Of all the dress codes that men have to deal with, business casual for men is by far one of the most complicated ones to decipher.
Someone once said that everything outside a business suit would construe as men’s business casual.
But that does not solve the problem really.
There are a million different aspects to it.
Would jeans be business casual or is vest allowed?
These are all valid issues, but the solution for them is never easy to find or even implement.
So when someone asks what is business casual for men, a simple answer would be, it is that platform that helps you explore and experiment with your wardrobe as long as you do not decide on something extremely outlandish or shocking.
You must understand that all business casual attire for men is essentially a derivation of the conventional business suit or corporate wear minus the uncomfortable elements.
Even for business casual shoes for men, it is pretty much the same concept that has gained currency and is often the basis on which the choices and options are made available as well.
In fact, if you notice the very term business casual is a storehouse of contradiction.
How can you be casual and yet be business like?
Therefore I would like to see it more as an opportunity to add a few color options and create a little more relaxed dressing alternative for men.
Let’s face it; not every day is interview day or board meet day, or you have lunch outside.
So men’s business casual is targeted for those days when they can choose to take it little easy and dress in a far more comfortable and relaxed manner as compared to the full suit look.
However, apart from the lack of tie and suit, there isn’t a huge difference between conventional men’swear and business casual for men.
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How Did Business Casual for Men Come into Being?
As recent as early 20th century, there were only two types of men’swear, the formal they wore to work and the casual they wore at home.
Rather, there was perhaps daywear and evening wear and a different variety and coat options that men wore at various parts of the day.
For example, there was a morning coat for men to wear during morning business, a stroller coat that they wore for the rest of the day and then they would often change into a tailcoat in the evening for formal wear.
Pajamas and dressing gown were strictly home wear, and men were not supposed to wear these outside the threshold of their sleeping quarters.
Perhaps the most casual attire that you could consider men wearing would be a tweed suit that many would wear for a walk in the park or when they were out on a shooting expedition.
Business suits became a standard by the turn of the century; the black tie too made its appearance, and tux somewhere overtook the white-tie formal wear that was earlier considered the benchmark in formal wear.
Till about 1966 the world of menswear was pretty much dominated by these cardinal style concepts.
Casual attire till that time was reserved strictly for the weekends but then also if you had to go to work; it was always with a suit and tie.
The question then is what happened after that and how did business casual come into being.
Moreover, what are the key triggers that necessitated business casual attire for men?
Well in very short, it would not be wrong to say that it was a combination of necessity and great advertising skills that brought forth these major wardrobe changes, practically a revolution in how we perceived formal wear for men.
It so happened that a company that manufactured Hawaiian shirts started exploring ways to improve sales.
They tried implementing different types of strategies to enhance sale and were looking at creating a unique branding position for their product and bingo; an ad agency came up with the whole concept of ‘Aloha Friday’.
The whole campaign started with petitioning regional business to allow their staff to wear these Hawaiian shirts on Friday and the ad agency even tried pitching it in a way that the step could be interpreted as taking pride in regional heritage.
But the campaign quickly got on to the popularity bandwagon.
The fad soon transcended the borders of Hawaii and invaded into mainland US.
The result was baby steps of a major movement began to be seen and eventually, this is the concept that evolved into the current business casual attire for men.
In fact, come to think about, ad campaign played a rather definitive role in transforming the entire approach with regards to formal wear for men.
Soon the scope and the untapped potential of the lack of different dress-up schedules for men began to be explored.
Needless to mention, businesses were on the prowl to pounce upon a dependable niche.
Another key apparel brand that deserves mention in the evolution of men’s business casual is undeniably Dockers.
It was towards the end of the 20th century and the beginning of 21st, Levis realized that lots of managements were finding it a challenge getting their employees dressed a little more formally.
Way too many people were coming to work in shorts and t-shirts.
Incidentally, for Levis, it was also that juncture in their history when jeans sales were on the decline as well.
They latched on this brilliant opportunity.
Levis took a chance and launched a special brand dedicated entirely to the corporate men.
This brand was Dockers and was aimed to provide an alternative formal apparel option for men.
An expensive campaign to launch the brand was also undertaken. Luckily for Levis, the gamble paid off.
Men happy embraced this compromise between shorts and suits and the Khaki pants became a movement in terms of workwear apparel.
There you see how step by step, business casual for men was taking shape.
Several other apparel company too tried capitalizing on the opportunity and increased the sale of the casual wear that they manufactured, especially for men.
In fact, one by one, polo shirts, chinos, sports shirts and every other element of business casual attire for men came into being.
The floodgates of the untapped resource called men’s business casual began taking shape.
Individuals, corporates, and firms quickly embraced this unique wind of change and started capitalizing on it in every possible manner.
The result, today we have an entire line of what is business casual for men came into being.
The Different Elements of What Comprises Business Casual for Men
Here is a quick lowdown on some of the top trends that can together highlight what you would consider as business casual for men.
1. Blazers/Sport Coat:
Available in both single breasted and double breasted forms, it exudes an understated elegance that is hard to ignore.
