Business casual for men: Style guide and examples of outfits

Business casual for men: Style guide and examples of outfits
SEEK content teamupdated on 28 February, 2024
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Dress codes can be hard to get right, especially in the workplace or for professional events. ‘Business casual’ is the go-to dress code for most corporate workplaces, and if that term seems a little unclear, it’s just because it’s one of the most broad and flexible dress codes out there. If you have a hard time imagining what it could mean, think of conferences, office meetings and job interviews – what would you wear to these occasions?

The business clothing men typically wear can very easily be dressed up or down with some mixing and matching, to work for any occasion. But how casual is too casual? Or too dressy? This guide will help steer you in the right direction. 

What is business casual for men? 

Business casual for men is a more relaxed version of a corporate or formal dress code. It’s typically made up of dress pants, leather dress shoes and a button-down or business shirt. You can wear a blazer to make your outfit look more professional, but you won’t need a tie.

For a more casual yet professional look, you can swap out the dress shoes for clean sneakers, and those tailored pants for chinos in business casual outfits. Rip-free jeans are also okay, depending on the setting.

Tops for business casual attire

The shirt you wear can change the whole look of your outfit. A polo with dress pants and shoes will still be business casual, but is considered a more relaxed look, while a button-down or business shirt will look more professional. The right shirt will depend on the occasion.

Shirt colour matters

The colour of your shirt can help you look either more professional or more laid-back. A crisp-white, navy-blue, or pink or blue pastel shirt will make you look a bit more professional, while bolder colours and patterns will add personality. Also, if you're wearing a jacket, you don’t necessarily need to match it to your pants. Matching your suit jackets and pants does look more professional, but experimenting with colours can look more fashionable.

To tuck or not to tuck the shirt

One of the biggest debates about the casual business attire men should wear is whether or not to tuck your shirt. If you’re going for smart or business casual, tucking in your shirt will always seem more polished and provide a more put-together look. Should you also wear a belt? If your pants have belt loops and you've tucked your shirt then yes, a belt is a must.

Business_casual_top

Bottoms for business casual attire

Picking the right pair of pants for your business casual look will depend on where you’re going. Dress pants look more professional, so are a better choice for job interviews, with a smart pair of jeans or chinos at the more relaxed end of the spectrum. If you do go the chinos or jeans route, ensure they are clean, wrinkle-free and have no distressing, to keep with the polished, professional look.

The type of pants you wear will also help you choose what shoes to wear. Brown dress shoes will look good with any pants, while black dress shoes look better with darker pants. Dark-blue shoes will typically work with any coloured pants, while white can also be very versatile, tying in any white features of your look. 

Business casual shoes for men

Thinking beyond a pair of white trainers, there are a lot of options for men when it comes to picking the right shoes for work. Shoes can relax your outfit or add a sophisticated touch. Sneakers, loafers and dress shoes can be considered staple business shoes for men, depending on the occasion. For example, if you’re attending a conference, sneakers may be a way to make your outfit more casual, while dress shoes would be better for a job interview.

That means you need to leave your thongs (flip-flops), slides and sandals at home. These are definitely best left for weekend adventures! Your shoes should also always be clean, polished (if wearing dress shoes) and presentable for work. If you’ll be wearing white shoes, ensure they are as-new, with clean laces. Business casual men’s shoes with laces can be easily styled to change the feel of your outfit. Colour match your shoes and laces to look more professional – or change up your laces to a contrasting colour if you prefer a bolder look. 

Business causal shoes

Accessories for business clothes men can wear

All dressed and ready in your business attire, but feel like something doesn’t quite seem right? Adding the right accessories can help bring your look together. 

Accessorise with socks

Socks shouldn’t be an afterthought – they’re a key accessory, perfect for pulling together your outfit. Generally, white socks should go with white shoes, while darker shoes should be paired with dark socks. Crew socks will help keep you looking smart if your pants rise when you sit. 

Choose the right belt

A belt will also help complete your look. Your belt colour should always match other accessories of similar materials, including your shoes. For example, if you have black shoes, your belt should also be black. 

Add a piece of jewellery

As for jewellery, cufflinks can really set off a jacket, and a watch is always a nice touch. When choosing the colour of your cufflinks or watch, match them to the hardware on your belt: silver with silver and gold with gold. 

Keep in mind, there is such a thing as over-accessorising, especially for a job interview. Less is more, and if you feel like something still doesn’t look right, take off one accessory before you leave the house.

Men’s business casual fashion for specific occasions

The business clothes men wear don’t always abide by hard and fast rules. The event or occasion will determine how you dress, whether you need a more professional look for a job interview or business meeting, or a more laid-back look for a casual Friday or networking event. Knowing when to dress up or dress down will help you always look the part. 

Dressing for a job interview in business casual attire

When getting dressed for a job interview, your aim should be to look clean and professional. A business-casual outfit will be your go-to for most job interviews, opting for a more professional look for an office role, or a more casual look for a trade or retail job

For more professional business attire, stick to dress shoes (black or brown loafers, pointed leather lace-up shoes, etc.) and a jacket. To make your outfit more relaxed, you can opt out of the jacket. If you don’t have dress shoes, dark shoes will do the trick, but avoid fashion colours or white shoes for an interview.

Dressing for a business meeting in business casual attire

How you dress for a business meeting can help show gratitude to and respect for the other attendees. You can’t go wrong with dress pants, dress shoes, a button-down shirt and a jacket. You don’t necessarily need a tie, but a more corporate environment may require one.

