When you hear the phrase business casual, you may wonder what-the-heck it really means. You're not alone.
While the term is intended to help you understand what to wear so you don't arrive under- or over-dressed for work or an event, the definition of business casual can be fluid. And confusing.
So, here are some tips for mastering the nuances of modern workwear terminology and avoiding embarrassment.
A general definition of “business casual”
For starters, business casual is not casual in the way you may expect or wish for. Most likely, jeans and sneakers are not appropriate and Khaki pants with leather shoes are just the thing. The idea is to look comfortably professional.
Ask a Coworker
If you're not sure what to wear, ask around. Check with peers to help decode the meaning of business casual at the company where you work or at the event you'll be attending.
Dress Pants Vs Khaki Pants
When in doubt--especially in a job-related situation--dress more formally and less casually until you get a good read on what's required. For example, in some cases dark wash jeans are appropriate, while in other situations Khaki pants are what guys will be wearing.
Khaki vs Jeans
As you can tell, Khaki pants are a safe go-to for business casual. However, there may be situations in which those slim fit jeans you love in a modern dark wash are also OK. But steer clear of extra baggy, cargo and carpenters jeans. Save them for after-hours and weekends. (Bonus Tip: Khaki pants now come in a range of colors. Look for navy and dark olive, as well as various shades of brown including sand and stone.)
Business Casual Shirts
Business casual shirts have a sharp-looking collar--semi-spread or button-down--and button cuffs. As with Khaki pants, a button-down oxford shirt with long sleeves is a safe go-to. Depending on your climate and the time of year, a men's short sleeve shirt in oxford cloth is OK, too.
No slogans and no team logos--unless it's dress-down game day.
No White Socks
No white socks (even if you're headed for the gym right after work.)
It probably goes without saying (but we'll say it as a reminder), everything you wear should be clean, wrinkle-free and well fitted. Also, if you're wearing a belt, it's not over the top to wear one that matches your shoes. Look professional; casual doesn't mean scruffy.
Here's the deal. Over time, the term business casual has moved in a more casual direction. Especially for those working outside a corporate setting or in an industry with a culture that's less conservative. So, don't worry if it's all a bit confusing. To get the hang of what to wear and when, keep an eye on what your boss and your peers are wearing.