Business casual has undergone quite the evolution over the last several years. Now with more workplaces seeking to entice millennials with a “laid back” environment, it seems as though businesses are letting their employees dress in anything from ripped jeans, a Metallica t-shirt and a beanie to a more sophisticated ensemble of fitted slacks and a crisp button-down shirt.
While this change can be good, it has some men confused on what is actually appropriate at work and in other social situations.
“We’ve had a number of customers ask us what actually defines business casual,” said Rod Brown, co-owner of The Shirt Box. “Some customers have complained that they’ve walked into a function overdressed in slacks and a sweater while others have been underdressed wearing that same outfit.”
Brown and his business partner, Ron Elkus, have generously volunteered to answer the age-old question: what is business casual?
Consider nice cotton trousers in a black, brown, grey or dark color or clean, fitted khakis.
“I tell our customers that loud colors belong at the clubs, not in a budget meeting. Also, stay away from white, especially if it’s before Memorial Day,” jests Elkus.
Pants should reach the top of the shoe without bunching and jeans can be paired with a button down and blazer, based on where you are going, such as a networking event at a hip bar.
A pressed, button-down collared shirt is often times appropriate, especially if tucked in. However, Polo’s would most likely be seen as too informal. In some situations, especially if it’s cold outside, cover the shirt with a blazer or nice V-neck sweater.
Step away from the sandals and gym shoes! A formal leather or suede shoe, loafer or ankle boot is okay here. Make sure to wear it with dress socks, which can be more bright and fun.
Ties are not mandatory for business casual but, if you are unsure, consider leaving one in your car or office. Always wear a belt and keep your jewelry selections to watches and necklaces, as long as they are placed under the shirt. The formality of cufflinks should be in-line with the rest of the outfit, as should any hats or head coverings.
Brown believes a number of embarrassing moments could be avoided by doing one thing. “I strongly encourage you to do your research. Visit the company or event’s website and social media pages, ask friends or colleagues who are familiar with where you’ll be and even consider calling the organization to ask them what they consider appropriate.”
Elkus also suggests:
- Don’t overthink the outfit. You’ll just make it worse!
- Overdressing is better than underdressing
- Make sure you’re comfortable
- If you’re at work, always have a suit, with accessories, in your office. If you don’t, you could miss out on important opportunities
- If you put effort into your look all week, don’t choose a “casual day” to wear sweatpants. Continue to put some thought into your appearance