Working at a startup or in a less corporate atmosphere usually calls for a business-casual dress code, but what exactly does that mean for you? The spin-off from “Casual Friday” started to become popular in the '80s and '90s thanks to Silicon Valley, but so many men are still confused by what’s acceptable to don in the office, without looking like you’re in vacation mode. While most guys look to their coworkers to feel out how to navigate the confusing dress code, your watercooler buddies might be making the same mistake (yikes!). Unless you’ve hit Mark Zuckerberg-level of success, avoid looking like a slob as much as possible. To help guys figure out how to master business-casual dressing, we broke down the comfortable-yet-dapper essentials for your 9-to-5 workwear wardrobe. With our guide, you'll never feel over- or under-dressed again. Now, where's that promotion?
Business-Casual Dressing 101
Before we get into the workwear you need, let’s avoid the major mistakes with the questions all men seem to have about business-casual dressing.
Does business-casual attire mean shorts are acceptable in the summer?
NO! Don’t even think about it (even though it’s so tempting!). The summer heat is no friend to men in a blazer and trousers, but shorts are still a no-go. You’re much better off with a lightweight cotton trouser with stretch in the fabric for a comfy, work-appropriate look.
Can I wear sneakers if my office has a business-casual dress code?
Yes! Air Jordans and other sporty kicks aren’t the answer, but there are so many clean, polished-looking leather sneakers at every price point to pair with your workwear trousers.
What kind of T-shirt is acceptable to wear in a business-casual atmosphere?
Tough question, but if you keep your T-shirts tailored, simple, and in classic colors layered under a blazer or button-down shirt, you'll be safe from looking too wild. Simple graphic tees might work as well, but it’s all about the layering.
The Essential Pieces
Good news: There are plenty of comfortable stretch-blazer options out there that’ll help you move freely throughout the day, while still giving a snazzy touch to your outfit of casual basics. If you’re going to opt-out of the blazer look, stick to a minimal blouson or bomber jacket to layer over a button-down. Going with a clean, professional-looking jacket allows you to keep your other clothes casual, so when you’re not in an important meeting you can just relax and crank out work comfortably.
Obviously, a tailored button-down shirt is a must-have for any guy’s office wardrobe, but with business-casual attire you can go for casual fabrics, untucked shorter shirt lengths, and even spend the day without a necktie. Fit is key when picking out the right sport shirt to rock from morning meetings to happy hour without looking too frumpy. Thankfully, the button-down has come a long way since your high school days. Now, there are brands who make custom-shirts at a price that won’t break the bank, lightweight button-downs that won't make you sweat through your shirt, and while we suggest staying away from jeans if you can (especially distressed ones!), a chambray shirt can look great under a blazer.
The Polo Shirt
Not a fan of the button-down shirt? Polos make for the perfect business-casual top! Long or short-sleeve, the collar says “I mean business,” while the soft cotton fabric makes the work day more comfortable. The traditionally sporty shirt in a slim-fit still looks professional when paired with a workwear trouser, and it works as a great layering piece. Think of it as the answer to office athleisure wear! From David Hart’s retro polo shirts, to the iconic Lacoste, you can’t go wrong with adding one of these bad boys to your closet.
As we mentioned earlier, we'd stay away from wearing jeans at the office, but don't worry, a slim-fit chino is more work-appropriate and even more comfortable. Once you find your perfect stretch khakis or chinos, you can bulk order them in every color way! It makes getting dressed in the morning easy when pairing them with a simple white button-down, and you know exactly how the pants are going to fit. More fashion-forward guys can experiment with plaid prints to give their business-casual outfit some extra flair. We promise, with lightweight breathable pants, you’ll feel way more comfortable than in any heavy denim duds.
Yes, sneakers at work are a thing (#blessed!). You can’t rock your beat-up gym trainers to work, but a fresh pair of leather low-top kicks looks great with any workwear outfit. When you’re on your feet all day, a good pair of stylish-yet-minimal sneakers will keep your dogs from barking into overtime. Cuff your pants or have them tailored to an ankle crop for a fashionable look that’s office-friendly.
And there you have it — the pieces you need for business-casual gold. With the right workwear, don't be shocked if a promotion is soon to follow!
More from Techpluz: