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Business Casual for Men Getting It Right

FREE pedicure with the purchase of any skin care service. The skin care service must be scheduled and used by May 31, 2018. It’s been over two decades since business casual dress began being practiced in the workplace, so you would think we would all be experts! However, with the twist and turns of fashion, you may find yourself even more confused about what constitutes an appropriate business casual outfit. With established dress codes loosening, even menswear is undergoing a serious shift. Although the goal of Business Casual was to give more room to maneuver and make it easier to pick out an appropriate outfit, one has to wonder if it has really succeeded.

“Business-casual is one of those nonsensical dress codes, like smart-casual, that created bewilderment before it did anything to make people feel more at ease,” says Josh Sims, author of Men of Style. “On the plus side, it helped change attitudes to how men could or should dress at (white collar) work, prefiguring the breakdown of office dress codes over the past couple of decades, especially since the tech boom.”

In years past, you were safe to consider that the higher the level of management, the dressier the attire. But, times have been a changin! Today, with the take-over of logo wear and the latest twist of ‘dress for your day’ dress policies (yikes!!), how do you know what really is appropriate to wear to work?


Not only can the events of your day help you decide on how to dress, you should also consider the locale, the individuals with whom you will be, people you might encounter and what you personally want/need to achieve professionally. Within the structure of your company’s dress policy, and your personal considerations for positioning yourself, you can determine what type of attire is best suited to your day. In business casual dress you have two tiers of professional dress to consider:

Professional Business Casual attire covers a wide range of looks, which is great for maximum options. On the dressier side, you can pair a suit coat with contrasting dress slacks and a dress shirt with tie (optional). If you need to relax the look, you can opt to wear a sport coat with khakis and a polo, sweater or collarless knit tee. The sport coat or suit coat worn with contrasting slacks is key to this level of business attire.

Smart Business Casual is great for days when you aren’t front and center. It’s more dressed-down than Professional Business Casual, but dressier than weekend wear. You can combine slacks with a shirt or sweater. A sport coat in a casual fabric brings a pair of dark blue or black denim to an acceptable level (but only if your company allows denim). Just remember that jeans and a t-shirt are not business casual!

If you’re not sure where in this range you should be, try considering which level of attire best reflects both you and your company. Which is best suited to your day? Still not sure? It’s always good to err on the dressier side! Remember, the worst thing they will think or say is “you look sharp!”

Kelly Duggan is an Image Consultant specializing in executive and personal image development, etiquette & communication skills. She is a certified member of the Association of Image Consultants International. Contact Kelly at: www.kellyduggan.com.

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