management deemed inappropriate was specifically banned. As a result, business casual meant no jacket and no tie for many men and it didn’t mean much more for women.

When the crisis passed so did the business casual dress for everyday. Replacing it was “Casual Friday” a human resources gimmick to make everyone feel good about the company just before the weekend. And then something happened. The fashion industry smelled a new market and started promoting the idea that companies that were cutting edge and hip, like two new hot stocks Microsoft and Apple, understood the value of letting their employees have some freedom in dress rather than conforming to the company uniform.

Today 43% of all businesses have a casual dress code.

While each organization sets its own idea of what casual is, typically their policies include some common ground. The employment counseling office at American University defines business casual as half way between business formal and street wear. They give their graduates looking for a job this guidance on what is and isn’t casual business.

For women it’s a skirt or an informal dress so long as the length is appropriates (no minis). The skirt can be topped with a dress shirt, polo, sweater or sweater set. Pants are OK so long as they are full length and not made of denim. For men it’s a collared shirt, casual slacks, a belt and shoes with socks. The shirt has to be tucked in and the pants can’t be jeans.

Now understand that American University is located near Embassy Row in Washington DC so their idea of casual is just a tad more formal than say businesses in Los Angeles. The bottom line is the company sets the standard but in almost every case, regardless of the restrictions; working in casual dress is just so much more comfortable than a suit. Thank you OPEC.

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Handy Tips for Wearing Business Casual Clothing

Smart casual attire means a variety of outfits you can wear on business casual meetings, dinners, birthday parties, holiday functions, business casual nights, family get-togethers and date nights. Your dressing style really matters a lot while attending different occasions. So, it’s important to dress up with the right clothes that look suitable and are well appropriate for different events. Casual dressing generally incorporates a lot of basic clothes and accessories but it can be changed according to the person’s preference and style. If you are looking for some smart casual dressing ideas that give you a stylish and more graceful look, here you can find different ways to create various business casual ensembles.

For Business Causal

· Men should consider light colors like light blue, light brown and khaki, instead of dark colors such as black, gray or navy for business casual dress code, as light colors look more casual than dark colors.

· Consider button down shirts in polyester, cotton twill fabric that allows comfort and gives a professional casual look. You can layer a button-down shirt with a casual blazer or sweater for a stylish casual look.

· For women, avoid wearing sleeveless top as it will not be appropriate for the business environment. It’s better to go for casual shirts, blouses, dress shirts or knit shirts, pair your shirts with blazers, lightweight cardigans or jackets.

· For bottoms, men should consider dress pants and avoid wearing shorts, trousers and sweatpants.

· Women can wear knee-length skirts and pencil skirts with leggings.

For Casual Parties

· Consider bright, bold or even light colors for casual tops like t-shirts, available in different styles like V-neck, crewneck, boat neck shirts. These shirts have quality fabrics made up of polyester and cotton, allowing comfort and give a casual chic look.

· When it comes to bottoms, men can go for khakis, jeans, sweatpants, while women can wear skinny jeans, capris, leggings, miniskirts, shorts and trousers.

· Sneakers and joggers go well for casual Fridays. Women can wear flat heel sand strappy sandals.

· For dinner parties, ladies can wear high heels while dark colored boots work well for men.

· Ladies can accessorize their casual outfits with jewelry items like earrings, necklace and chunky bracelets. Moreover, they can wrap a colored scarf around their neck to get a classy and versatile look.

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Great Tips on Business Dress and Business Casual For Men

Adhering to a business casual dress code often poses a challenge for many men. You want to be comfortable and relaxed, yet still maintain a professional look. On the contrary, when maintaining a business dress etiquette, where do you draw the line on incorporating sportswear? Whether you’re a young professional just starting to build your wardrobe, or are well seasoned in the business world and want to add new inspiration to your men’s apparel, you’re in luck. Discover the differences between business dress and business casual for men and how to incorporate the appropriate style for your situation.

What to wear: Every work environment is different. What may be considered appropriate for business casual in some work spaces, may be too casual for others. Your best bet? Check out what your co-workers and leaders are wearing. You don’t have to copy their style, but it will give you an idea of how to dress business casual.

Suits and suit separates: A fine suit is the prime differentiating factor between business dress and business casual. The standard business dress code always requires a tie. A suit made from fine materials, well-fitting dress shirt, and silk tie are go-to items for business dress. However, make sure your suit, shirts and ties are clean and pressed each time you wear them. Wearing fine clothes that sport stains, rips or tears can be worse than not adhering to a business dress code at all. And in most cases, you can remove your jacket once you’re in the office or a meeting.
Dress trousers and khakis: Dress trousers are always suitable for any business casual dress code. Depending on your work environment, khakis will most likely be considered appropriate business casual apparel. Pair either with a sportshirt or turtleneck, sportcoat and leather shoes for a professional yet comfortable look.
Dress shirts: Dress shirts balance the look of your outfit and visually complement your accessories. For a business casual dress code, try pairing a pinpoint dress shirt with tweed trousers, penny loafers, a leather belt and cashmere scarf, and you’ll look instantly dashing. When adhering to a business dress code, a point collar is the most versatile for business or dress. Button-down collars look best with a sportcoat and khaki pants; they are not typically worn with a suit. Also, look for dress shirts that come in wrinkle-free and stain resistant materials. They’ll keep you looking fresh even during your busy travel schedule.
Shoes: Shoes are a versatile category. Many dress shoes that can be worn with a suit, can also be paired with your business casual attire. Tuxedo shoes, or black patent leather dress shoes, are too dressy for the office and should be reserved for black tie affairs. Historically, sneakers have been too casual, although designers are coming out with more sophisticated styles that may be appropriate for your work setting. Choose a pair of shoes that offer clean, crisp lines and are made from genuine leather. Be sure to treat them with a leather protector and clean them regularly, as a shoddy pair of shoes can instantly spoil an entire outfit.
Briefcase/laptop bag: A distressed leather mail carrier style bag, messenger bag and laptop case in subdued shades is acceptable for a business casual work environment. For business dress, however, a briefcase is best. Look for a classic case in a versatile shade such as cognac, burgundy or black.

What not to wear: Be forewarned in case you were debating wearing any of the following to work:

Obnoxious t-shirts: Wearing a soft tee shirt made from finely woven cotton underneath a V neck sweater is perfectly fine for business casual apparel. However, wearing your Spring Break tee from 1999 is not. Prominently displayed logos can look tacky as well. Save the raucous bachelor shirts for weekend use only.
Jerseys of any kind: Absolutely not. No. Not ever. A basketball, football, baseball, or any other kind of sports jersey is never appropriate for the office. The same goes with baseball caps, giant finger gloves, track jackets, or any other sports apparel you’re tempted to wear on a day when you’re not feeling so fresh. Others will notice your lack of effort and inappropriate attire immediately.
Sandals: While flip-flops have a charming, beach-hippie sort of appeal, you should avoid wearing them in a business casual work environment. No matter the designer or materials, they are simply too casual for the office.

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