Navy blue is one of the most classic shades.
In the list of the must haves in men’s business casual, this one is often listed as the top priority by corporates.
In fact, in today’s generation where a double breasted full suit is reserved more for board meetings and special occasions, the blazer often serves as middle ground helping you look casually classic.
However, the ground rules of business casual apply here as effectively as everywhere else.
Avoid loud colors and loud embellishments.
On an average, you need to restrict to as muted shades of blue and beige as possible and those with gold buttons jutting out should be avoided at all cost.
2. Business Casual Shirts:
You no longer have the jacket to cover up a bad selection, and the shirt color can suddenly speak for itself.
Gone are the only white and off-white days.
In today’s world, men’s business casual includes a wide range of lighter shades of blue, many pastel colors and the unending combination of checks and stripes.
The cotton dress shirt is perhaps one of the most popular options in this category.
As a business casual attire for men, it can be even worn without buttoning up the top collar button or team it up with a rather casual knit tie.
The white Oxford shirt is, in fact, one of the most versatile options.
It can even double up as a strictly formal wear for last minute meetings.
Just throw in a blazer over it.
Another classic business casual for men is the button-down collar shirt.
Essentially a long sleeved polo shirt, this is a great alternative to the buttoned up sheer corporate look.
After all, you need to understand that men’s business casual does not just comprise of t-shirts.
There are many interesting shirt options available now.
3. Business Casual Neckwear:
The tie is often seen as an epitome of what comprises absolute formal wear.
But let’s face it; there are many other neckwear also that you could try and it, no doubt, elevates your overall get-up.
The various other neck options include the likes of grenadine ties, knit ties, bow, and scarves too in a certain situation.
However, despite everything, the tie is always the safest option.
If you are ever in doubt, it is best to stick to the tie option.
In case you plan to go without a neckwear, yes that is an option too in business casual, be careful about what you wear underneath.
The undershirt should not peep out.
No wonder the list of trousers that can replace your convention formal pant is more than adequate.
One of the most popular ones is undoubtedly dressing pants.
Available in all conventional shades of gray, blue, black; these are either flat or pleated in the front.
It is generally teamed up with dress shirt and blazers and can exude a rather cool and enigmatic impression.
The pleats or the flattened front also silhouettes the body a lot favorably.
We cannot talks of business casual for men without mentioning the flag-bearers of this movement, Chinos/Khakis.
They are known for their versatility and low maintenance features.
Ideal for any kind of work environment, they can elevate any short-blazer combination to new heights and make them absolutely indispensable for most men.
If you like Chinos, you could also replace these with corduroys in the colder month.
Often the cord is seen as the best alternative to Chinos.
Overall the color combinations for these pants range in the usual charcoal, brown, blue zone but you could consider taking up lighter and brighter beige options in warmer season.
However, denim or athletic wear along with sweat pants are a strict avoid when you are considering business casual for men.
Winter wear is one of the trickiest components of business casual attire for men.
You must understand different kinds of sweaters, cardigans and turtlenecks can work well on winter days apart from the blazers and sport coats.
In case it is just worn over a collared shirt, it becomes more of Friday dressing.
In general, you must understand that knotted elements bring in a decided amount of casual element in even your most formal clothing.
If you ever thought accessories were only an important part of women’s business clothing, then you are severely mistaken.
Often, it is used as frequently by men as women, to make a statement, to distinguish their social standing and portray their superiority.
Given the wide demand for them, business casual attire for men offers a commendable range of products you could choose from depending o the occasion like
- Collar Pin
- Pocket Square
- Tie and tie bars
The watch is, of course, the evergreen hero of accessories amongst business casual for men.
You can choose from a wide cross section of casual watches; dress watches to add an element of elegance.
However, wristbands are completely avoidable.
They have a rather casual and pubbish feel to them and are best avoided in a business environment.
Shoes for Men
The good news is this is perhaps that unique avenue where men can compete with women in terms of the options that they can explore and take advantage of.
You can give your traditional Oxfords and dress shoes a miss and embrace a bit of fun and games.
In fact today, just a look at any online e-commerce site will reveal that the options in the list of business casual shoes for men are just mind boggling.
- Casual dress shoes
- Monk straps
- Chelsea boots
- Balmoral boots
These are just a few major ones to name.
The list is rather expansive.
One of the biggest advantages of business casual shoes for men is that they give you the option to easily trade comfort over convention without compromising on the style element at all in way whatsoever.
Regarding color options, however, most times business casual shoes for men are best in brown, burgundy and their related shades.
Black is seen as formal and any other color too casual to justify business.
However, you must take up some practice in getting the right combination of them.
However, there is no space for athletic wear in the business casual.
It is possible that you would see some colleagues still sporting a sneaker with a formal shirt and dress pant.
I am sure you can almost visualize how terrible that’s going to look.
When we are discussing business casual attire for men, we aim to give you the complete picture, and that is impossible without mentioning bags.
How often do you see otherwise well-dressed men sporting backpacks?