A business meeting doesn’t mean you have to stick to a black suit, either! To add a bit of personality, you can play with the colour of your suit, opting for maroon, navy blue or a (very) subtle print – think: small palm trees, dots or little animals. Even adding a pop of colour with your shirt can help you feel a bit more like yourself, so you can be confident in a meeting

Dressing for a business trip in business casual attire

Deciding what to wear when travelling for business can be difficult.  You want to look smart, but also minimise the need for on-the-go ironing. 

A safe option for travelling while wearing men’s business casual outfits is to go for a white or dark-coloured polo with chinos and loafers (or dress shoes). This will look smart, feel comfortable and remain clean-cut even after a long day of travel. If you won’t have time to freshen up before a meeting, bring a jacket with you – but don’t put it on until you’re out of the car or off the plane! 

Dressing for a casual Friday in business casual attire

Casual Friday can be a bit of a grey area, so it’s easy to feel a little lost with the dress code. You’re still at work and may still have meetings, but you can dress more relaxed – so what does that mean? The easiest way to dress for a casual Friday in business casual is to swap out dress pants for dark jeans or chinos, and even opt for a clean pair of sneakers (if your dress code allows it).

Depending on where you work, a polo may also be a suitable option for casual Friday. If you do opt for a polo, ensure it’s tucked in, like a dress shirt, and you’re keeping the look polished with a nice, neat belt. 

Dressing for a networking event in business casual attire

What to wear for a networking event can feel broad, especially if the dress code is business or smart casual. The time of the event and where it is held will help you know how far towards casual or professional you should go.

If your networking event is on a golf course or is a more casual industry event, then a polo shirt, dress pants and sneakers may be fine. However, a more corporate networking event or one held in the evening would typically call for suit pants, button-down shirt and dress shoes. 

Tips for nailing casual business attire for men

If you’re not used to dressing in men’s business casual outfits, it can feel confusing trying to balance your personal style with a professional setting. This is where finding your own comfort zone in business casual – and knowing how to personalise your look – will help you feel more comfortable and confident.

Some tips for nailing your casual business outfit:

  • Ensure you practise good hygiene and grooming, including a fresh shave or well-groomed beard, with neat, clean hair. This will help you look more naturally put-together. 
  • Pick business clothes that fit your shape and height – even have them tailored if you need to, for a proper fit. You don’t want to feel uncomfortable, with your shirt too long in the sleeve or torso, for example.
  • Experiment with colour and print, whether that’s a different coloured jacket, pants or shirt. Playing with different textures or adding a pattern into the mix can really add some flair!
  • Stay up to date with the latest in men’s business casual fashion. This will help you get ideas about what pieces you could add to your own wardrobe.

When in doubt, a clean, ironed white shirt, dark dress pants, a belt and dress shoes will always look polished and professional for any occasion. 

Business-casual attire is extremely versatile and can work for so many settings, from a nice dinner or networking event to a day in the office or a job interview. With polos, button-down shirts, chinos, jeans and dress pants to choose from, there are limitless combinations for any occasion.

Learning what is business casual for men and having some business basics in your wardrobe will help you look professional and presentable whenever you need to. When building your business wardrobe, start with some key basics, then branch out into different colours and cuts to work out your own style. And remember: whatever you wear, wear it with confidence and you’ll always nail the look! 

FAQs

What is the main difference between business casual and formal attire?

Formal attire is more strict, requiring a dress shirt and shoes, suit jacket and pants, plus a tie or bow tie. The casual business attire men wear is more flexible – typically defined as neat, clean and professional. Business casual will normally mean dress pants or dark, rip-free jeans, with a polo or dress shirt, but you won’t need a jacket or tie. It gives you more flexibility to show off your own personal style, while still looking professional and presentable. 

Can I wear jeans in a business casual dress code?

Jeans may be suitable for a business casual dress code if they are styled correctly. When wearing jeans, ensure they’re clean, ironed and have no rips or distressing – even if that’s the style. Typically, darker jeans are more suitable for business casual, as they look more professional than a lighter denim. 

Are sneakers appropriate for business casual attire?

Sneakers can be appropriate when it comes to more relaxed business casual shoes for men – but it depends on the setting. Some workplaces or events have a more formal type of business casual code, where dress shoes would be more appropriate, while other occasions will require the comfort and durability of sneakers. 

If you’ll be standing for long periods of time or need to look professional while running around (like if you’re helping run an event), sneakers with your business casual attire will be the way to go. In the workplace, it’s best to check the uniform policy to see if sneakers are okay to wear day-to-day or only on casual-dress days.

Can I wear a blazer with business casual attire?

Wearing a blazer with business-casual attire can be a great option if you need to dress up more casual pieces of clothing, like a polo. Take a blazer with you if you are unsure of the dress code, to elevate a more casual business outfit on the spot. Keeping a blazer in your car or office can also help if you wear more casual clothing day-to-day at work, but have the occasional meeting where more formality is required. 

There are no hard and fast rules for men’s business casual fashion. Where there is a smart or business-casual dress code, you’ll notice some men opt for a jacket or blazer and some don’t. If you can, try to find photos of past or similar events online, to help you decide what’s appropriate.

Is it necessary to wear a tie in business casual attire?

Wearing a tie isn’t always necessary with business-casual attire. If your outfit is already quite smart or the dress code is on the more casual side of business casual, you can lose the tie. But if the dress code is on the more business-y side of business casual or you feel your outfit isn’t quite professional enough for the occasion, adding a tie, or even a bow tie, can help you achieve a more refined and professional look. 

Men’s business casual outfits allow you to have some fun with bold tie colours and prints – a great way to add some personality to your outfit. If you feel what you’re wearing is a little plain, try adding a patterned tie or a contrasting colour to elevate your whole outfit.

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