What Does Business Casual Attire Mean?

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You’ve heard the term “business casual” before, but what does business casual attire actually entail? The short answer: it’s complicated. But, don’t worry. We’ll share everything you need to know so you can dress to impress.

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What Does Business Casual Mean?

A business casual dress code combines the professionalism of business wear with the comfort of more casual clothing that’s still office-appropriate. But, the tricky thing about this dress code is that there isn’t a universally accepted set of standards you can rely on when planning your outfit.

Proper attire can vary dramatically from industry to industry and company to company. For example, employees at finance companies tend to dress much more conservatively than employees at tech or creative organizations.

What Women Should Wear For Business Casual Attire

Under a business casual dress code, women should wear the following to work:

  • Blouses, sweaters, or polo shirts
  • Dress slacks
  • Knee-length dresses or skirts
  • Close-toed shoes
  • Simple accessories, hairstyles, and makeup

Wearing blazers and hosiery are optional but can help you stay warm.

What Men Should Wear For Business Casual Attire

Men should have the following items in their business casual wardrobe:

  • Sweaters, polo shirts, or button-down shirts
  • Chinos or dress slacks
  • Dress shoes with dark socks
  • Brown or black leather belts

A shirt and tie aren’t required, but you can wear them if the occasion calls for them.

What Gender Neutral Should Wear For Business Casual Attire

Here are some gender-neutral business casual clothing options:

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  • Dress slacks or khakis
  • Sweaters, button-down shirts, or polo shirts
  • Professional shoes, like loafers

Dark-colored jeans may also be appropriate, depending on your company’s specific policy.

What To Avoid When Following A Business Casual Dress Code

While the term business casual means different things to different organizations, there are some articles of clothing you should definitely avoid wearing. For example, the following items will almost always be too casual for an office environment:

  • T-shirts
  • Shorts
  • Sneakers
  • Flip-flops

On the other hand, full suits will typically be too formal. You should also avoid wearing anything that’s in poor condition, is too tight, shows too much skin (like a crop top, tank top, low-cut blouse, or short skirt), or features logos or slogans.

Business Casual Dress Code Tips

Follow these business casual dress code tips to ensure your attire is always on point:

  • It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed — especially for a job interview or important meeting.
  • Keep your outfits and accessories simple. Solid colors and understated accessories prevent distraction.
  • Make sure your clothes are clean and free from wrinkles. Your outfit should appear neat.
  • If you have questions about the dress code, ask your manager or human resources in advance.

Pro Tip: Your clothing choices should be the same whether you work remotely or on-site.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Can you wear jeans in business casual?

Depending on your company’s policy, jeans may be considered appropriate business casual attire. However, jeans must be in good condition and free from stains, holes, rips, or fraying.

Can I wear sneakers for business casual?

You may be able to wear sneakers under a business casual dress code if they’re in great shape and look professional. You should ask your human resources department or consult your organization’s employee handbook.

Is a cardigan business casual?

A cardigan is definitely appropriate under a business casual dress code. If you wear one with a blouse and a pair of slacks or skirt, you’ve got a winning outfit!

Can leggings be business casual?

Leggings can be considered business casual attire, but it depends on your company’s dress code. You should check with your manager or human resources department before wearing them to work.

Is smart casual the same as business casual?

Smart casual is different from business casual. Smart casual refers to what you wear outside of work, whereas business casual refers to what you wear in the office.

The Bottom Line

Now that we’ve cleared up the confusion around business casual attire, you know what to wear (and what not to wear!). If you’re ready to find a new job with a business casual dress code, check out the current roles posted on ZipRecruiter. You can also improve or create your job search documents using one of our picks for the best resume writing service. That way, your resume and cover letter stand out from your competition.

Happy job hunting — and putting together your business casual wardrobe!