The Definition of Business Casual

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The phrase “business casual” is used in a broad range of industries from retail to advertising to government. Depending on the industry, business casual is a loose statement that is used to describe many things: jeans, t-shirts, baggy pants, jackets, sneakers and umbrellas. In fact, the first real corporate suit appeared in 1902, and the business casual approach has evolved over the last century to fit modern business environments.

business casual

In earlier times, the business casual attire of men in the United States included worn out, thin, faded, and tight button down shirts (in a wide variety of colors), ties, jacket, overcoat, and boat shoes. They also wore chinos, with faded, washed out, and thin thread jeans.

The style of business dress also included street wear or sportswear. A typical day in the life of a man in a business setting would involve some combination of a business suit, a tie, and sportswear or street wear jacket. And they also sported business casual footwear such as black shoes, plain loafers, and scuffed Oxfords.

All of these styles were appropriate for formal or semi-formal jobs like account management, executive level jobs, and government jobs with titles that may require a lot of dress up. However, for many professions and less formal jobs, the uniform does not need to be “business casual.” An office worker could keep it casual and stylish by adding the following accessories to their outfit: jeans, sneakers, a t-shirt, and/or a khaki colored jacket.

Example: For account managers, jeans and leather sneakers are the perfect business casual option. There is no rule that says account managers have to wear blue or black shoes in a cubicle; there is no dress code at account meetings, so this is a relatively easy look for anyone who has the time and the personality to dress casually. A t-shirt and a good pair of sneakers are also a great choice for business casual dress.

Example: A banker who works with cash will look very “business casual” with his shirt tucked in, a pair of brown shoes, and a flat, white, and baggy colored t-shirt. The banker may choose to go for casual work wear, especially if he does not deal with money. A checkered shirt and khaki shorts will look neat, but at the same time are still going to be work appropriate.

Example: A cute, fun look for summer is the cap-topped baseball cap with a flame embroidered on it. This is a fantastic business casual look that can easily be dressed up or down depending on the weather.

Example: A business casual look for everyday office wear would be a pair of khakis with a blue, cotton or linen shirt. To make it more business casual, a collared shirt and khaki shorts would be appropriate. Again, the main purpose of the business casual look is to match and contrast with the other offices in the office so choose the right style to create a professional look.

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