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Business Casual Attire: How To Dress For Success

Last Updated: August 3, 2022

Office culture and style norms tend to change from one generation to the next. Although the office environment has changed quite a bit, many aspects of the business dress code have remained the same and improved in various aspects.

Some companies are pretty strict about dress codes with their employees, while others are much more relaxed with what their employees choose to wear. 

Nevertheless, this article will take a look at business casual attire so you never miss a step in your appearance while you’re hard at work.

RELATED: Our Semi Casual Guide: Everything You Need to Know

What is Business Casual?

Although the business casual look comes with some variations, there are a few staples considering the outfit style as a whole. It’s more relaxed than a three-piece suit, but this doesn’t mean you’ll pair a dress shirt with your favorite shorts. 

It’s easier to successfully put together a business casual outfit if you pay attention to what not to wear. For example, this includes not wearing shorts, sandals, or sneakers, as these are generally deemed to be overly casual.

You still want to carry a professional look, yet the casual aspect usually gives you a bit more range in comparison to what a full suit requires.

When Should You Wear Business Casual Attire?

Business Casual Attire

For men and women alike, there’s a time and place for business casual attire. It’s a good option when looking for a job as it’s a great mid-point in formality that isn’t over the top. You’ll find it to be a common choice at networking events as it’s common to encounter many kinds of professionals.

Sometimes business and meetings are handled over a meal, and this is another scenario where a business casual look would do you well. 

If you’re employed, your company may provide guidelines on how to dress business casual, and each company can vary on what’s accepted and what’s not.

Business Casual For Men

Business Casual For Men

The differences between a strictly professional and a business casual look are quite close, but it isn’t difficult to make some minor changes to look more casual and relaxed. You’ll want to stick to long-sleeved button-down shirts, but skip the tie if you’re looking to make it a bit more casual. 

If you feel that’s too much, you can also opt for a clean-looking short-sleeved polo that also offers a button-down.

Blazers tend to be more optional, but it’s advisable to keep one on hand, depending on the setting. Where a button-down shirt is more than enough for work, you may want to throw on the blazer if you have a meeting coming up.

If the blazer seems a bit too much, you can opt for a bold, patternless sweater that comfortably fits over your button-down shirt. This is usually a fitting look and still gives your collar room to shine. For bottoms, some people are okay with wearing a nice pair of jeans, but that can be considered overly relaxed to some. It never hurts to go with a pair of chinos or slacks in this case.

Shoes come with a more finite rule book, as more relaxed footwear such as sneakers or sandals won’t fly for business casual. You’ll want to stick to a nice pair of loafer or dress shoes, even if you’re going for the business casual look. 

Shop Men’s Business Casual at Nordstrom

Business Casual For Women

Business Casual For Women

Regardless of gender, many of the business casual rules men abide by apply to women as well, with a few minor differences. Dresses and skirts still work for women in this case, but the length and design matter much more. They should reach the knees or further below, and you want to stay away from designs that may be considered too flashy.

Choosing a neutral color is always a safe bet, but you can opt for any colorway that suits your look. Pants are a little easier to manage, as women could choose from chinos, suit pants, or tailored dress pants, all of which are suitable for the business casual style.

Some women prefer to have a blazer with them to carry a professional look, but it’s important to choose a neutral color such as navy blue, grey, or black, as it shouldn’t be distracting by any means.

Blazer or not, an ironed blouse or button-down shirt is an excellent choice for business casual, but keep in mind some companies may have specific requirements regarding tops. It shouldn’t include any identifiable branding, stitching, or logos, as you want the top to blend in with the rest of your ensemble.

The footwear category generally falls in line with men’s business casual dress code, as sandals or sneakers simply aren’t a good idea at all. Women who want to retain a more relaxed yet professional look will want to stick to loafers, neutral flats, or even closed-toe heels, which are always an excellent choice.

Shop Women’s Business Casual Attire at Nordstrom


Can I wear jeans for business casual?

You most definitely can, but it’s crucial that they’re wrinkle and rip-free and offer a bold or neutral colorway such as navy blue. Any loud or uncommon colorway is generally frowned upon, but a nice pair of jeans is an option for men and women alike.

Is a polo shirt business casual?

The style in itself definitely works for business casual, but you’ll want to be careful about its overall design. Many polos come with minor designs and contrasting stitching colors, but it’s best to stick to solid colors that blend with your ensemble instead of a jarring look. It also helps if it’s a button-down polo, as it’ll add to the professionalism of your outfit.

What is not business casual?

It’s pretty easy to see what may be considered too relaxed. Regular t-shirts, sneakers, bottoms such as joggers or shorts, and loud designs and colorways should stay in the street casual category. A business casual look is slightly below the fully professional style, so you don’t want to stray too far in your selection.

In Conclusion

The business casual style has become increasingly popular as the years pass by, but always consider that each company may come with its own strict dress code. There are many different scenarios where business casual is a standout choice, and there’s a decent variety for women and men to work with.

This article broke down proper business casual attire, so you know what to wear top to bottom for numerous professional and social occasions.

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