Ask Our Stylist: What is Business Casual?
Business casual is one of the most ambiguous concepts to master in your wardrobe because it means different things in different industries, companies and different events. In most places, business casual simply means “not a suit” -- but then what? We’ll break down the history and then look at some general industry segments to best understand the “where” and “how” to properly dress casually in a business environment.
Hawaiian shirts broke the seal on casual style in the workplace back in the 1960s. An organization called the Hawaiian Fashion Guild encouraged state legislators and businessmen in Hawaii during the late ’60s to adopt a more casual dress code on Fridays. This idea, of weekly casual work attire, followed suit (see what I did there?) with corporations on the mainland and shortly after the concept of “Casual Fridays” was born.
Fast forward to the late 1980s, Docker’s solidified their brand of office casual in the market by sending their “Guide To Casual Businesswear” to HR managers at some of the largest corporations of the time. This move sparked a revolution in office attire and by 1995 90% of corporations in the US were accepting of casual business attire in the workplace.
Today, office style rules are more relaxed as more industries are open to the idea of the workforce’s choice to express themselves through their attire. Having a good understanding of the appropriate styles and parameters for workplace attire can help with career growth and even landing a new job.
Some basic rules to note:
• Know your audience
• The goal is to always look intentional, not flawless
• The darker the garment color the more formal the garment appears
• Darker tones up top appear more formal; lighter tones on top appear more casual
• Solids appear more formal than prints
• Tasteful prints help you look more approachable
White Collar Jobs
Most white-collar jobs, such as jobs in finance, government services or law firms, still adhere to a very strict dress code. Business casual in these spaces is more about changing the tone and pattern of a semi-formal look (suit) than changing the garments themselves. An easy go-to for a more office-appropriate business casual look in these workplaces is a classic navy wool blazer, an oxford or traditionally patterned shirt (i.e. stripes, checks, herringbone, and houndstooth) in a subtle color, a pair of light grey or tan trousers, and an oxblood derby, brogue, or loafer. Knits and more color tie options are encouraged.
For those in sales, hospitality, or any space where you are interacting with the public, knowing your audience is the first step to take when picking out your wardrobe. In these places, colloquialisms in your wardrobe are as essential as they are in your conversation so it's best that you dress the part. In this industry, jackets can be optional depending on the tone you wish to convey to your audience. However, should you opt for a no-jacket look, a nice vest (not a waistcoat) or sweater are recommended. As dress shirts in this industry are essential to maintaining a moderate level of formality, button-down shirts are ideal as they allow you to look put-together should you opt to not wear a tie. For your bottom half, chinos and loafers are a great tandem to convey comfort, ease and approachability. No one likes a pushy salesman!
The tech boom of the late ‘90s and early 2000s brought with it the stigma of the sloppy start-up look. In this workplace, the goal is to look smart and comfortable without much effort. Blazers and sports coats are optional but in most start-up settings even frowned upon, but a nice overshirt, chore coat, or cardigan will keep your look together without feeling too stuffy. Again, dress shirts help convey a reasonable air of formality. Luckily, in this industry, anything with a collar presents itself as “dressed up” so have fun with expressive shirt prints, bold colors, and extraordinary button combinations. Your ensemble’s silhouette makes a huge difference here so feel free to tastefully pair your dress shirt with nice jeans (preferably with minimal distressing) and a low profile (white, black or beige) sneaker.
For when you're ready to complete your look with a clean-cut shirt made to your exact measurements, we recommend going with a wrinkle-resistant shirt! At Original Stitch, we offer a collection of 30 Easy Care fabrics that are notable for their wrinkle-resistant weaving technology. Our high-quality yarns were hand-selected from Japan to be extra resistant to wear and tear while maintaining a softer feel than regular button-up shirts.
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