5 Tips for Better Business Casual Style

Business Casual Style – is that an oxymoron?

In a past life, I was a cubic-jockey in the business casual hell of Corporate America. Since escaping, I’ve been helping gentlemen discover their own style inside a system that promotes a level of dress just above blatant laziness – especially in men. Provided you don’t wear jeans and your shirt has a collar, you can pretty much get away with anything, right?

No. That’s not right at all.

business casual style business casual mistakes

You want to make an effort to look better than the rest of the crowd. You want to look like you’re in command of what you do and your decisions. You want to feel like the boss, because it will make you perform better, communicate better, and altogether, become a better version of yourself. This is why you want to pay attention to your style at work. Follow a few simple rules, and you’ll always be a step ahead of the business casual mistakes.

1. Always tuck in your shirt. Some men can get away with an untucked polo or button-up at the office, but it’s more often the opposite: they think they can pull it off, but in fact, they can’t. Don’t be that guy. Button-up dress shirts are to be tucked in 90% of the time. If you’re unsure, tuck it. The hardest part of this advice is knowing that polos don’t need to be tucked in, and weren’t even designed to be. The only reason this rule applies here is to prevent you from looking like a schlep at the office. After all, it is business casual.

business casual style business casual mistakes2. Have a variety of pant styles and colors. Wear more than just that one pair of khakis, Larry. Seriously, Gap pants don’t even fit well, and at any given time, someone in the office is going to look like they work at Target. Make sure it isn’t you. Give them a rest and pick up a pair of tailored trousers in navy, charcoal, and light grey to start. Navy and grey trousers go with nearly everything you might own, and they give you more confidence in your wardrobe. I invite you to explore trousers without pleats or cuffs as well. Pleats are dated (although they seem to coming back into style again), and removing the cuff at the ankles provides a cleaner look. On a related note, get your trousers hemmed so they don’t pool at your ankles. You’re a man – don’t give the impression you’re a boy in your dad’s pants. Make them fit you.

You're a man – don't give the impression you're a boy in your dad's pants. Make them fit you. Click To Tweet

3. Keep your belts in good shape. One black and one brown are required, but more importantly, keep them in good shape. When they begin to wear out or the hole shows signs of splitting or fraying, it’s time to replace them. You may think a reversible black and brown belt is the way to go, but I advise against it. When you wear it one way, the belt forms the shape of your waist in that direction. When you reverse it, you are asking the belt to flex the opposite direction and not put up a fight. It seldom works out that way. The excess belt will stick straight out when reversed, and it will look like it doesn’t fit you. Also, no braided leather belts…ever. Those days are over. You deserve a clean, solid leather belt.

business casual style business casual mistakes4. Keep your mane in check, Stallion. Just because your office environment is pretty chill, does not mean you are welcome to roll out of bed, put on pants, and head to work. Basic grooming is required. Even though you may never be seen by customers, you are still a representation of your personal brand and the reputation of your company. If you owned the company, you’d want your employees to look like they cared about their appearance because it would show pride in themselves and hopefully, pride in their job (working for you). Brush your hair, your teeth, and even your beard. Look like you care so you get noticed for the right reasons, instead of the guy that needs a shower and a comb.

Even when not in front of your customers, grooming still reflects your brand. Look sharp. #lifeadvice Click To Tweet

business casual style business casual mistakes5. Invest in quality shoes. A pair of brogues from Allen Edmond are classy, comfortable, and radiate confidence in an environment that likes $29 slip-ons from Target. (I’m not ragging on Target, I promise. I’m actually a big fan.) Craftsmanship goes a long way, and you’ll notice the difference immediately. Quality shoes are an investment, rather than an expense, because you’ll have them for years. Gentlemen often have their shoes resoled instead of purchasing a new pair. That loyalty speaks volumes to quality and comfort.

When you take care of your belt, your shoes, and your fit, everything comes together naturally. When it does, you’ll feel better, perform better, appear more attractive, actually be more attractive, and command the attention of those that matter. You’ll also find it more fun to be at work because you’re dressed like you mean it.

Business casual doesn’t have to mean sloppy. It was never intended to be. That said, it has almost certainly become that way in many offices the world over. Consider this, however, your invitation to buck the system and rise above. Look sharp because you can. Dress for success and it will be yours. Clichés be damned.

What’s your best advice for looking good in corporate business casual environments? What’s your style? Share in the comments below!

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The Author

Blake Hammerton

Blake Hammerton

Blake Hammerton is the founder and coach at The Sharp Gentleman, and helps men earn more respect while gaining confidence in who they are. He is a certified relationship coach and loves writing about men's fashion, style, character-building, relationships, travel, adventure, and more.

  • A

    whats about jeans pants anf casual suits? tell about it. colors styles etc. thanks

    • Hey A,

      Jeans are usually not allowed in most business casual work environments, except on casual Friday. When given the opportunity to wear jeans, however, a great look is a fitted jean with a casual button-up. Unless you’re actually wearing cowboy boots, you shouldn’t ever need to wear boot-cut jeans. Get a straight fit or even slim fit jean and pair it with a fitted casual button-up that you don’t need to tuck in.

      A casual suit would be something more like a sport coat with jeans. Later this afternoon I have a meeting with some old business friends (I’m on vacation in Chicago now) and I’m wearing a nice pair of straight fit Kenneth Cole jeans, one of my custom tailored dress shirts (pink), and my casual J.Hilburn sport coat. It’s casual because it includes jeans, but it is still well put-together so it feels more appropriate for a workplace.

      Great question!

  • I liked the idea here, I wonder, though if business casual is becoming more nice jeans and a sport coat, or is it still khaki’s and a polo? Can you easily define what business casual means to one company, or is it a widely accepted fact that business casual is NEVER jeans and a sport coat?

    • Good questions. Okay, in current American Business Casual, the standard uniform is khakis (or any trouser) and a polo or collared shirt. Essentially, anything but jeans. Where this differs depends on the size and standardization of the company. Small companies with only a handful of employees may have a different take on it, and may feel that nice jeans (no holes or tears) and a collared shirt is perfectly acceptable.

      Jeans with a sport coat is a wonderful combination as long as both pieces fit well. Also, the sport coat should be not be black. Black jackets are suit jackets, and when paired with a pair of blue jeans, often make you look like a suburban real estate agent… and not in a good way.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • Jeans and a sport jacket over a collared shirt is what I think of when I think business casual. The belt advice is good because, in my opinion, a worn belt stands out when everything else is tight.

  • Good advice on the reversible belts. I’m not a “gentleman” but will pass on the advice to my boyfriend. He recently bought two reversibles so maybe he can use one side for black and the other for brown.

    One advice which has been repeated many times is to make sure your belt matches your shoes! But wear sensible colors please. I’ve seen guys around the office wear a bright blue belt and blue shoes which obviously follows the logic but looks strange and out of place in corporate.

  • Anthony Jacob

    I think its important for guys to dress well and along with it presence of styling is equivalent in todays life style. Your appearence is the first imperresion and its just very important to expertise on fashion sense. I like growing my beards and apart from stlying I personally pay special attension on my beard grooming. So with useful sources I keep my beards maintained.

  • Foxcat

    I would also suggest tailoring your shirts- tucking in a baggy shirt NEVER looks good, especially if it’s ill fitting elsewhere.

  • Foxcat

    I think it’s worth to note that you should get you button up shirts tailored- it’s absolutely horrible when a guy has a tucked shirt all billowed out around him. Combine that with incorrect length sleeves and it’s just ugly.