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The Evolution of Business Casual Attire for Men

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What is Business Casual Attire? In today’s rapidly changing work environment, the dress code has undergone a significant transformation. Gone are the days when men were expected to don a formal suit and tie every day. Instead, a more relaxed and comfortable dress code known as “business casual” has become the norm. But what exactly does business casual mean and how did it come to be? In this article, we will explore the history and key elements of business casual attire, and provide a complete style guide for different industries and clothing types.

What is Business Casual Attire?

Business casual attire can be defined as a dress code that is less formal than a suit, but more formal than jeans and a t-shirt. It strikes a balance between professionalism and comfort, allowing individuals to express their personal style while still looking polished and put-together. The key components of a business casual outfit for men typically include a button-down shirt, dress pants or khakis/chinos, and nice shoes. However, it’s important to note that there can be variations in the interpretation of business casual depending on the industry and company culture.

What is Business Casual Attire?

The History of Business Casual

The concept of business casual attire can be traced back to the 1960s when Hawaiian businesses introduced “Aloha Friday,” a day where employees were allowed to wear casual Hawaiian shirts to the office. This cultural statement of resistance to the rat race quickly caught on and spread to the mainland as “Casual Fridays” in the 1990s. However, this newfound casualness in the workplace led to concerns about employees taking the dress code too far. In response, Levi’s introduced their brand of khaki slacks called Dockers, aiming to bring a more professional and polished look to casual Fridays. This move by Levi’s revolutionized business casual attire and paved the way for its widespread adoption.

Business Casual Examples

To better understand what constitutes a business casual outfit, let’s take a look at some examples. In a more casual white-collar environment, a classic business casual outfit could consist of a lilac dress shirt paired with check-patterned charcoal dress pants. This combination adds a creative flair while still maintaining a professional image. Complete the look with a pair of loafers and a matching belt to achieve the traditional business casual style.

For a slightly more formal business casual look, consider wearing light grey dress pants with a white dress shirt. Add a brown belt and Chelsea boots to elevate the outfit. If you’re feeling adventurous, incorporate a blue blazer to make the style even more formal.

However, it’s important to note that the interpretation of business casual can vary depending on the industry and company culture. In tech startups and creative roles, a trendier and more casual approach is acceptable. This could include wearing casual fabrics, flamboyant patterns, and even rolling up shirt sleeves. On the other hand, sales and service roles may require a slightly more formal business casual attire, with a focus on a button-down collar shirt paired with chinos or khakis and more conservative color choices.

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The Essential Guide to Business Casual Dress Code for Men

To help you navigate the world of business casual attire, we have compiled a comprehensive guide outlining the key guidelines for each clothing type that makes up a standard business casual outfit.


The shirt is at the heart of any business casual outfit. When selecting a shirt, opt for a nicely fitted collar that hugs your neckline. Traditional white-collar environments usually require long-sleeved dress shirts in classic colors such as light blue or white. Stick to conservative patterns like thin stripes or plain. On the other hand, tech startups and creative roles allow for trendier and more casual shirt styles, such as casual fabrics and flamboyant patterns.

Some recommended brands for comfortable and flexible shirts suited to an office environment include Mizzen + Main and State & Liberty. Mizzen + Main offers a more classic and fitted look, while State & Liberty specializes in slim-fit shirts that are particularly flattering for skinny guys. Remember to always tuck in your business casual shirt properly for a polished appearance.


Dress pants and khakis are the go-to options for business casual attire. For khakis, prioritize finding a pair that fits well rather than focusing on the brand. Slim fit is currently in trend, but if that doesn’t suit your body type, stick to a classic fit. Cotton khakis are the preferred choice for business casual, with classic colors like navy or khaki being the most versatile.

When it comes to dress pants, stick to navy, grey, light blue, or charcoal. Pleated or flat front options are acceptable, depending on your preference. Chinos are also rapidly gaining popularity as a business casual go-to, especially if your workplace allows them. Opt for slim fit and classic colors like navy or khaki for a trendy yet professional look.


Your choice of shoes can make or break a business casual outfit. While oxford and derby dress shoes are classic choices that never go out of style, you can also experiment with other options like brogues, loafers, and monk straps. Brown is a versatile color that works well for business casual attire, but you can also incorporate bolder colors like oxblood or burgundy for a stronger statement.

Boots are also suitable for business casual, with chukka/desert boots and Chelsea boots being popular choices. These can add a touch of ruggedness and versatility to your outfit. Remember to match your belt to the color of your shoes, and ensure that your watch complements both.

Optional Business Casual Extras

While not essential, jackets and blazers can add an extra layer of class to a standard business casual outfit. A navy blazer is a classic choice that pairs well with a variety of colors. Corduroy jackets or tweed sport coats can also add a touch of sophistication. If the weather calls for an additional layer, consider wearing a vest. Opt for a quilted zip vest or a nylon puffer vest to keep it on the casual side.

Sweaters and cardigans are acceptable additions to business casual attire, particularly in colder climates. Stick to neutral solid colors like beige, brown, navy, or black for a versatile and polished look. Avoid loud patterns or the “Ugly Christmas sweater” aesthetic.

When it comes to accessories, less is more in a business casual setting. Consider investing in a pair of blue light blocking glasses if you spend long hours in front of a computer screen. These glasses can reduce eye strain and improve sleep quality. Use accessories to shift the formality of your outfit, such as a casual watch for a more relaxed look or a dress watch for a touch of elegance. Metal cuffs can add a subtle touch of style, but avoid leather or beaded bracelets in a business casual environment.

Can You Wear a Tie with Business Casual?

While business casual attire typically does not include a tie, there are a few exceptions. Knit ties are accepted as being less formal than regular ties and can be worn in a business casual setting. Stick to solid colors like navy, burgundy, or emerald green for a sophisticated yet relaxed look. Another accepted use of a tie in business casual is when wearing a cardigan. Pairing a knit tie with a cardigan can elevate the formality of the outfit slightly.


In conclusion, business casual attire has become the new norm in many workplaces, striking a balance between professionalism and comfort. It allows individuals to express their personal style while still looking polished and put-together. The evolution of business casual can be traced back to the 1960s and has since transformed the way we dress for work. By understanding the key elements and guidelines of business casual attire, you can navigate this dress code with confidence and style. Remember to adapt your outfit to the specific industry and company culture, and always strive for a polished and professional appearance.
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