Cracking the code: A guide to getting a business casual style just right

Business casual is, for many, one of the most baffling dress codes out there, sitting somewhere between business attire and casual wear and thus often feeling like a contradiction in terms.

When it comes to business, the key is to make a good impression and cultivate an image that commands respect, so if the idea of ​​rocking up to a boardroom meeting in jeans leaves you breaking out in a cold sweat, then it’s understandable. But in today’s modern world, it’s entirely possible to combine style and comfort in a way that exudes good taste and will ensure you’re taken seriously, ultimately giving you the best of both worlds.

The business-casual concept can feel like a difficult code to crack, but armed with the right knowledge, it’ll soon become a cinch. Here’s all you need to know about how to get it right – from what exactly is business casual anyway, to the key pieces you need in your wardrobe for 2023.

The birth of business casual

Once upon a time, turning up to the office in anything but a sharp suit and perfectly polished shoes would have been unheard of, but in the 1980s, that all slowly began to change. The concept of the business casual dress code first emerged in the predominantly male companies of Silicon Valley, starting with ‘dress-down Fridays’ to allow staff to end the week feeling a little bit more comfortable, on a day where they would typically not be meetings with any clients.

business man using his tablet computer during a trip.
The business-casual concept can feel like a difficult code to crack, but armed with the right knowledge, it’ll soon become a cinch

Gradually, the idea began to grow into something more acceptable for the day-to-day, particularly in companies where staff would spend more time in front of their computers than meeting with anyone, and thus, the need to make a good impression was reduced. . It became apparent that the more comfortable people felt, the more productive they were – and from here the concept was cemented and went on to spread far and wide.

The basics of business casual for men

So what exactly does embracing the business casual dress code entail for men? Well, in essence it’s all about combining elements of business wear with more comfortable and casual pieces for a more relaxed and laid-back look that still appears professional.

So instead of full suits, we’re talking blazers and shirts with jeans, polo shirts with chinos, and in the summer, tailored shorts, giving men license to dress in a way that feels good and aligns with their personal style without compromising on presentability .

How to wear business casual

One of the most important and versatile garments to invest in if you’re looking to make the transition to business casual is a blazer – but opt ​​for one with a relaxed structure and in a soft fabric as opposed to a stiff double-breasted number. This adds a slightly more casual twist to a classically smart piece of clothing, making for a piece you can throw on over jeans and a t-shirt, tailored shorts and a shirt and just about anything else in your wardrobe to add a slightly more put -together edge.

Businessman sitting at table in hotel lobby, restaurant or cafe, working on laptop computer
One of the most important and versatile garments to invest in if you’re looking to make the transition to business casual is a blazer – but opt ​​for one with a relaxed structure and in a soft fabric as opposed to a stiff double-breasted number

T-shirts are another versatile option to have on hand and are essential in any business casual capsule wardrobe. Opt for a fitted shape in white, gray and black to allow you to mix and match throughout the week – Fruit of the Loom’s offering ticks all the right boxes and feels soft as well as looking good. The key is not to go too big or baggy, as this is veering a little too far into exclusively casual territory.

A denim jacket or bomber might feel a little bit too casual, too – but the trick to getting business casual right is balance. So actually, both of these can work, as long as you wear them with a smarter pair of chinos and shoes as opposed to jeans and a jumper.

Some fitted jumpers in a range of necklines can also work well, as they lend themselves to both the business and casual elements of the dress code, depending on what you pair them with. As a general rule of thumb, plain and block colors work best, so avoid lines or busy patterns and keep things simple.

You’ve likely heard the mantra that ‘less is more’ at some point in life, and this applies very much to get the business casual dress code right. Simplicity is the key to maintaining a stylish and sophisticated image while embracing an element of comfort and a more modern look and feel – but don’t be afraid to inject a little bit of personality by adding pieces you personally love and feel your best in.

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