Business casual: it’s a fashion term that gets tossed and thrown around a little too often but is rarely clearly defined. If you have a this type of dress code at work, this can leave employees struggling to figure out exactly what is required of them.
Basically, business casual is defined as a style of clothing that is not as formal as what we would call traditional but still looks professional enough for the boardroom. These terms, however, can get muddled and in many places overlap, so we’re going to break down this style category, and when business casual runs the risk of becoming too casual for the workplace.
Business Casual vs. Business Professional
Business Professional. This is the look that you would typically associate with old-school Wall Street executive looks. For men, the staples for business professional office wear include a conservative tie, long-sleeved shirt, socks, and a suit jacket and trousers. The shoes are almost always conservative, formal leathers. The look for women does not stray too far from the business pro look of the men. This includes a suit with matching trousers or a skirt, layered over a safe-colored blouse or polo. This is paired with conservatively-colored shoes or mid-length heels, often closed-toed and worn with pantyhose.
Business Casual. The keyword to nailing the business casual look is comfortable but respectable. This means one can play with colors, shorter sleeves, and the freedom to do away with the heavy suits. This, for a female wearer, may look something like a combination of trousers with a short-sleeved blouse with more playful colors layered with a light jacket or cardigan; or a collared knit shirt or polo shirt with cotton or twill trousers and a belt for men.
What is Business Casual and What is “Too Casual”?
In a nutshell, business casual is your traditional business professional look on a semi-break. This can include the following:
Short-sleeved collared button-downs
Cardigans and sweaters
Knee- to midi-length skirts
Business casual being defined to gear towards more comfortable and more relaxed is where the problem really begins. More often than not, the relaxed and comfortable part gets misconstrued to mean lazy and informal, which easily crosses into streetwear.
While business casual does mean an easier version of the stiff formal of traditional business wear, it still does not allow for the following:
Shorts or mini skirts
Leggings or yoga pants
The Importance of the Right Executive Wear
It is imperative for employees and employers alike to know and understand where to draw the line between what is appropriate and what is considered too casual. Though what is considered “office wear” has come to be redefined in recent years, it is still important for everyone in your company to be onboard with where the professional part of the office attire draws the line for the business casual.
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