Asking for a Friend: How to Do Business Casual with 3 Key Pieces
‘Asking for a Friend’ is our style advice series.
Nowadays, offices everywhere are touting a ‘business casual’ dress code, but the term itself is vague and means different things in different industries. If you’re confused about whether or not to denim up, you’re not alone. To help a guy out, we’ll explain the basics, but it’s up to you to get final guidance from your friends in HR.
The general gist: business casual is less formal than the traditional three-piece suit and tie but more polished than your average casual-Friday attire (i.e., no sports jerseys). Think of it as balancing out two parts dressy with one part laid-back. Our men’s editorial stylist suggests losing the tie, working a smart pair of jeans into your look or pulling on an unscuffed pair of dress sneakers. The primary objective is to still look professional, but with an effortless, sportswear-leaning vibe—like you could present to the board, then roll up your sleeves and kick back at a BBQ.
Because the days are getting longer and warmer, we’ll show you the lighter side of business casual. Ahead, three solid staples to work into your spring/summer workwear wardrobe.
The Unstructured Blazer
A strong starting point is an unlined sport coat. It’s lost the old-school power suit’s heavy lining and can easily slide on and off, which makes it perfect for commuting in balmy weather. Don’t worry—they’ve left just enough lining and canvas to retain a natural body shape.
Pro tip: Still get your jacket tailored. It’ll fit better and you’ll feel more businessman-sharp. (And hey, we offer free basic alterations on most items, so why not?)
SHOP: Unlined Sport Coats
While chinos and suit pants are forever foolproof, denim is fast becoming a legit biz-caj option. The trick is to wear neutral-colored jeans that are clean, slim and hole-free. (Save your ripped-up blue jeans for the weekend.) And although you can always bet on dark denim, a fresh pair of white jeans for summer will instantly set you apart from the cubicle crew.
Wear it with: Dress up your denim with a blazer and polished oxfords or derbies.
Pro tip: Jeans in neutral washes like khaki and beige look a lot like standard-issue chinos but won’t wrinkle.
SHOP: Neutral-Colored Jeans
They’re comfortable and versatile, so of course sneakers were bound to show up in the office. But we’re not talking your gym sneaks here. These are high-quality leather dress shoes with plenty of fashion sense—they just happen to sport laces and sneaker soles in case you need to run for that morning bus. Play it safe with a crisp white or cognac-colored pair, or if your office appreciates a creative flair, go bold in red or navy shoes.
Wear them with: No-show socks and cropped suit pants (the hem should hit about an inch above your shoe tongue). If you can rock sneakers at work, you can also probably throw on a short-sleeve button-down—with or without a blazer.
Pro tip: Spit-shines will do in a pinch, but keep a shoe-care kit at your desk or in your work bag to sweep away the inevitable street grime.
SHOP: Dress Sneakers