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Business Casual Dress Guidelines

Updated on March 7, 2008

Many companies have a business casual dress code for their employees to follow, but the guidelines for what this means aren’t often provided. Basically, it isn’t as formal as wearing professional business clothes – suits are acceptable, but not necessary. However, it does not mean casual – jeans are generally not okay, unless it is casual Friday, they are dress jeans, or you work in an environment that promotes wearing jeans as a part of the business casual code.

Suits, ties, and other formal outfits are reserved for when employees are travelling to represent the country, for meetings, or when visitors are coming to the office. For instance, my business casual office dressed in formal business attire when our national department director came to our office for a conference.

What is Business Casual?

Business casual is basically dressing professionally, but comfortably. These outfits should create a relaxed, comfortable appearance, but still look neat and smart. There are many different things you can wear as business casual, but here are some examples during warm weather seasons:

Women – Capri pants and long shorts (past knee) if they are not denim or cotton. The Capri pants or long shorts should not be either too baggy or too tight, but nicely fitted. A collared polo shirt matched with a pair of light trousers, like khaki, is also acceptable. Open toed sandals are usually not encouraged.

Men – Cotton trousers and khakis are acceptable for men to wear as business casual. Combine these pants with a collared shirt, like a polo, to create a professional, but relaxed appearance. Acceptable shoes are loafers or other slip on shoes.

Often, pairing something a bit less professional with something dressy will work. If your pants are fairly relaxed, make sure you wear a nice top or jacket with it. Sometimes you can get away with wearing jeans if you match it with a jacket, and not just a t-shirt.

Not Business Casual

If you would wear it out to the bar with your friends, it probably is not appropriate to wear to work. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that since it is business casual, they can dress in trendy fashions. Well, you can, but it still needs to be appropriate for work.

Business casual is not short skirts or shorts, tightly fitted shirts and pants, sleeveless, or anything that shows cleavage. Toeless sandals and super high heels aren’t acceptable business casual wear either.

Another misunderstanding of business casual is when someone focuses too much on the casual part of it. If you would wear it to lounge around at home or head to the gym, it is not appropriate to wear to work. Sweats are definitely out, even if they are cutely matched.

Last Tips

Too much makeup and overdone hair are also inappropriate for the workplace. You want to be comfortable, but still look professional. Save your dressing up and down for personal outings. Platform shoes and heavy gold chains, or overly gelled, spiked hair, will only get you a talking to from HR about the proper work attire. You want to be taken seriously at work, so look the part.


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    • findeyourfashion profile image

      Cristel Mare 3 years ago from Philadelphia

      Pretty nice Hub. Like this short description on what is a Business Dress. It was very helpful to me.

      Thank you

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      Jair 4 years ago

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      mukesh 6 years ago

      good hub, it is helpful to me

    • Alexander Mark profile image

      Alexander Silvius 6 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      Thank you, going for an interview tomorrow to which I was instructed to dress business casual. The funny thing is that was exactly how I was planning to dress. Good hub.

    • profile image

      Jane 7 years ago

      Two things, Khakis are cotton pants therefore by definition cotton pants/shots of the length you described are in fact appopriate.

      Many places khakis and a polo is still too casual, while adding a co-ordinating jacket makes all the difference.

      While flip flops are generally not appropriate there are many open toed sandals are completely appropriate - especially peep toe pumps or sandals. Although a good pedicure is also required!

    • profile image

      Frank Crandell 8 years ago

      I'm not so sure some of these rules still apply. It all depends on the industry you work in. I know in parts of the Southwest it is highly acceptable to wear open-toed shoes now due to the extreme temperatures. This is definitely a rule change from what I learned back in college.

    • profile image

      Almyers 8 years ago

      Thank you for the tips. This will help me so much tomorrow at my interveiw.Thanks again.

    • Vizey profile image

      Vizey 8 years ago

      Great Hub, I am very particular about dressing sense. When I don't dress properly at my office, I feel as if I were a fool. thanks for tips.

    • profile image

      techguy 8 years ago

      The term "business casual" should only apply to a professional business environment (meaning - people who would normally wear a suit and tie to work). I consider myself a professional but not in a traditional sense. As a broadcast maintenance technician, I wear jeans and a polo shirt daily. I would prefer to dress more "business like" by wearing khakis but it just is not practical 90% of the time. I appear to be much more "professional" when wearing "business casual" clothing but at he end of the day - my job is not to impress others by the clothing I wear, it is to maintain a broadcast facility. I am mindful that certain clothing is inappropriate, but jeans have become acceptable, commonplace and can present a very nice appearance when complimented with a nice Polo or Button down shirt and a nice pair or shoes. I have always been told that I dress nice, and I wear jeans most of the time but I agree that there are times when even I should put on kahkis.

    • profile image

      symon sagwe 8 years ago

      dressing fashon is very nice for humanconsempution.all over the world.

    • steveonline profile image

      steveonline 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Great advice. Even with a business casual dress code, you should still dress professionally, especially if you will be seeing clients or customers face to face. There are many young professionals who get the dress code wrong, but there are also "seasoned" workers who also dress inappropriately as well. I think that employers should set guidelines on what is okay and what is not and actually spell it out for their employees.

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 10 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      It would be great if employers could give this sort of guidance. Probably not possible for a lot of European countries, due to belief that it is not legal under Human Rights legislation.

    • JerseyGirl profile image

      JerseyGirl 10 years ago from Jersey Shore

      Great hub. Should be read by all.

    • cgull8m profile image

      cgull8m 10 years ago from North Carolina

      Great hub, it is a must read for everyone. Some graduates try to wear dresses like they do in colleges. I think the management should set the policy from day one to everyone.