Kai Dickerson
Community Specialist
Posted April 28, 2021

What is business casual? (With examples of what to wear)

Learn what the business casual dress code is. Plus examples of what to wear.
Kai Dickerson
Community Specialist
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What is business casual? (With examples of what to wear)
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These days, business casual is a dress code that’s acceptable in most workplaces.

Business casual is often suitable for job interviews and the general workplace, but there are a few rules you need to follow.

In this article, we'll look at the history of business casual and share our tips on what to wear for both men and women.

To make it easier to choose the right outfit for work, we've also compiled some of our favorite photo examples for you.

What is business casual?

Business casual is a style of dress that is a step down from business professional. This office dress code is a safe bet when you're unsure of what to wear.

A business casual wardrobe might include a collared shirt, sport coat, chinos, and dress shoes. Today's modern office is likely to be a more casual environment, and the dress code policy will reflect this.

Did you know that 46% of people think business casual attire leaves an authentic impression in a job interview, while 49% of people consider it to be trustworthy?

The history of business casual

Leading up to the ‘80s, workplace fashion began to change. Men gradually said goodbye to crisp, tailored suits and neatly positioned ties. Women also had more wardrobe freedom as pants became an acceptable alternative to skirts.

As businesses started to evolve and computers became mainstream, this had an impact on fashion trends.

When creative, innovative minds entered the office world, society kept an eye on Silicon Valley. It's not just a place where tech thrives; it’s also the birthplace of casual business attire.

While we may have said goodbye to the shoulder pads, big hair, and long socks from the 80’s, the term business casual is here to stay.

Business casual examples

If you think business casual is the right dress code for your job interview or workplace, you may be wondering what to wear. The options you choose will depend on your personal style, the weather, and your body type.

To help you get on track with your wardrobe choices, here are examples of business casual for both men and women.

What to wear for men

Business casual for men is relaxed yet stylish. Your menswear outfits should be well-fitted with tailored cuts and plain colors.

While you should always avoid denim at work, light-hued chinos paired with loafers and a dark blazer works well.

(Image Source)

Layers will help you navigate the climate. When it’s cold outside, and the heater is blaring inside, you’ll always look your best.

You can get the look with a collared button-down shirt and fitted knit sweater.

(Image Source)

Collared polo shirts are comfortable and relaxed; polo shirts might not be the right choice for a professional job interview, though.

(Image Source)

A dress shirt with rolled three-quarter sleeves can get a modern twist with an open vest and corduroy pants. These days, vests come in a range of casual materials, including suede and puff.

These vests are flattering, as you can wear them open, and you won't get that tight fit like a traditional waistcoat.

(Image Source)

What to wear for women

Business casual for women is about comfortable basics that can be accessorized with statement bags, jewelry, a cardigan, and your favorite shoes.

You can tuck loose shirts into business slacks or knee-length skirts. Match soft fabrics and colors with darker palettes, giving you more work options.

(Image Source)

When you own a pair of ankle boots, they’ll be a staple in your business casual wardrobe. Ankle boots come in a range of colors, and you can wear flats or heeled versions depending on your personal preference.

Ankle boots go with pants and skirts, and you can wear them all year round.

(Image Source) An open, deep blue blazer is a fresh twist on corporate black. It can be the perfect match for a crisp white t-shirt and black pants.

You can accessorize with a chunky necklace or an oversized bag.

(Image Source)

Statement jewelry pieces, subtle patterns, and pops of color will let you have fun with your workwear.

For example, a pair of checkered pants with a peach buttoned shirt is both modern and professional. Red pants with a black zipped tee is striking yet work-appropriate.

(Image Source)

Business casual vs. business professional

Keep in mind; business casual is not the same as business professional. If you are working in a corporate workplace, the employer may expect formal workwear.

Business professional for men would include a dark, full suit, tie, and dress shoes. For women, it could mean formal hair, a pantsuit, a button-down shirt, and dress shoes.

The legal profession is one industry that uses the business professional dress code.

Here is an example from well known legal television show

Business professional dress in The Good Wife

(Image Source)

5 Business casual tips for a job interview

If a recruiter has invited you to attend a job interview in a casual business workplace, there are a few tips that can help you style the perfect outfit.

1. Wear a dress or button shirt

Unless you are sure of the criteria, always wear a shirt. Men don’t need to wear a tie, but a clean buttoned-up shirt with trousers and dress shoes will make a good first impression.

Women can wear a shirt with a skirt or pants and an open blazer.

2. Iron your outfit

No matter what you choose to wear, always make sure it is clean and ironed. Taking care of your clothing will show you take pride in the finer details.

3. Choose the right shoes

Your shoes should also be clean and match your outfit. Men should stick to dress shoes or loafers, while women may like to wear short boots or heels.

Even though you may be interviewing at a casual business workplace, sneakers are not on the recommended list.

4. Style your hair

Wash and style your hair before the job interview. You should be yourself and wear your hair in a way that feels comfortable. But you should also make sure it’s neat and clean.

5. Stick to neutrals

If you are wearing business casual to a job interview, take a conservative approach. This means choosing neutral color schemes, such as navy, white, black, and grey. Go for block colors or classic prints such as stripes or polka dots.

Dressing well will give you confidence during a job interview.

Business casual FAQs

What else is there you need to know about business casual? Let’s answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

Can you wear jeans in business casual?

No. The first rule of business casual is not to wear denim jeans.

Can you wear sneakers for business casual?

Sneakers are not a good fit for a job interview. Depending on the workplace, you may be able to wear dark, non-athletic canvas shoes to dress down your formal attire.

What isn’t business casual attire?

Casual business attire is not casual dress. You should avoid sleeveless tops, flip flops, athletic or leisure wear, denim, Hawaiian shirts, and baggy tracksuits.

What to do if there isn’t a dress code?

It’s always better to overdress than underdress in the workplace. If you're unsure, wear dress shoes, dress slacks, a shirt, and an open blazer.

Everything you need to know about business casual

Business casual has become an acceptable dress code in many workplaces. No longer do you have to wait for casual Friday to wear a casual business outfit.

It’s a step down from business professional, with open jackets and polo shirts replacing buttons and ties.

What started in Silicon Valley has now become a go-to trend for those wanting comfort, style, and professionalism. We gave you a history of the term and shared examples of what to wear for men and women.

We compared it to professional business attire and answered some FAQs. With this information, you should be well-equipped to dress for success!

Whether you're preparing for an interview or starting a new job, smart casual could be the right choice.


Learn how to dress for a job fair or hiring event or visit the Getting Hired Resource Center for more job readiness tips.

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