Eh, the business casual dress code is a tricky one. We live in a post-pandemic world where hoodies and sweatpants were once the norm, and now that most of us are heading back to physical offices to sit on physical chairs and chat to physical people, we need to start dressing like actual tax-paying physical adults. Sad!
In the past, officewear was very strict and very traditional. But during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, companies began to lighten up. This gave birth to what we now know as ’business casual.’ And yet even to this day, it can still be pretty confusing, to the point that the term seems like an oxymoron all on its own.
That’s why we sat down with Gabriella Brick, Head of Design at Moss, to understand what the business casual dress code actually is – and it’s a lot.What is the business casual dress code?
Generally speaking, business casual involves wearing clothes that are more casual and contemporary, rather than classic and conservative. While it’s definitely more easy-going compared to the workplace dress codes of yore, you still need to look professional. So you can save that graphic T-shirt for the weekend.
“Online searches for business casual have skyrocketed by 108 per cent and 186 per cent for business casual suits,” says Brick. “These statistics maybe reflect the uncertainty surrounding what to wear, and a new appetite to smarten up. Weekday dressing is no longer limited to business suits alone. It now spans the entire formality spectrum, encompassing business casual and casual alike. Those who worked from home during the pandemic, or still do now, have no intention of compromising on comfort; as they make their way back to the office however, the desire to create a versatile wardrobe that adapts to the demands of the modern workplace is evident.”
If you want to play it safe, rocking up in a suit still works. However, just in case the office busybody thinks out loud about black suits being only for funerals, go for a navy, brown, or even an olive suit instead. It’s sharp and versatile, and it’s the perfect combo if you’ve got a financial review at 4 and a hot date at 6.
Try and stay away from standard suit materials and opt for something a little more out of the ordinary. Check out blazers made of wool or choose a different texture like corduroy. There are even suits out there that are finished with a water-repellent nano coating, so there’s plenty for you to pick from. You may even want to pair these with a denim shirt or a knitted tie. Go wild, friend.
Want to stray away from suits? Then grab yourself a quarter-zipper and layer it on top of a dress shirt. If you think that you might get too cold, throw on a check overshirt, a merino cardigan, or an Italian jacket. Your Monday morning stand-ups are about to get a lot spicier.
What is business casual like in summer?
Business casual in summer can be even trickier. The warmer weather means that you should be experimenting with lighter colours and lighter materials. Think linen, a light thread count organic cotton, or if you’re feeling extra boujee, silk.
If you’re used to wearing a suit and tie, go for a beige or khaki jacket instead, and you might want to ditch the tie altogether. Some braver menswearheads are even replacing the shirt in favour of a knitted polo or even a T-shirt. Keep the latter simple and all-white though, with no graphics or text, and definitely no band tees.
Can you wear business casual to a wedding?
On paper, you can wear business casual to someone’s big day, but you might end up looking more office reception than wedding reception. Instead, go for a smart-casual look or even cocktail attire. Of course, it all really depends on what dress code the happy couple have written in the invite. If they’ve stated semi-formal, go semi-formal. If they’ve stated black tie, go black tie. And if they’re very fancy and they’ve stated white tie… well, you know what to do.
Can you wear jeans with business casual?
“Though many city-based businesses had strict dress codes pre-pandemic and some still do, the rise of business casual represents a more relaxed approach,” says Brick. However, showing up in jeans still isn’t acceptable in many workplaces. As mentioned before, even though business casual isn’t as strict and traditional, you still need to look as professional as possible.
If your work trousers are in the wash and you’re not sure what bottoms to put on, you’re probably better off not taking any chances and just wearing tailored chinos or some khakis. If you really have to wear jeans, stick to a dark-wash with a straight leg fit. Avoid pairs with rips, holes, and prints, and any that just look gnarly in general.
Can you wear trainers with business casual?
Over the past decade or so, sneakers have become a ubiquitous part of many of our fits. Almost everyone has a pair of Air Jordans or New Balances, and we wear them absolutely everywhere. However, for business casual, you should probably stick to Derbys, Oxfords, brogues, or loafers. For those of you searching for something a little more rebellious, Chelsea boots and monk shoes are decent choices as well.
However, if you really want to wear trainers to the office. Go for something very clean and very minimal, either in an all-white colourway or a light grey. In terms of materials, they should be made of either leather or suede or both. There also shouldn’t be any mesh or nylon. These fabrics are way too sporty, and you might look like you’re in a track team rather than a Teams call.