In this new instalment of our series on men’s dress codes, we explore at the relaxed but often confusing casual business look. After the casual and smart casual style, business casual requires a little bit more formality to be appropriate for work.
The style has significantly evolved over the past several years as we tend to dress more casually today. If you don’t know what’s appropriate for your office, keep reading.
Throughout your career, you’ll certainly be invited to dress casually for work from time to time. This could be for the end of the week on casual Friday or for an after-hours drink with your colleagues.
Business casual is quite frankly an ambiguous style. Its definition and meaning will vary depending on your office culture and the people that you’re working with. It’s thus difficult to know exactly what to wear and how to dress appropriately.
In general, business casual means a slightly more relaxed version of your usual business attire. If your daily work outfit is a suit and tie, you can probably leave your tie at home on Fridays and roll up your sleeves. You can take things further in some companies and swap your suit trousers for chinos or mix them with a jacket of a different colour.
A key principle to keep in mind when thinking about your casual business style is to always consider how you usually dress the rest of the time in the office. Be a little bit less formal but don’t go too far. Your style is a reflection of your personality at work, so you want to make sure that your outfit stays consistent with who you are.
Understanding the style for your industry
Because business casual means different things for different industries, you need to consider first what your office culture is:
If you work in a bank or a law firm: This is the most formal sector. Your style should remain very conservative. You might leave your tie at home, but keep the jacket on, at least for the first half of the day. Jeans should be avoided, except if you’re meeting your colleagues for an after-work drink at the bar. You should explore collections from brands such as Ermenegildo Zegna and Tom Ford.
If you work in marketing or sales: You have more room to play with styles and colours. If you’re starting in a new company, observe first how your colleagues dress before exploring more audacious combinations as you get a good sense of your organisation culture. Turn your attention towards Ralph Lauren and Burberry to find the perfect outfit.
If you work in a startup: This is the least formal office culture. You will probably rarely be asked to dress business casual at all, except when meeting clients or investors. Make sure to wear something elegant that shows that you cared.