Here’s one of the mysteries of the modern workplace: what is a “business casual” dress code?
It is becoming increasingly common in a growing number of offices and industries. In fact, for many companies, it has become the norm. But what is it exactly?
The problem is that there isn’t just one clear-cut definition that applies everywhere. The answer is often, it depends on the firm. “Business casual” may mean something different in a West Coast tech startup than in an East Coast insurance company. This creates uncertainty and confusion.
To help you, we’ve put together a guide with tips on what to wear — and most importantly what not to wear – in a casual workplace.
That way, if you see the phrase “business casual” in an employee handbook or in a job posting on ZipRecruiter or a similar job site, you’ll know what to do.
What is Business Casual?
It’s important to remember the two distinct words here: you have “casual”, but you also have “work”.
A business casual dress code is a little less formal than professional business attire, which means suits, ties, dress shirt and dress shoes for men, or a tailored skirt and blazer combo, a business suit – pants or a knee-length dress for women.
But it’s more formal and professional than casual wear, which typically includes jeans, shorts, t-shirts, leggings, sandals, or tennis shoes.
Business casual attire means clothes that are comfortable but suitable for work. This means that your employer wants you to focus on your performance at work rather than your formal office attire, but you also need to dress well enough to be able to attend an unexpected meeting with a client, your boss or even the boss of your company. your boss.
What to wear for women
Here, women generally have more complicated choices to make than men.
Women usually can’t go wrong with knee-length dresses and skirts, or a simple blouse-and-pants combo and closed-toe shoes. Solid colors are more professional than bold, busy patterns.
Here is a list of appropriate casual clothes for women:
- Professional Midi Sheath Dresses
- Skirts to the knee or below
- Dress pants
- Other pants that are not jeans: khakis, cotton, corduroy or twill
- Black or dark blue dress pants
- Blouses, with or without collar
- Sweaters or cardigans
- Knitted polo shirts or shirts
- Blazers or jackets
- High heels, dress boots or ballet flats
- Jewelry not too flashy
Open-toed shoes are generally no, although some employers allow them, if they look professional enough.
What to wear for men
Men generally have it easier. For a man, a casual dress code usually means khakis, a button-down shirt, a belt, and non-sporty shoes. No tie. It is now the work uniform of countless millions of men.
Here is a list of appropriate casual outfits for men:
- Long Sleeve Button Down Shirts
- Polo shirts or other collared shirts
- Dress pants, khakis or chinos
- Sweaters or cardigans
- Black or brown leather belts
- Dress socks
- Black or brown leather shoes — dress shoes or loafers
A sports coat or blazer is optional for business casual attire, and ties are highly optional. In fact, you can probably skip the tie.
What not to wear
Most of these things will be self-explanatory, but the main question you’ll likely face is: are you allowed to wear jeans or not?
The answer is usually no, but it really depends on the office or company you work at. Some companies allow dark, well-fitting jeans with no holes or rips. Don’t push your luck.
Here is a list of clothes you should not wear for business casual dress code:
- Hoodies (unless you work for certain tech startups or similar casual businesses)
- Sports clothing
- T-shirts or tank tops
- Short skirts, tight dresses or low-cut tops
- Cargo pants or shorts
- Halter tops, crop tops or strapless tops
- Summer dresses
- Clothing with tears or holes
- Anything with neon colors
- Jewelry that is too flashy or distracting
- Athletic socks
- Sandals or flip flops
Business casual dress codes are becoming more common in today’s workplace, with surveys showing that at least half of all US employers allow business casual wear on a daily basis.
Business casual attire can mean different things in different places. In some workplaces you will want to avoid wearing polo shirts, while others will allow it.
It’s well known that businesses like tech startups and creative agencies typically allow employees to dress casually, while more traditional industries like law, finance, or insurance are more likely to require casual dress. professionnal clothing.
The differences go beyond that, however. Workplace experts will tell you that East Coast companies tend to have stricter dress codes than those on the West Coast.
What to wear for an interview
When it comes to job interviews, we have a little extra advice.
First, you need to land an interview in the first place. Your best bet for doing so is to explore a massive and popular online job site like ZipRecruiter, the use of which is free for job seekers. You can search for jobs based on factors such as desired salary, location, or various keywords.
You can post a profile on the site for potential employers to see. You can post your CV, references, social media IDs or profile picture, among others. If a company likes your profile, they may invite you to apply for their job. And if you are interested, you can apply with one click.
An online job market like this is the most effective way to start a job search.
Next, what is your interview outfit? Interview attire is crucial.
How you look at the job interview is almost as important as your qualifications. Planning an outfit can be a tricky balancing act and another source of stress for some people.
You want to look sharp – but not pretentious or underdressed.
Consider industry trends when choosing your outfit. An interview in a company? Put on a suit. But that might be overkill for other industries.
The IT or advertising fields could be more laid back. The important thing is not to guess. Check the job listings or call ahead and ask. Ask a receptionist or HR.
Once you’ve decided what to wear, have it ready for bed—ironed and wrinkle-free. This will save you the hassle of the morning.
And yes, that even counts for a video interview.
In general, it’s better to dress up for an interview than to dress up.
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]listen)) is a lead writer for The Penny Hoarder. He tries to dress up every day.