Business casual. I've seen various definitions of this and others have debated about it over the years. Here's my attempt to simplify it, let's break it down. What would be considered business attire? Three piece suit, two piece suit, braces underneath the suit, button down shirt, conservative tie, conservative socks (nothing flashy), oxfords or derbies, with or without broguing. Casual attire? T-shirt, jeans, chinos, sweaters, shorts, flip flops. Usually when people speak of business casual it is meant for a professional yet relaxed environment.So let's eliminate the shorts, flip flops and t-shirt from the casual column and the three piece suits and oxfords, tie optional. So business casual is a combination of everything between a full on suit and beachwear. Something you can wear to the office and to the bar with your buddies for happy hour. Something you can wear to give that power point presentation to your colleagues and to meet the parents of your significant other for the first time. Pretty much, you don't want to overdo it nor do you want to look like a slob. Now that we have clearly defined it, let's put some looks together.
If It Ain't Broke Don't Fix It
The first template is what I call If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It. Seriously, there are not many ways you can mess up this look other than getting the fit all wrong. Button down shirt, tie, slacks and dress shoes.
I get it. The restriction of a suit jacket/sport coat can really limit the movement of a fit man and make it extremely comfortable around those bulging muscle. So say you want to step up the formality of the first template but you don't want to overdo it with a jacket, you can throw on a light sweater/cardigan in there. Switch the slacks for some chinos and keep the dress shoes and you're good to go.
Slicker Than Your Average
So now you want to step it a up a bit but still straddle the line of total business wear? Ditch suit completely but throw on some odd trousers, and a sportcoat to show the difference in pattern on the jacket and pants. You can wear a tie if you wish but it's fine if you don't. Here is where we'll can add a little bit of flare: braces, an underestimated accessory in a man's wardrobe that can still elevate an outfit when the jacket comes off.
(BONUS) New Age
Look, times are changing. Gone are the days of the three piece suit Gordon Gekko being the business wear norm. With tech kids in silicon valley running multi billion dollar companies these days, it's safe to say the business casual has changed quite a bit. This is for the guy who really is about business but wants to be casual. Brought out the chambray shirt again which is cousin to the denim shirt. A cardigan, with of without the tie and introducing jeans, which is largely considered not business casual but I have a feeling the New Age business kid isn't trying to look like his dad and really go against the grain.
Business casual is what I wear 80 percent of my week.I also think, what are the possible places I would have to stop by after work and how minimally do I have to change to conform to the environment, people and weather. In a world of rule of thumbs, one of my favorite is it doesn't hurt to overdress. If the event calls for you to tone down your outfit, you can always lose an accessory or two, the sportcoat/suit jacket and still have a business casual outfit. Can't necessary step it up a notch if you under dress unless you have clothes ready to go in your car. So remember, always overdress. Tone it down if you have to.