What Exactly Is Business Casual Attire?

Being allowed to wear 'casual attire' in the office might sound like a great opportunity but it does have its drawbacks. Sure, casual attire might be comfortable to wear but then you have the whole issue of knowing precisely what casual attire is to contend with.

Are you being too casual? Are you being too smart? Is what you're wearing being secretly judged by all your colleagues? What even is casual attire? Let's take a look.

What Does Business Casual Attire Mean?

Casual attire on its own of course means clothes that you might wear around the house – things that make you feel comfortable when you have nobody to impress. In no context though does 'casual attire' mean 'slob clothes', so right off the bat we know that your old jogging bottoms and tank top are not acceptable choices.

At the same time though, business casual attire has the added 'business' prefix which suggests something even less sloth-like. 'Business' denotes 'smart' and as such, it is probably somewhat safe to presume that business casual attire will essentially translate as 'smart casual' but with a business spin.

What is Smart Casual?

So a good place to start then, is by asking what 'smart casual' is. The answer is probably what you would wear on a first date, or to meet the in-laws. Wearing a suit in these scenarios would be a little intimidating and make you look like you're 'trying too hard', but at the same time you will still want to look good.

Business Casual Attire For Men

So a shirt is probably a good place to start for men and this can then be added to with a nice jumper over the top and a tie, or perhaps a jacket. Go for colorful clothes that are appropriate for the time of year. Jeans are generally to be avoided unless they're very dark, high quality jeans – chinos or trousers are preferable. It's also a good idea to wear shoes – so choose an outfit that is more fitting for shoes versus trainers.

Business Casual Attire For Women

For women there's a little more flexibility and leeway which is either a blessing or a curse depending on how confident you are in your interpretation of 'business casual'.

Generally a suit then is going to be a little bit too formal in most cases and the same goes for business-like shirts. Instead, you should again aim to look your best but in a smart way. This means again avoiding jeans and instead choosing a smart skirt, trousers or dress. It also means choosing well-made tops that aren't too 'sexy'. Pencil skirts or perhaps a jacket can make a less smart outfit look tidier.

Other Considerations

These guidelines should help steer you in the right direction and if you stick with mostly blacks, greys, blues and whites you will be safe. And if in doubt, just search 'business casual' on Google Images.

At the same time though, you also need to be sensitive to some other factors. For instance, try to pick up on hints from your employers that indicate whether you're on the right lines. Likewise, look at your colleagues to see if your outfit is in keeping with theirs.

Finally, wear what you feel comfortable in and don't be afraid to express yourself in the process!