If you’re like me and always doubt what business casual means, here's a quick tutorial. Business Casual: a style of clothing less formal than traditional business wear, but still intended to give a professional and businesslike impression. It typically includes slacks or khakis, a dress shirt or polo shirt, blouses, dresses or skirts at knee-length or longer, and dress shoes. During cold weather, knit sweaters and vests are also acceptable.
Business casual outfits provide a more relaxed look but still indicate professionalism. It can be hard to develop a clear understanding of business casual expectations if you have just started a new job or if it’s your first time attending an event. Different employers and groups have a variety of expectations for business casual, but common denominators exist among them.
Here are some general tricks to mastering business casual attire.
1. Jackets and blazers are optional.
Unlike business formal attire, business casual outfits can be worn with or without a suit jacket or blazer. It is entirely optional! You are not expected to wear a jacket or blazer in a business casual setting.
Sorry ladies, but leggings aren’t pants in the business world. They belong underneath dresses and skirts. Gentlemen, windbreakers and track jackets shouldn’t be worn in a business casual setting either. Business casual does not include athletic wear. If you’d wear it to the gym, just leave it at home.
In general, avoid jeans in a business casual wardrobe. Some offices permit jeans as acceptable business casual clothing, but you should still avoid light-washed or ripped jeans to maintain a professional look. Pair your jeans with a button-up or dress shirt, a jacket, a good quality belt, and neat shoes. If you are wearing a button-up shirt, adding a tie is up to you.
The stress of feeling under-dressed is far worse than showing up overdressed for work or an event. For this reason, always dress up if you are unsure of business casual expectations. For example, many companies consider polo shirts part of the business-casual spectrum. If you are unsure whether this is the case with your current job or an event you are attending, go with a button-up shirt and a tie.
Always dressing up does not mean wearing a three-piece suit as business casual – it means wear a jacket and tie, even if you’re not sure if others will.
Your easiest tool to decoding what your office considers business casually is looking at your colleagues. Making observations about what people around you wear is the perfect way to gauge what your employer expects you to wear when they say business casual.