The Essential Business Casual Details & Outfits

To me, business casual for men’s outfits is a loose definition, but it definitely has an upper and lower range of what’s appropriate. The only true way to determine what it means is by looking at it in relation to the current dress code of the company or function you’re dealing with.

Things to avoid in business casual

Ties

There are rare exceptions, but when in doubt, go without.

Shorts

These are too casual no matter how they’re worn and I’d argue that a man shouldn’t wear shorts in 95% of situations, anyways.

T-Shirts

While I love them, they have no place in a business casual outfit.

Not Tucking In Your Shirt

The sin of all sins for a business casual outfit, no matter your body type, is not tucking in your collared shirts. Polo shirts should only be worn untucked, but the exact opposite is true for collared shirts. It just looks sloppy.

 

Now let’s go over the typical outfits and when they’re appropriate to wear.

Standard Business Casual

For most companies, whether they require a suit (maybe no tie) or a blazer or collared shirt everyday, there are two types of business casual outfits. How close the dress code is to a full suit will determine whether you should wear a jacket or not. Also, depending on the time of year, you may go for lighter or heavier weighted fabrics for your jackets and pants. Hotter = lighter.

With A Jacket

If you are required to wear a suit and tie everyday, definitely go with this one.

Sport Coat/Blazer

Here’s another article I wrote about heavier sport coats/blazers for the Fall & Winter months. Please, whatever you do, don’t wear a suit jacket in place of this. The fabric is too thin and it won’t match the fabric weight of the pants you’ll be wearing.

Oxford Button Down Shirt or Semi-Spread Collared Shirt

Make sure either of these are tucked in to your pants. Definitely wear a belt that matches your shoe color, as well.

Wool trousers, Chino Pants or Dark Wash Jeans

The more formal the dress code, the more likely you should wear wool trousers. Chinos are a little less formal or more used during spring and summer, while jeans a little less so than chinos and typically used year-round. Never, ever – unless the suit pants are a very thick wool (similar to wool trouser weight) – should you wear suit pants without the accompanying jacket.

Oxford Dress Shoes, Monk straps, Brogues, WingtipsBoots (Dress or Chukka) or Loafers

The second you’re not wearing a full suit and tie, you can basically wear anything but sneakers with your business casual outfit. I’d default to Oxfords, Monk Straps or Loafers – either in suede or leather, but any of the options above are acceptable.

Without a jacket

If the dress code or occasion is slightly more casual, you can forgo the jacket and wear this business casual outfit, instead. There’s a few small points to consider.

V-neck sweater

If the weather is too warm, then definitely swap out the sweater for a blazer from the previous section, or, if it can be more casual, go to the next outfit, instead.

Shirt

Same as the previous outfit. You can wear a tie, like in the above picture, but it’s not necessary at all.

Pants

Wool trousers or dark wash jeans. Chino pants have a fabric weight that is too light to go well with v-neck sweaters.

Shoes

Same as previous outfit.

 

Casual Business Casual

This type of business casual outfit is appropriate if there’s a pretty casual dress code normally, or the event is very informal. If you see “business casual” as a requirement anywhere, this is the least formal outfit you can wear that is still appropriate for the dress code. Anything less than this is not business casual.

Harrington Jacket 

This is one of my favorite jackets of all time and fits this outfit perfectly. Obviously, only wear this if the weather is requiring a jacket.

Polo Shirt or Oxford Button Down

I’d probably default to a polo shirt unless you knew for a fact you were going to wear the Harrington Jacket or the weather is cooler. Unless you’re a slimmer guy, an Oxford Button Down worn without a jacket on top of it doesn’t look too good. No matter what, though, make sure the polo shirt fits like a glove or you’re going to look like a goofball and if you wear the oxford, please tuck it in.

Chino Pants or Dark Wash Jeans

Chino pants are the default in an outfit like this, but dark wash jeans are just as appropriate. I’d let the time of year or weather dictate whether I went with chinos or dark wash jeans. The colder it is, the more I’d lean toward wearing the jeans over the chinos.

Sneakers, Loafers, Dress Shoes or Chukka Boots

The more classy you want to make this casual outfit, the more I’d learn toward dressy shoes.

 

That’s it! Hope this is helpful!

POTW: Johnston & Murphy Burgundy Cap Toes

I was prepping for a fitting, and I came across these Johnston & Murphy burgundy cap toes that I thought you should know about. I’m not normally a fan of burgundy shoes because I often find the color to be difficult to wear and usually ends up being too much of a statement piece. But, these are different because the darker color is closer to a burgundy brown instead of the more reddish-oxblood color you often see with other “burgundy shoes” and that makes them much easier to wear. So, I had to make them my pick of the week!

 

profile

$155 – Johnston & Murphy Burgundy Conard Cap Toe 

Best Ways to Wear

The decorative broguing along with the brown soles adds a casual look to them making them easy to wear with your summer suits, like a green or navy cotton suit, or with some chinos or dark wash jeans. Blues, greens, and khaki go great with burgundy. If you’re ever unsure how to wear these, just know that whenever you wear brown dress shoes with a more casual outfit, you can easily wear these instead.

I also want to address the contrasting stitching. On more formal shoes it can be very distracting and pull the attention away from your outfit and really focus it on the shoes. But on a casual dress shoe, such as these, it works because you’re never going to be wearing them with a really formal outfit. So if you’re thinking about doing that, then please don’t.

Like I’ve said before, accessories are a great way to add some fun touches to your outfit and these shoes do exactly that.

BurgandyCapToeOutfits_AshleyWeston

 

Look 1

$40 – J. Crew Slub Cotton Deck-Striped T-Shirt
$68 – J. Crew Navy or Green Stretch Chino Pant in 770 Fit
$30 – Uniqlo Slim Fit Flat Front Chino in Navy

Look 2

$69 – Brooks Brothers Selvedge Oxford Sport Shirt
$70 – Levi’s 511 Slim Fit Stretch Jeans (in blue flame, dark hollow and stump town)
$228 – JBrand Tyler Fit in Blue Hood

Look 3

$358 – J. Crew Ludlow Suit Jacket in Italian Cotton Oxford
$188 – J. Crew Ludlow Suit Pant in Italian Cotton Oxford
Shirting – See my dress shirt article
Ties – See my ties article