Well, there can’t be a bigger and graver fashion faux pas.
Though I understand that perhaps backpacks are necessary for the safety of your laptops, it is a much better idea to go for a leather bag in either shade of brown or black.
It is subtle, poised and helps you look elegant in simplest of the outfits.
A quick search will reveal that bag options for men have risen significantly.
They even can carry sling bags and cross-shoulder options across a price range.
However, when you are making a statement with your business casual attire for men, it is far more advisable to go for a known and famous brand.
It creates a statement and surely makes head turn when you pass by.
However, what we listed out as potential business casual attire for men is just the tip of an iceberg.
The possibilities and the combinations are pretty widespread.
Moreover, the kind of workwear you would be comfortable with constantly keeps changing with respect to the type of business you might be associated with or the kind of work environment you are in.
For example, if you are in a legal firm, dress shirts with dress pants can be a very convenient option.
You are in air-conditioned offices, and a major part of your work is office bound.
You do not particularly need to move out or be in the heat and sun that often.
But now, consider the service industry and what could be the potential business casual for men in this sector.
The relative interaction with the public is far more, and there is a greater need to maintain a casual front.
So the necessity to dress up is a lot more important than to dress down.
You need to be constantly on your toes and must project a cool and confident image to all the people associated.
You should, in no way, ever look disheveled.
Now imagine if you are in a manufacturing unit amidst machines and you are constantly running the risk of getting grease marks on your clothes.
Surely you have to wear something more low maintenance that can be easily washed and ironed.
I am sure you can well imagine the different kind of challenges that each workplace provides, and this is a cardinal reason that men’s business casual often sees strikingly different manifestations in different kind of working areas.
The key fact that you must understand as an employee is given the available options, what can suit best in your workplace.
Now when you compare the above scenarios with a strikingly different scenario- a startup environment, I am sure the contrast will be clearly manifested the need for clarity highlighted to the core.
I am sure you will agree that startups by nature are more casual than traditional setups.
As a result, the overall structure and their relative interpretation of business casual attire for men would also manifest the same.
Hierarchies and dress codes are generally scoffed at in most of these organizations.
As a result, what happens is people pretty much wear anything they are comfortable with, and are not bound by the set rules of a dress code.
However, the dynamics of what works inside an office and what should be selected outside the office while traveling are very different.
You must understand that apart from just official lunch or dinner, there are many other joint initiatives that you might have to undertake as a professional.
So what do you wear, when you are outside?
Well, the apparel manufacturers have thought about it, and they have created alternatives.
There are some unique apparels alternatives that have combined comfort and style together to bring forth a rather compelling alternative for you.
Particularly if you belong to a rather cold area, traveling can be a major hassle.
Here are some widely accepted and common used business casual attire for men that you could try out:
1. Quilted Jacket:
This is a slightly heavier version of the commonly used business casual blazers.
These keep you warm but in trend, and the classic cut serves to instantly enhance your personality even on a cold, drab day.
The biggest advantage with these types of winter wear is they are wrinkle free and can be washed.
Therefore along with your comfort, your convenience is also taken care of
2. Trench Coat:
In the segment of men’s business casual, this is a rather dapper alternative in the winters.
It, no doubt, gives you a rather trendy and youthful look.
They invariably make your travel clothes a lot more flexible and rather good looking.
Another warm and fashionable business casual for men would be undoubtedly the Peacoat.
It is a full-fledged overcoat but extremely functional and provides a comfortable option to stay warm in style.
This is a rather versatile coat that can be worn for meetings outside as well as gatherings or even simple travel.
Apart from that, there are other accessories like scarves and gloves that are an indispensable part of men’s business casual when you are traveling.
Not only they help you remain comfortable, but also exude a definitive style statement and make you stand out amidst a group.
Men’s Business Casual: What Not to Do
When you look at the various aspects of business casual for men, you will realize that dressing up is important not just because you need to make a statement, but often the way you dress can make or break your career.
Perception plays a major role in it and often, that is the reason that you have to be extra careful in a way you dress.
So when you are looking at how to decide business casual for men
- Always wear a proper formal business suit when you are going for important meet ups.Whenever you are in doubt, it is always better to dress up rather than dressing down.
- Business casual for men is not an option when you are going for board meetings and company AGMs
- Special conferences are never the right occasion to try out business casuals and stick to conservative full-fledged business suits on all such situations.
Also, important job interviews are occasions that are never appropriate for business casuals for men.
Business Casual for Men Is Not Very Simple to Master
We can conclude that while business casual for men is not very simple to master.
There are various permutation and combinations, and the trick is to choose alternatives that best combine your comfort without compromising on the style element.
It is always better to dress up than dress down, but if you are keen on understanding the various elements of business casual attire for men, you can get a realistic idea by seeing how your co-workers dress up.
Another interesting avenue to gain understanding is, of course, television shows and how they dress up in an office environment.
But men’s business casual is primarily about coming across as confident and in charge despite the environment, and it is a fact that you should not compromise in any way.
Never take business casual too casually; your business depends on it after all.