Career Advice

What Is Business Casual Attire? Your Guide to Office Wear

As people embrace more relaxed and flexible styles, the definition of work attire has evolved, impacting standards for business casual dress codes. If you need clarification about what to wear during interviews while working remotely, or in the office, here are guidelines for an inclusive approach to workplace dressing.

What Is Business Casual in the Modern Workplace?

Business casual finds a middle ground between the formality of traditional business wear, like suits, and the relaxed feel of casual attire. It conveys professionalism while allowing for comfort and personal expression, making it well-suited for many office environments. A company can boost its image and retain top talent by valuing employee individuality and comfort with business casual.

If you are still wondering what business casual is, let’s point out what it’s not—anything overly casual, like athletic wear, too formal, like evening wear, or too revealing.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t be stylish. Pieces that showcase your personality are great as long as they’re clean and neat. The key is to keep anything too bold for the office reserved for your time off.

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Business Casual for Men

Business casual for men takes many forms, from khakis paired with a button-down to sharp blazers with crisp t-shirts.

Tops

You typically can’t go wrong with neatly-pressed collared shirts like button-downs. Sweaters or knit tops in solid colors or patterns are also acceptable. Depending on the work environment, t-shirts can work too if they are clean and unwrinkled—pair with a jacket for polish.

Bottoms

Tailored trousers, khakis, or dress pants work for classic corporate jobs. Well-fitting jeans (no holes) and tailored joggers are suitable, too, depending on the company’s culture and industry. Tip: dark or black denim looks more professional.

Footwear

Business casual footwear typically consists of comfortable and stylish shoes that bridge the gap between formal and casual styles. Loafers, dress boots, oxfords, and trendy, clean sneakers are popular for men. The key is to choose footwear that complements your outfit and is suitable for your workplace while ensuring comfort for long days in the office.

Accessories

Ties are optional in most business casual settings but can be added for a slightly more polished look, especially if you’re dressing for an interview you want to nail or an important meeting. Watches are a classic accessory that’s also very functional. Belts and jewelry can pull together a look while adding personality to workwear. Depending on the work environment, you can go with minimalist accessories or something more expressive.

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Business Casual for Women

Business casual attire for women strikes a balance between professionalism and comfort, allowing for a more relaxed and personalized appearance in the workplace.

Tops and Jackets

Blouses, button-down shirts, cardigans, sweaters, and tailored or straight-cut jackets are all appropriate choices. Clean and neat T-shirts or tank tops, especially with a blazer or cardigan, can work. While clothing does not detract from a woman’s work performance, if you work in a traditional office setting, emphasize what you want without being overly revealing.

Bottoms and Dresses

Women have various styles to select from, including dress pants and midi dresses. Take cues from the type of workplace you will be working at or interviewing with. When in doubt, stick to the classics—shift dresses and trousers always work. Remember, most workplaces do not consider very short dresses and skirts business casual.

Footwear

Depending on the company’s culture, heels, flats, boots, and clean sneakers all work. When it comes to high heels, a good rule of thumb is nothing more appropriate for a night out.

Accessories

Women have plenty of opportunities to let their style shine through, so go ahead and wear that statement necklace that reflects your personality—it can serve as a great conversation starter. Remember, embracing accessories that feel true to your style and enhance your business attire shows that professionalism and individuality can go hand in hand.

Gender Neutral Business Casual Style Choices

Gender-neutral business casual includes a whole wardrobe of options for individuals who prefer to avoid hyper-masculine or hyper-feminine clothing at work.

Some ideas include button-down shirts, sweaters, slacks, khakis, or dark jeans, depending on the setting. Footwear can include boots, loafers, oxfords, or professional-looking sneakers if your company allows them. If you look neat and follow company guidelines, gender-neutral business casual is a great way to look professional and express your personality.

What’s Not Business Casual Attire

Business casual clothing choices do not lean too far into the “casual” category. If your employee handbook states “business casual” as company policy, there are some outfits that can be ruled out, such as:

  • ripped jeans
  • shirts with questionable slogans
  • sloppy shorts 
  • see-through clothing
  • workout gear

Danielle Bloxom, a Wizehire’s People Operations team recruiter, emphasizes the importance of understanding workplace standards for business casual attire. She suggests several key steps: observing the company’s culture and environment, reviewing the handbook, and finally, seeking guidance from management and colleagues regarding appropriate dress codes.

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By choosing business casual outfits that project confidence and adhere to industry norms, you can present yourself as professional, approachable, and primed for success in any workplace.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are jeans considered business casual?

Many workplaces consider jeans business casual, but it depends on the industry and context. Observing what other employees wear—especially management—and copying their style is a safe choice. If jeans are acceptable, dark-colored, well-fitted jeans without tears or excessive embellishments are likely your best choice. But again, those options may be 100% okay if you work in fashion or music. When in doubt, err on formality before showing up to work in your favorite pair of jeans.

What should I wear for casual Friday?

The benefit of casual Friday is that you can wear more comfortable clothing to work. However, while casual Fridays are an excellent opportunity to express your personality through your attire, always aim to keep your outfit clean, neat, and presentable—meaning leave those worn-out sweats and t-shirts at home.

What is the difference between business casual and smart casual?

Business casual and smart casual often need clarification. Business casual means dressing down from traditional business wear, like suits, while smart casual means dressing up your regular everyday clothing. The goal with business casual is to look work-appropriate and professional while remaining comfortable. Dressing in smart casual attire means adding polish to your everyday wardrobe, typically for a night out or an event.

Author

  • Anna Petron

    Anna Petron is a professional writer with several years of communication and brand storytelling experience across a spectrum of businesses. She's intrigued by trends that constantly shift and affect recruitment and workplace culture, and she provides practical solutions for organizations looking to enrich their internal structure.

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The article was reviewed by Deirdre Sullivan

Anna Petron

Anna Petron is a professional writer with several years of communication and brand storytelling experience across a spectrum of businesses. She's intrigued by trends that constantly shift and affect recruitment and workplace culture, and she provides practical solutions for organizations looking to enrich their internal structure.

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