One of the compounding difficulty factors of nailing the right look for work is that the standard for “business casual” looks different from office to office and from job to job. Over the years of working with individual clients and corporations, though, I’ve realized that business casual can be broken down into four flavors.
It’s important to identify which sandbox either you or your clients are playing in because good style depends upon context. The goal is always to look capable and “appropriately professional” for the setting, and that depends on the level of formality of your job, your industry, and your activities. Let’s sample these four flavors now.
Sometimes referred to as CEO casual. The most formal of the bunch. Executive casual spans from a suit without the tie to slacks with a dress shirt and a blazer, and occasionally chinos or dress denim can be appropriate.
Classic Business Casual
Classic business casual is the most common form of business wear seen across offices in America. The range includes traditional pairings of sport coats with chinos and button-down shirts on the dressy end. In the middle of the range are sweaters and chinos, and the relaxed end consists of denim with casual button-downs or polo shirts.
Creative casual is similar to classic business casual in terms of the range but is typically more fashion forward with a lot of designer denim. There’s an acceptance of fabrics, finishes, and cuts in the clothing and accessories that are on trend and very “now” that could be considered a little too contemporary in classic business casual.
More so than in any other business casual flavor, comfort and utility rule the domain of tech casual. The range here includes all types of denim with untucked button-downs or T-shirts, and on the dressier end are chinos and any shirt with a collar.
Once you identify which business casual flavor you're going with, the next step is to personalize it to truly feel like you, and capture your individual style and image. I'll show you how to do just that in an upcoming post. In the mean time, you can check out The Business Casual Survival Guide: 30 Looks for Men, it's the only guide you'll ever need to take control of your style for work and weekend.