Business Casual Dress Guidelines
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.
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.