How to dress business casual for men: our simple guide

28 February 2024

Where 60 years ago, strolling into the office sans coat, tie, trilby hat, and a cigarette lazily slouched between the fingers was a corporate felony, today, dress code rules have relaxed significantly.

While most men understand ‘casual’ and ‘business’ styles in their respective forms, the surge of hybrid working and flexibility around dress code has left many wondering what even counts as business casual these days?

Today, you get an accurate and straightforward explanation of what business casual is and how to dress as such.

man wearing business casual clothing

What is Business Casual for Men?  

Business casual is essentially tweaking traditional business attire to fit into a more relaxed style that is still office appropriate but does so without too many formal elements.  

It usually consists of an ensemble of chinos, shirts, tailored t-shirts, dark socks, dress shoes, jackets, and a neutral colour palette. Some may even include jeans in a dark wash combined with a shirt and jacket, so you still appear sharp and elegant.   

If you work in the tech or media sector, you’ll probably enjoy more freedom with your wardrobe choices. However, if you’re in finance or academia, you’re likely one pinstripe away from wearing a full-blown suit and tie.   

A top tip of ours is to look around at what people are wearing and gauge an average.  

How to wear suits for business casual? 

Deconstructing the suit is easier than it sounds. The keyword to keep in mind is “relaxed.”   

You can swap out your trousers for tailored jeans and keep the blazer and shirt elements. The different textures will prevent your outfit from looking overly formal. 

Alternatively, it doesn’t get easier than adding a t-shirt. Adding a crisp, tailored t-shirt to replace your shirt will automatically add a casual element while still working with the surrounding elements. 

man wearing business casual suit

Or, simply adding sneakers will significantly take the look down a notch. A pair of minimal white sneakers will make a quiet statement that you want a business casual look.   

If you’re unsure of how to take your formal suit into the casual corporate realm, take advantage of our bespoke suit collection so we can help you construct the perfect business casual suit for you.   

How to wear shirts for business casual? 

When it comes to shirts, the more colourful, the more casual. A pink shirt feels more relaxed than a crisp white one.   

The same goes for patterns. The more designs, the more casual; however, don’t play too fast and loose with this concept.   

Pinstripes are about as playful as you should get for the office whereas florals belong on the beach.   

Stick to classics such as white, mid-blues, pink, and striped as a starting point. Our bespoke shirt collection can fit you with all the relevant styles you need if you’re struggling. 

How to wear trousers for business casual? 

For a perfectly balanced business casual wardrobe, the perfect trousers include a pair of chinos, tailored jeans in a solid wash, and wool or cotton trousers. Which you choose to wear will depend on your job setting.  

Though keep in mind that it is the fit and style of the trousers that will determine if they are business casual or not.  

Loose-fit trousers have a laid-back look, while options like slim-fit jeans can also channel a casual vibe.  

You can also try cropped trousers or rolling up the cuffs of long trousers to further enhance the relaxed feel. 

We recommend getting a few styles so you can vary your attire throughout the week and seasons.    

man wearing suit jacket and jeans

How to wear shoes for business casual? 

It’s best to leave yourself with options for shoes. Brogues are a failsafe and will be your most versatile shoe.   

Your second pair should be some type of boot, either a lace-up, Chelsea or desert boot. These will transition nicely between jeans and trousers.  

If you want to step further into the casual side of things, then a pair of minimal white sneakers can also work, especially with a pair of chinos.   

How to wear accessories for business casual? 

Business casual looks usually refrain from the need for a tie but place effort into belts and socks.   

Belts are always great for business casual looks and will emphasise structure in your look. Whereas in a formal look, a belt can interrupt the flow of a suit. Owning one in black and one in brown will have you covered for all your business casual looks.   

As for socks – make sure they suit the colour of your footwear. Avoid boldly coloured and patterned socks as a rule.  

Our bespoke accessories collection considers the finer details. It will help keep your look fresh and exciting on those business casual days.   

man wearing business casual clothes with belt

How to dress business casual in the summer? 

So now you have all the elements you need, let’s craft some options. For summer business casual style, focus on lightweight materials. Below are some combinations we love.  

