Business casual has long been something of an enigma, with its vague approach to office-appropriate attire, but what exactly is it? More importantly, how can you nail the look? Read on to find out.

If online reviews, including Charles Tyrwhitt customer feedback, are anything to go by, business casual covers a wide spectrum of attire, from the undisputedly timeless Oxford shirt with smart jeans through to a suit with an unfussy jumper in place of a button-down. Essentially it all boils down to one ethos – being smart enough to be professional, but still relaxed enough to take to after-work drinks.

Tips for women

If your office doesn’t have a prescriptive dress code, you won’t go too far wrong with the following:

  • Tops: blouses, shirts, plain t-shirts, fine-knit jumpers. Those fun slogan T-shirts you have in the wardrobe won’t usually cut it here, so stick to plain tops or patterns in muted tones.
  • Bottoms: smart jeans, mid-length skirts, chinos. Anything with too many pockets or an eye-watering hemline are best kept for your weekends.
  • Shoes: this is almost a free choice zone. Aside from sports trainers, pretty much anything can be given a business-appropriate twist, when paired with the right outfit. Fashion trainers, as an example, look great with a suit and T-shirt.
  • Steer clear of ripped and distressed pieces, glitter, too many embellishments and huge logos. We would also veer towards the neutral or darker autumnal colour palette as neon rarely screams ‘professional’.

Tips for men

Some might say that men have it a little easier as there is less to choose from, so you might want to focus more on the materials and patterns that you showcase:

  • Tops: Shirts, plain T-shirts, fine knits, suit jackets and fitted cardigans are all excellent choices. You can enjoy some expressive patterns, with pinstripes and polka dots all firm office-ready options.
  • Bottoms: Slim-fit tailored trousers, suit trousers, chinos and smart jeans are all permissible. Use your top choice to balance out the look, so if you’ve gone for a really chic button-down, definitely pair with jeans to add in the casual element.
  • Shoes: anything bar deck shoes, sports trainers and sandals are ideal.
  • As long as you don’t look as though you have come straight from the gym or are headed to a bar, you should be on the right track.

When all else fails, remember that when it comes to business casual as a dress code, the ‘business’ part comes first. You can always remove a smart jacket if you feel overdressed, which Vogue says you should never fear, but trying to add professionalism to an understated look is near impossible.

These are a few fail-safe tips to remember, if nothing else:

  • Ironing might be a chore, but it is essential. Creases and misshapen collars are not a good office look and will quickly make you look scruffier than you meant to.
  • If in doubt, don’t wear the logo top out. If you’re on the cusp and can’t decide if it is office wear, it probably isn’t, even for casual Fridays.
  • This is real life, not a film. The likes of Justin Timberlake and Jude Law might be rocking deck shoes to the office in their on-screen roles, but that’s not how actual professionals dress. They say that you should dress for the job you want, so unless you are aiming to be a yacht steward, keep your shoes on the dapper side.

Business casual workspaces don’t need to be an anxiety-inducing hurdle to overcome, if you just stick to classic styles that suit your body shape and give you the freedom you need to do your job. Easy!

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