Lots of companies have dress codes that state employees should dress in business casual. But what exactly does business casual mean nowadays?
The definition of business casual has changed quite a bit in recent years, at least in some workplaces. Where employees once had casual Fridays that just consisted of skipping the tie, some professionals now make a habit of going to work in denim jeans, cotton hoodies and knit tossle caps.
In general, business casual dress codes or guidelines are meant to make the company appear professional. So, even employees who work for businesses with more relaxed dress codes could benefit from getting a little dressier on those occasions where you have to actually meet with clients or give presentations.
However, for younger companies or those in particular industries, offering a more laid back atmosphere can be seen as an asset. And a more casual dress code can contribute to creating that type of environment.
The tech industry, for instance, has seemingly embraced a more casual wardrobe than many more traditional industries. And some arts based or creative industries have done the same.
Embracing this more laid back approach to business casual can make a company seem more modern or approachable, depending on the types of clients and/or employees the company is trying to attract.
However, just because some young tech employees can head into work wearing jeans and baseball caps on a daily basis doesn’t mean you should assume that you can do the same.
If your company has a business casual dress code, it’s likely that your attire should fall somewhere between jeans and full business suits. However, things like climate, office culture, age of employees and interaction between clients or customers can also impact a company’s definition of business casual. Below are some general guidelines for what might be considered business casual in various workplaces.
Men’s Business Casual
Although the definition of business casual can still vary, it’s a bit more straightforward for male employees. No longer does every industry require their male employees to wear suits on a daily basis. But there are still some instances where that type of attire might be necessary or encouraged.
For example, if you’re in a customer facing position or one where you have to meet with clients or give presentations on a regular basis, your idea of business casual could be a bit more formal. In many of these circumstances, your employee dress code may be more specific, rather than just stating employees should dress business casual.
But in other office environments, a business casual wardrobe for male employees may consist only of dress slacks or khakis and a button-up or collared shirt, sweater, or sports coat. Casual dress shoes like loafers or nice boots are usually acceptable with these types of outfits.
Things like sportswear, shorts, T-shirts, tennis shoes and hooded sweatshirts don’t usually fall under the category of business casual, even in many of today’s more relaxed business environments. Though some of them might be appropriate for casual Fridays or similar laid-back instances.
Women’s Business Casual
Women often have a lot more options when it comes to dressing for a business casual environment, meaning that nailing down a definition can be a bit more complicated. These days, most women in professional environments don’t necessarily have to wear full skirt or pants suits to work on a daily basis.
Instead, you might choose to go with some combination of dress pants or a skirt around knee length with a blouse, sweater, cardigan, vest or blazer. Dress shoes like pumps, flats or even open-toed shoes can work with most of these outfits.
Like their male counterparts, women professionals in business casual environments should usually steer clear of things like sportswear, T-shirts, tennis shoes and hooded sweatshirts.
Many offices will have a wide range of business casual attire on any given day. So it’s possible for you to figure out a system that’s both appropriate for work and comfortable for you.
To get a more specific idea of what business casual means in your office, you should start by finding out if your company has an official dress code. You can also take a look at what others generally wear to work, and also consider the climate and industry you work in.
Keep an eye out for clues, as well. If a boss asks why you are so dressed up or makes a comment about how casual your outfit looks, it might be an indication that you are missing the mark a bit. But overall, strive for a balance between comfortable and professional with your business casual attire.
And appreciate that business casual has loosened up a bit in recent years, allowing you to really find that perfect mix.