Business casual can have a variety of different meanings, depending on a number of mitigating factors, so it’s no wonder that a lot of people have a hard time determining what’s appropriate to wear to work and what isn’t. It can be especially challenging if you’re just starting a brand-new job or are entering into a particular industry with no prior experience. Even companies within the same sector or industry can have their own individual set of expectations when it comes to work attire, making it all the more difficult to get a sense of how you should dress. Hiring a professional image consultant can help you navigate the course waters of what defines business casual attire for your company, overall office culture, and even the country in which you reside or work.
For your own personal reference, here’s a list of things you should and shouldn’t do when it comes to incorporating appropriate and professional casual attire in your wardrobe.
Things You Should Do
Do Wear Matching Shoes and Belts
Your shoes and belt bring your entire ensemble together, so they must match in order to create a cohesive look. The colour, texture, and material of your shoes and belt should all be identical, and you can’t go wrong with either dark brown, light brown, reddish brown, tan, or black colours. These are all easily adaptable colours that’ll go well with pretty much any outfit in your wardrobe, which means they transition effortlessly from day to night wear.
Do Wear Tailored Clothing
Even if you purchase garments directly off-the-rack in your correct size, they can still look ill-fitted because sizing varies from one country and brand to another. You should also take into consideration that every man is built differently, so off-the-rack garments will inevitably fit differently on each person. Having your clothing tailored will make it look as if it was made specifically for you, even if it wasn’t. In some cases, it’s as simple as having certain areas taken in or let out.
Do Wear Nice Sweaters or Knits (in the Winter)
During the winter months, it’s perfectly acceptable to wear knit sweaters with either V-neck or crew necklines as long as they don’t have any graphics or visible logos. Wearing muted tones such as black, navy blue, or grey are typically a safe bet because they won’t make you stand out too much. You can usually pair these with dark denim jeans, chinos, or even khakis. For a slightly more formal version of business casual, you might even consider wearing a white collared shirt and matching tie under your sweater.
Do Wear Fitted Dress Pants
In the old days, it was common for most professional men to wear pleated pants to the office, but those days are long gone. These pants aren’t properly fitted to the body at all and they can make the area below your torso look incredibly bulky and ill-fitted. Perfectly fitted dress pants, chinos, and khakis are much more appropriate for business casual work environments nowadays.
Do Maintain Good Personal Grooming Habits
As any personal styling consultant will advise you, business casual can go beyond simply defining what you should and shouldn’t wear to work to look presentable and clean-cut. Personal self-grooming is also important, which means all facial hair and hair on your head should be well-kept and clean looking. At the end of the day, even if you’re dressing in a casual manner for work, you still have to maintain some level of professionalism and your appearance speaks volumes about this.
Things You Should Avoid
Don’t Wear Tattered, Frayed, Faded, or Stained Clothing
As arbitrary as the term “business casual” is, it should go without saying that your clothing should look clean, presentable, and well put together no matter the circumstances. There’s no excuse for anyone to show up to work looking disheveled as this can send the wrong message to your supervisors, co-workers and clients.
Don’t Wear Excessive or Gaudy Accessories
You should always be able to express your personal sense of style at work, despite being required to dress a certain way. Subtle accessories such as tie clips, a ring, cufflinks, or even a classy wristwatch can go a long way in this regard. Try to stay away from wearing too many extravagant or garish pieces such as giant gold chains or rings with large stones, unless your goal is to look like a cheesy 1980s Mafioso from an old Martin Scorsese movie.
Don’t Ever Wear Sweatpants to Work
This is another cardinal rule of business casual wear that should automatically go without saying. There’s never an excuse to wear sweatpants in a business casual environment unless the message you’re trying to convey is that you absolutely despise your job or couldn’t care less about it. In that case, you should ask yourself why you’re even bothering to show up to work in the first place. Sweatpants are a good indicator that you’ve simply given up and don’t really see a future for yourself at your current company.
Don’t Show Up to Work in a Hoodie
Wearing polo t-shirts or long-sleeve knits to the office is perfectly fine, but it’s always best to pair these with a nice, stylish, and understated cardigan rather than a hoodie. The point is to dress casually, not like you just came into the office from a skate park.
If you need help with deciphering the subtle differences between professional and business casual dress in your office, then Catherine Bourgouin, the resident personal styling consultant at Style Code Inc., can help. She specializes in helping professional businessmen navigate the nuances of dressing to perfection according to the requirements of their work environments. Style Code Inc. offers a wide range of styles of off-the-rack and made-to-measure suits that are perfectly tailored to meet your standards. Catherine works on a by-appointment-only basis, which means you’ll always have her undivided attention throughout the entire consultation. She works flexible hours, which makes it possible for her to meet with you either at her studio in North York or at any location of your choosing. To book a personal style consultation with Catherine, please contact us.