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.