Business Casual Basics

23 03 2008

Business casual is perhaps the least well-understood genre of clothing today. The term has been used to encompass everything from jeans and polo shirts to suits without ties and varies by region, by industry, and by office. Here is some advice on navigating the genre and some tips for outfits that can’t go wrong, no matter where you are.

A brief history of business casual. In the dawn of the business casual age, the term simply meant a suit without a jacket. Then in the 1990s, thanks to the dotcom boom (and the whole grunge era) business casual got way more casual, to be the point of just being frumpy. Now employers are reeling it in, and demanding more professional dress.

Err on the side of business, not casual. The number one mistake that young professionals make in choosing clothing is dressing too casually. This is an especially bad blunder because most of us already look too young to be in the profession (especially if, like me, you look like you could still be in high school). The best strategy you can use to minimize the appearance of inexperience is to dress more formally. The bottom line is, if you want to be taken seriously as a professional, you’re going to have to step up your game.

Clothes that do NOT qualify as business casual:

  • Uggs
  • Fleeces
  • Flip Flops
  • Jeans (if your office allows jeans, the dress code is smart casual, not business casual)
  • Sweats of any kind
  • Shorts

Spend the Time and the Money. I’ve heard a lot of people say that they don’t like buying work clothes so they do it as quickly and cheaply as possible. That is a mistake. The bottom line is that you are going to spend the rest of your life in this genre of clothing, so you should invest some time and money now to get clothes that you like and that look good.

On the positive side, once you know what to look for, business casual can be comfortable, flattering, and even a little edgy.




3 responses

8 04 2008
scott the 0L

I work in a biz-cas office in LA. Typically the men all wear slacks and dress shirts, with the occasional rebel sporting khakis, if over 40. Same goes for DC. You will occasionally see blazers, but if you see these too frequently, I would recommend you stop hanging out with tools.

8 04 2008
scott the 0L

addendum: no polo shirts or tennis shoes.

23 04 2008

my firm’s dress code is biz cas, and most wear smart-looking jeans with proper shoes and an appropriate top. then again, my firm is in london, so the dress customs are somewhat different. point being – don’t count out jeans entirely as a way of dressing biz cas in the office, even though it isn’t normally thought of as such.

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