  • The Classic: 

Dark Blue Button-Up Shirt + Chinos/Cotton Trousers + Brown Belt + Chelsea Boots  

  • The Polo:  

Stone-Tailored Polo Shirt + Chinos + Navy Blazer + Brown belt + Brown Brogues   

  • The No Jacket Look: 

Striped Shirt + Dark Blue Cotton Trousers + Brown Belt + Brown Brogues   

How to dress business casual in the winter?  

During the colder months, you’ll want to layer up on pieces.   

Some of our favourite winter business casual looks are below. 

  • The Knit:  

Grey Tailored Half Zip/Cardigan + White Button-Up Shirt + Dark Wool Trousers + Black Belt + White Sneakers  

  • The Navy Ensemble:  

Navy Tailored Casual Jacket + Tailored Navy Long Sleeve Polo Shirt + Tailored Dark Wash Jeans + Chelsea Boots 

navy blue business casual ensemble

How to navigate business casual dress codes?  

It’s best not to push the boat out too much with your business casual looks. Our tips give you the winning formula to create multiple looks within the guidelines of what is appropriate. For example, while a t-shirt is okay, your favourite branded t-shirt is not. Here are some do’s and don’ts: 

Do: 

  • Neutral coloured tops  
  • Neutral colours bottoms 
  • Tailored garments 
  • Knitwear  
  • Shoes that can transition from formal to casual  

Don’t: 

  • Graphic t-shirts 
  • Hoodies  
  • Sports sneakers 
  • Skinny/damaged jeans  
  • Shorts  

What is the difference between business casual and smart casual? 

Business Casual   

Business casual refers to clothing that is comfortable yet still office-appropriate. It’s that sweet spot between formal and relaxed.   

You might opt for a pair of nicely pressed chinos paired with a tailored shirt, and think about adding a blazer for a touch of professionalism.  

Smart Casual   

Smart casual is clothing that leans more toward comfort and is less focused on the structure of traditional office wear. It strikes a balance between fashion and function, allowing you to look more relaxed.   

You can go for your favourite pair of tailored jeans paired with a tailored polo shirt and layer on a stylish jacket or cardigan. 

What is the difference between business casual and business formal?  

Both dress codes have some similarities, but the key is always in the details and the overall look you are trying to achieve. Whether it’s a tailored look of business casual or the relaxed feel of smart casual – it’s about what makes you feel comfortable and confident in any setting.   

You will choose smart casual over business casual when your work environment has fewer rigid rules with uniforms. This is most common for tech and creative industries.  

You may choose business casual over smart casual during more formal events where you need to look professional but retain that casual element.  

man wearing dark suit jacket and chinos

For more ideas on constructing the perfect business casual wardrobe, contact Andrew Brookes. With decades of experience crafting tailored garments for men, we can assist you with all your fashion needs. Visit us in the studio or online for our bespoke offerings.  

OUR COLLECTIONS

At Andrew Brookes Tailoring, we offer a wide range of luxury tailoring services to our customers. Offering bespoke suits, designs and accessories suitable for every occasion, check out our collections below.

Bespoke Tailored Suits for Men

The finest materials, personalised designs and classic fitting experience all make up our bespoke tailoring service.

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Highland Dress

Traditional Scottish style with a modern twist, you’re sure to stand out from the crowd with a piece from our highland wear collection.

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Wedding Suits

Helping people look their best on the most important day of their lives, we craft exquisite, bespoke wedding suits that will live long in the memory of all in attendance.

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Tailored Jeans

A pair of timeless denim jeans is crucial for every wardrobe. Our team takes this one step further with a fully tailored jeans service that will introduce you to a pair that you’ll never want to part with.

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Bespoke Shirts

Feel cool, confident and comfortable with a custom-tailored shirt made from the finest quality materials and cutting edge techniques.

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Polo shirts and T-shirts

Casual or smart? Whatever the occasion our range of versatile polos and T-shirts has something suitable for every event.

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Accessories

Want to add some stylish accessories to your new look? We can help with this, too. We’re home to a vast selection of stunning belts, ties, pocket squares, sporrans and much more.

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