Business Casual men's dress code

Business Casual dress code for men is a popular and important trend that has changed somewhat over time. While the term is now quite common, it is not always well understood.

Some History

Working in the computer industry in the late 80’s I would always wear a necktie to work. Next my colleagues and I would usually wear a tie to work, occasionally remove it for part of the day, but always be expected to put it back on for customer meetings.

This gradual relaxation of men’s business wear gathered pace, particular from 1991 when I joined Microsoft Australia through to 1996 when I moved to Microsoft Corp. in the United States. By then it was quite acceptable for us to conduct business without wearing a tie. It was also during this period that I first heard the term business casual.

My personal experience with this changing code was somewhat typical of American IT companies at that time, particularly when it applied to development and other creative staff who had minimal contact with external customers. Some Silicon Valley companies were renowned for their wild informality, and even at Redmond it was not unusual to see jeans, shorts, sandals and all types of sportswear being worn around campus on a daily basis.

So within 5 years the acceptable attire for sales and marketing personnel at my company (and the wider industry) morphed from standard business attire into business casual; a style defined for us by our VP as a “neat open necked shirt with khaki pants, perhaps with optional tie when in contact with customers”. A loose definition perhaps, but then we were a corporation, not a boarding school!

All was well within Redmond, but my role meant regular business travel to countries in the Mediterranean, Middle East, Africa and South East Asia with varying cultures. As they say “when in Rome” so it was appropriate to adopt a business dress style consistent with the locals, which usually meant standard business attire. But even so, the appeal of a relaxed business dress style was huge and I saw a noticeable change of attitude towards men’s business wear in conservative countries in a short period of time.

Fast forward to 2011, and it’s now quite acceptable for men in cities such as Melbourne, Sydney, New York and London to regularly conduct business in open necked shirts; albeit with some notable exceptions in the legal and banking industries.

Business Casual Style

Men’s standard business attire is a dress code typified by a suit and necktie, but business casual is not strictly defined. The term is quite fluid and may be interpreted as a polo shirt with dress jeans, through to dress shirt, silk tie and chinos. To add to the confusion, many variations in between are all acceptable at certain times and situations.

Rather than attempt a business casual definition, at Stripe & Company we suggest you’ll project business casual style by emphasising business style first and adding a touch of casual informality. Some guidelines:

Shirt, Trousers & Shoes

Treat these together as the canvas for business casual style.  Select a pure cotton shirt that sits well when worn open necked, preferably with just the top button undone (but definitely no more than two). Collars can be classic business with collar stays removed, buttoned-down or soft hand turned collars.   Next add neatly ironed khaki/chino cotton trousers or (if appropriate) well laundered denim jeans in dark colours.   For footwear, choose a comfortable pair of quality black or tan leather shoes in a classic design and wear them with a matching belt and dark coloured socks.

Jackets & Jumpers

Depending on the degree of formality required, versatile business casual style is readily enhanced with a well cut, dark coloured jacket or blazer (necktie optional) for important meetings. Or relax your style with a fine woollen or cashmere jumper and appropriate change of footwear for after hours wear.

Tips for Ties

Always dress in such a way that your outfit looks complete and plan for possible changes throughout the day.

Neckties add personality and can express your personal dress style. Keep in mind that removing the tie and jacket from well co-ordinated standard business attire does not necessarily look appropriate; just as adding the wrong tie to a casual open necked shirt and trousers does not automatically convey a business like image.

If you are likely to remove your tie during the day, then try shirt styles in stronger colours, textured weaves, checks or bold stripes that look great when worn as part of your basic shirt, trouser and shoes combo. They’re also more forgiving and can help camouflage creases and sweat marks better than paler plain coloured shirts.

Be prepared in case you need to add a necktie at short notice. Keep a small selection of quality silk neckties in a range of colours in your office and/or car to enhance your business casual style for added impact.

Styling Assistance

Our team at Stripe & Company is always ready to offer assistance. If you have any questions about how best to co-ordinate your wardrobe for elegant business casual style, please don’t hesitate to ask.

- Andrew Dobson

Posted by Andrew Dobson on 26th April, 2011 | Comments | Trackbacks

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