Business Casual Dress Code

What is Business Casual Dress Code?

Business Casual is best described as casual for the professional setting. You still want to look professional while dressed relaxed. Unfortunately, this can be one of the more confusing dress codes for the professional. Acceptable options include; trousers or khakis, dress shirt, blouse, open collar shirt, polo shirt, blazer, sport coat, dress, skirt, knit shirt, sweater, loafers or dress shoes. You want to avoid tee shirts (including those without a graphic on them), jeans, ripped clothing, strapless dresses, open toe shoes, sandals, and shorts. You will find this dress code in many professional settings as well as some evening social events. The problem is that the dress code is often based on the type of setting, number of employees or attendants, size of the company, average age of the workforce, geography, culture, and climate. While we suggest you stay away from tee shirts, a company in Florida may allow employees to wear solid color tee shirts as part of the business casual dress code. Culture also plays a major role in dress guidelines. Some countries are very strict about appropriate clothing while others are a little more carefree. Let’s not forget the rise of unique hair colors and tattoos. Some industries simply avoid permitting them at all cost. You won’t see a CPA or a lawyer with a wrist tattoo or hot pink hair since it’s typically frowned upon in those industries.

Working with tech giants like Google means they don’t even think twice about body art and shocking hair. Before doing something a bit unique with your hair, check with your employee handbook or talk with your HR person. Hair color can be removed but it can be expensive and damaging to your hair. A mohawk cut could only result in a buzz or shave if your industry is not comfortable with it. Tattoos pose an even larger and more expensive problem. If you already have tattoos that are visible, find creative ways to cover them and make sure you understand company policy. If you are desiring a tattoo, think about how it can affect your career. If you violate company policy, you can lose your job. Can you have the tattoo in another place in which it can be hidden from prying eyes? Many tattoo artists also will talk with you at length about your profession before placing a tattoo on you. If you come in wanting knuckle tattoo work done and you are a paralegal, a respectful and responsible tattoo artist will tell you no!

Business Casual Dress Code for Women

Ladies, don’t worry about this dress code too much. It certainly gives you plenty of options and allows for your creative flair to show. You can easily relax with a simple trouser and blouse for the day. Pair it with a nice pump or low boot for comfort throughout your day. If it’s a little chilly, bring a nice sweater vest to warm you up and still look flattering. Skirts are completely acceptable and should be at knee length or longer. Most work environments are not appropriate for the skirt that is above the knee! If you are about to head into a meeting and want to dress it up further, add a nice tailored blazer to make you look serious and still relaxed. Shoes should always cover most of your feet. Avoid strappy heels, stilettos, and sandals. Jewelry should be minimal. Keep it simple with a bangle bracelet, a ring, some stud earrings, and maybe a dainty necklace. If you choose to wear a large statement piece, make that your only jewelry option.

Business Casual Dress Code for Men

If you have been wearing suits four days a week and now it’s business casual Friday, you are in luck! Suits can feel pretty limiting to the average man, despite the many options available. In a business casual setting, you can wear slacks or a pair of khakis. Combine it with an open collared shirt or a polo. Loafers will keep you looking professional and yet very relaxed. In the warmer months, a nice knit sweater is a great addition to the casual setting. Or, if you would prefer, a tailored sport coat is completely acceptable. In most situations, you will not be able to wear the ever-popular Crocs or Birkenstocks. The feet should always be covered!

What Should I Wear if the Dress Code is “Smart Casual”?

Smart casual showed up in the business world during the 1920’s, a time where men wore suits and women wore dresses. In the 1950’s this term was merged in with the business casual dress code because they are virtually the same. Very few businesses use this term and typically stick with business casual. However, it doesn’t mean you will never see this term. If you do, follow the business casual attire guide and you cannot go wrong!

Business Casual Dress Code Trends in 2018

We are expecting to see a lot of Chinos this year as they are perfectly casual and still maintain that level of professionalism your work environment commands. One major trend we see is classic colored sports coats or collared dress shirts and blouses. Lots of blue, black, and greys are on the racks and can be layered with other items for a bit of pizazz. Sweaters with a splash of color can look fantastic under the grey blazer that can show off your sense of style while staying within dress code. Loafers are the go-to for men but they can switch things up with Brogues or Oxfords. Ladies, suede boots are all the rage this year and are easily adaptable to your professional look.

Companies That Have Business Casual Dress Codes

Some companies love the business casual dress code and employ it often or all year long. Here is a look at some of the businesses that have made this a trend for other businesses to follow:

  • Google – Yes, we do need to mention them again. The company philosophy is “you can be serious without a suit”. They are so casual that you are likely to see flip flops and ripped jeans on any given day.
  • Zappos – another company that revolutionized the work environment. They don’t allow for flip flops but you will see tee shirts and jeans in their offices.
  • Electronic Arts – the gaming gurus have mimicked Google in their environment. They have their own little neighborhood on campus and all manner of dress is acceptable.

Dress Code With Jeans

Jeans are a tricky option. For the most part, they are not considered acceptable for business casual. It could be that your business will be fine with it for casual Friday and otherwise expect them to stay in the closet. Other businesses are okay with jeans being worn with a few rules. Nothing ripped, tattered, and always clean!

Does Business Casual Require a Tie?

No. You are free to move about with an open collared shirt and relax. If you choose to wear a tie, there are some casual tie options. Start with a solid color or simple striped tie. Using a smaller knot is the best way to make it casual. Tighten up your four-in-hand knot to make the knot smaller and you are good to go. Also, look for a skinny tie as they lend to a more casual look as opposed to the traditional style of tie.