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The famous Greek playwright Euripides famously stated, “Know first who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly.” What was once true in ancient Greece is still true in today’s American workplace culture. CEOs to entry-level employees can walk into the office dressed in their own individual style, whether it’s a suit and tie or a t-shirt and baseball cap. All have the freedom to choose how they present themselves. Moreover, this new workplace dress code has had an impact on other types of professional attire—specifically business casual.
What is business casual for men? Though there is no clear cut definition, business casual attire can be described best as professional clothing that is comfortable to wear. Unlike business casual for women, guidelines for men are a little more defined, with a simple business casual outfit comprising of a button-up dress shirt, slacks and oxford shoes.
Moreover, to add to the ambiguity, organizations vary greatly in how they define business casual for men. One organization may define business casual as jeans and a graphic t-shirt, while others may stick more along the lines of khaki pants and a collared shirt.
Here are five do’s and don’ts for men to keep in mind when dressing business casual.
1. Do Keep Your Clothes Clean
Business casual attire is clothing that is properly ironed and free of distressed or frayed fabric. Want less hassle? Incorporate clothing items that are wrinkle free, such as wool or wool blend fabrics, which are also lightweight and breathable.
Though it may seem obvious, tears or holes in clothing can diminish your overall professional look. The same goes for wearing an item more than once without it being properly washed and cleaned. Few things are more unprofessional than dirty clothing.
2. Don’t Get Sloppy
Though comfort is a definite aspect to business casual, don’t go overboard by incorporating less professional pieces, such as a lumpy sweater with slim fitted slacks. Remember to dress for the job you want—that means avoiding jeans, t-shirts and sneakers.
In addition, a key to business casual attire is wearing items that fit you properly. Go through your closet and assess the fit of your business casual clothes. Do the shirt’s shoulder seams lie on the edge of your shoulders? When you tuck in a dress shirt, does the excess fabric gather around your waist? Do your slacks feel comfortable around your waist? If you have clothing items that don’t pass the sloppy test, it’s time to throw them into a donation bin. Furthermore, a trip to the tailors can do wonders to your business casual attire. Wearing clothes that fit will also help you feel more confident.
3. Do Keep It Simple
Instead of the traditional suit and tie look, try opting for the suit without a tie. This is a great way to dress down a formal look without going too casual. Plus, if you’ve arrived to an office and notice a more casual dress code, you can ditch the sports coat and fit in better.
Find simple business casual pieces you can mix and match, such as navy, black or taupe colored slacks, dress shirts with no patterns, neutral colored blazers and durable dress shoes.
Also, as a general rule, keep accessories to a minimum. You don’t want to wear something that distracts from your overall look, like a flashy watch or belt buckle. Acceptable accessories include a simple pocket square or a watch with a simple leather strap.
4. Don’t Wear Anything Distracting
Along those same lines, you don’t want to wear patterns that seem too busy, loud or distracting. This also includes hats as they can really dress down your business casual outfit. Think in terms of dressing more stylish as opposed to trendy. When you dress stylish, you’re dressing in a more elegant fashion, using clothing that can be versatile and can outlast the latest fashion trends. Dressing stylish also allows you to incorporate your own fashion influence. When you air on the side of trendy, you’re simply following the crowd and run the risk of dated and distracting items for business casual. What looks good on the runway may not in an office environment.
In addition, shoes can also be distracting if they are not professional looking. When dressing business casual, you don’t have to break the bank with formal shoes. Instead opt for shoe styles such as Brogues, Oxfords, Loafers or Derbies. Get shoes in different colors, such as black and brown, so they can be paired with different outfits. Dress boots are also a popular trend when it comes to business casual footwear. Popular styles include Chukka boot, Chelsea boot, Captoe lace-up boot, and Jodhpur ankle boot.
5. Do Play It Safe
When in doubt with a business casual dress code, always err on the side of overdressing. If it’s a job interview, work conference or your first day and you’re not sure how the company defines business casual, dress more on the professional spectrum of business casual. As mentioned previously, you can wear layers, such as a sports coat or cardigan sweater, which you can easily shed if the environment is more casual. No matter the occasion, you always want your business casual attire to look professional.
All in all, the right business attire can make a difference in your professional career. By keeping these five tips in mind, you’ll not only be dressing for success, but be able to incorporate your style and comfort as well—giving you a confidence boost throughout the work day.