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Business Casual Defined

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

Business casual on the surface sounds like your basic piece of cake. Simple enough to figure out what to wear for work with a dress code basically eliminated. Not so fast.

Business casual is more business than casual. In many workplaces, it is an undefined concept and with most business places there is not a dress code guideline for business casual. Employees in the workplace are at a loss when it comes to business casual because of this fact. In a variety of companies, corporations, towns, and cities business casual may be defined differently. Plus knowing a definition of dressing “business” or “business casual” is hard because it is not defined by many companies.

Specifically it is clear without the need for a written “business casual” dress code that coming to work in board shorts and a tank top or a tube top and flip flop is over the top beach wear not meant for work. Coming to work in a nice suit on “business casual” day is too formal and will come across as not being a team player.

Dressing more business than casual is the best course of action when it comes to “business casual”. The line is not easy to find, but there is a way. Find out what to wear for “business casual” for both men and women by asking around the office to more than one person and when going through a job interview.

Business Casual Wear for Women

Suitable women’s business casual wear can include nice dress pants or a skirt, appropriate match blouse, a subtle sweater, nice low-key suit jacket with nice dress shoes. Footwear can also be subtle sandals or business casual level dress shoes. Never wear flip-flops or thong sandals for footwear.

Be aware that plain colors are the most acceptable over wild brilliant colors for both pants, skirts, and blouses.

Keep in mind that solid colors are generally preferable to busy or bold patterns.


Business Casual Wear for Men

Suitable men’s business casual wear can include nice dress pants, appropriate button-down shirts, contemporary dress socks and classy dress shoes. Be aware that it is a poor choice to wear an overly casual shirt of any type to a job interview, even if it is what is worn at that business. Never wear blue jeans, khaki shorts, or any shorts for that matter to an interview. Wear dress socks no matter what for job interviews and to “business casual” dress day at work.

Additional Dress Code Guidelines to take Into Consideration

Discretion is the Better Part of Valor and Success: When you are new on the job, use discretion. Be smart and do not dress like it is a day at the church bazaar or a day at the carnival. Learn by asking what is okay to wear at work and when and you cannot lose.

It is far smarter to wear low-key business dress than go to work in a business casual outfit. Meet with the company’s HR department or send an email and ask what business casual attire is okay for the company or ask someone in your department.

When interviewing for a job, dressing formally is always the best strategy even if you know the company dresses business casual all the time. If your interviewer is dressed like a day at the beach or frisbee golf that does not mean its okay and it is certainly not smart to wear that type of attire. Dress like a professional to make the best possible impression when doing job interviews. No matter what, dress for success, not the beach.

Keep a Uniform Look: When you come to work wearing well thought out professional business attire all week, do not come to work on business casual day on Friday with a cut-offs and a tie-dye t-shirt. Keep your look professional, even when it's “business casual” or “casual Friday” by wearing the nicest casual attire that still looks professional.

Your business casual attire needs to meet the standard where if you have a meeting with a customer, manager, or company executive you would be viewed as business and not overly casual. Keeping a uniform look is important because it will help you create and maintain a sense of strength, integrity, and confidence.

Review Your Business Appointment Calendar: If a meeting is on “business casual” or “casual Friday” day, dress in regular business attire when attending business lunches or client meetings. Your clients will see how you dress and see it as a sign of respect and professionalism on your part. Wear casual dress at the office on “business casual” day, not when you are meeting with clients.

Inappropriate Dress for Business Casual Day

On a business casual day it is not in your best interest or proper to show up at work wearing your favorite board shorts, jean shorts with patches, and old running shoes. Bear in mind it is “business casual” dress day not, “casual” dress day. Wear dress casual at work and wear casual dress out and about, after work, and on the weekends. “Business casual” attire needs to be well thought out, sharp, fits well, ironed, and washed.

What is Proper Attire When a Company Has No Dress Code

What attire is okay at the workplace when a company does not have a dress code. Casual wear can be taken too far because it is too casual. Be sure to wear attire at work that is looked at as “business casual”.

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