The Business Casual Dress Code
For the majority of time, business casual has been interpreted as a synonym for a business suit with a tie, wallet and briefcase. Business casual dress is normally considered to be an ambiguous term that is usually loosely applied, except in white-collar workplaces, with elements of a formal lounge attire, appropriate for more professional or conservative occasions. However, business casual dress has evolved into an individual choice for many different types of occasions from office parties to intimate dinners. In recent years, business casual dress has also become an increasing choice in employee dress attire, suitable for many different types of environments including boardrooms, meetings and family get-togethers.
There are several defining characteristics that make business casual dress a “relaxed style,” any one of which can be used to describe any type of dress pattern. These characteristics include the fact that the dress is often quite simple, with little decoration or embellishment; it is tailored to give the best silhouette; it is often worn with a thinner material than conventional business attire; it is most often worn with comfortable shoes and trousers, which give the wearer more mobility than he might otherwise have with a dressier piece of clothing; it is often less structured than conventional business wear. Casual does not mean “frivolous and carefree” in the least. Instead, it is a relaxed style that communicates a sense of ease and confidence.
A term used interchangeably with business suit is business casual clothing. This broader term includes all types of clothing, accessories, and outerwear that are suitable for casual business use, though it is not limited to this. The term business casual can refer to the business workplace or a sporting event. For example, a business casual dress code might be in effect at a company barbecue, conference, or casual social gathering. All these occasions present opportunities for applying the relaxed style of dress that makes a professional appearance.
When working in an environment where the business casual attire is applied, such as at the office, a business casual wardrobe will consist of simple, clean clothing in a business-appropriate color, with a conservative yet conservative look. A business suit always makes an excellent choice for a worker in a business suit; the same can be said for a pair of casual slacks and a plain, undecorated shirt (with no ties). For the man, a good choice would be a dark colored shirt with a conservative tie, and with conservative, non-scruffy socks. For women, a good option is a skirt and a pair of good shoes.
Dress shirts can also be considered part of the casual clothing, although not all business dress shirts come standard in every workplace. A business casual dress shirt might include a sports team’s logo, a logo or pattern print, or just the name of the company. The dress shirt can actually be any short sleeved or full length shirt that will not be deemed over-stylized, too tight cut, or revealing in any way. Many businesses prefer to have a dressier version of the standard business casual dress shirt with a blazer, or waistcoat over a more casual dress shirt.
Some managers or higher level employees may prefer to wear a more tailored, less casual business casual dress code. This would include slacks with a button belt and brief, or a slightly dressier version of the dress shirt. For a more casual but still professional look, a pair of jeans with a conservative, crew cut, or V-neck sweater or jacket is appropriate. Men should choose dark colors such as black, navy blue, gray, or a dark gray or dark blue for this look. Women may choose light colors such as white, ivory, beige, pink, or other appropriate colors. With the proper dress shirt and tie, a business casual dress code can easily transition into a more formal business casual dress code.