Mastering the Art of Dressing "Business Casual"

Congratulations, you’ve just landed a nine-to-five job! After getting off the phone with your new boss, you let out a happy yelp, succumb to the excitement over a new paycheck, and call everyone you know. Then, after all the celebration is over, a sudden doubt creeps in:

“What the heck will I wear?”

If this 2007 Gallup poll was correct, then the most likely outfit you’ll be expected to wear falls under the umbrella of the well-known term, “business casual.” But even after some quick Googling around, you’re still not quite sure what that means--and you’re definitely not sure how you’ll keep repeating the same dress code day after day with a closet that’s only half-full.

So what exactly is business casual, and how do you wear it day in and day out without repeating the same outfit two days in a row?

Defining “Business Casual”

First things first: the definition. Unlike the definition for “fat-free” on food labels, there isn’t an official code for business casual. It can mean a lot of different things in a lot of different fields. But there are a few generally accepted rules to keep in mind:

  • A shirt with a collar. On the range from most casual to most formal, you’ll find polos, then button-down collars, then button-up shirts. In an office setting, a collar of some sort will generally be required. If most people at your office wear ties, then a button-up is the way to go.
  • Trousers generally go beyond denim. A shirt with a tie over denim can work in some environments, but you’ll generally want to lean closer to chinos and suit pants in an office environment. When in doubt, Charleston khakis are versatile and formal enough for most office environments.
  • No sneakers. They’re far too casual for the office. Oxfords tend to be more formal, as do dress shoes. Some “business casual” alternatives include desert boots and Buckingham shoes.

Mixing Up Your Wardrobe

With this basic template in mind, you should be able to create five different outfits per week with the following options: 

  • Two button-down or button-up shirts, one white and one pale blue
  • One dark pair of khakis and one light pair of khakis
  • A layering item or two, such as a monochromatic sweater--crewneck or V-neck--and a tie
  • A brown belt (generally matched with shoes)

Simply mixing and matching these basic combinations will be enough to get started. One day, you can pair the pale blue with the dark khakis and wear a tie. The next you can do the opposite, wearing light khakis and the white button-down. On the third day, you might wear a sweater over the first button-down, but repeat yesterday’s pants.

There will be some overlap when you wear business casual every day, which means you might have to repeat an article of clothing once or twice. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll see you don’t have to make a major investment in order to wear something fresh every day. And as those paychecks keep rolling in, you’ll eventually have enough money to spring for an add-on item or two and continue changing your look with the seasons. Shop the full selection at Berle today so you can look good on your first day of your new career.

September 09, 2015 by Berle Editor
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