The Business Casual Style of Dress


This post will include information for both women and men, about a popular standard of dress called, Business Casual.

I would like to begin this post by saying, whether man or woman, there are universal standards that should always be implemented when working. Please do not neglect hygiene standards. Remember to show up to work with clean teeth for fresh breath. Frequently shower for a lack of offensive body odor. Also, regardless  the style, neat and clean articles of clothing always look more attractive when compared to wrinkled and dirty ones. That being said I will attempt to answer some basic questions about the ” Business Casual” style of dress in a professional environment. 

What is Business Casual?

There is no universally accepted dress code or standard of dress that can bear the label of “Business Casual”, but it is common standard of dress in workplaces in the United States.  It is a mix of standard professional wear and a more casual way of dressing. Some employers will give a specific list but when in doubt go more to the business as opposed to casual. Here are examples of articles of clothing that would be considered business casual:

Solid colored knit sweaters, polo shirts, khaki dress pants for either sex. While solids dominate the scheme of colors that are permissible, also, the ranges of colors that are acceptable are endless.

Flow skirts in solid colors are now back in style. In the winter time you can select dresses that can be covered with sweaters and paired with boots to create outfits out of clothing you normally would leave for warmer days.

Although t-shirts are exclusively casual, they can be added to bottoms and dressed up with jewelry added to the arms. A feminine touch of jewelry is bangles and a masculine touch of jewelry is a wide band watch. T-shirts are usually designer solid tees paired with solid color skirts or pants. Press or starch a v neck solid gray color tee and wear it with  black bottoms and be prepared for this outfit to match well with almost any black shoe.

Can I wear jeans?

Yes, unless your employer specifically says that jeans are prohibited. Jeans are considered casual attire but you can pair them with more professional articles of clothing to get a look acceptable for a business environment. An example either  for women or men is wearing jeans with a cardigan sweater or with a blazer. A more feminine person can pair a fancy top with sleeves with a colored belt with jeans.  A more masculine can wear polo shirts, and buttoned suit shirts with starched or pressed jeans.

There are some exceptions to wearing jeans. The jeans must be in good repair. They should not be ripped or damaged. They should be uniform in color and not bleached or discolored.

Can I wear shorts?

Yes, unless your employer specifically says that shorts are prohibited.  I would advise that “short” shorts never be worn by either sex. You can ask your employer about the policy they have on shorts in their workplace.  But, I would say, if in doubt, just avoid shorts just in case they are frown upon at your job.  An alternative are Capri’s or knee length cargo shorts.  Khaki colored shorts pair well with brightly colored polo shirts. A nice choice of polo shirt for a more feminine person is “St. John’s Bay” Women’s Short Sleeve Knit Polo Shirt. A great choice of polo shirt for a more masculine person is “St. John’s Bay” Men’s Short Sleeve Polo Shirt.

Is it appropriate to wear Business Casual wear if you are a member upper management?

Yes. Managers and people holding supervisor and administrative positions should definitely consider always being more professional looking as opposed to looking casual but there are ways that this goal can be achieved.

Can I wear spaghetti straps? Are sleeveless shirts acceptable? 

Yes, unless your employer specifically says that spaghetti straps are prohibited but keep your bare arms covered when indoors.  There is a common misconception that you cannot wear spaghetti straps in a professional environment. If you choose to wear a sweater over spaghetti straps, you can dress up an item that I would usually not usually be and acceptable piece of attire at a place of employment. That advice applies to any sleeveless shirt. This is perfect for when the weather outside of the workplace is warm. Cover your sleeveless shirt with a cardigan while indoors and take off the cardigan when outside too cool off.

What type of shoes is considered business casual?

If you usually wear a lot of sports shoes, tennis shoes or slides, Business Casual gives you other options for footwear. Shoes that are acceptable in this category of clothing are more conservative than they are casual.

Are tattoos and piercings’ acceptable in a business casual work environment?

Normally, I would say no. There are some employers who do not mind so contact human resources at your job and have them tell you the official policy. Otherwise, I would advise just remove the piercings during work hours. Tattoos can be covered with clothing or if applicable, with makeup. ( See next question to see if any information in the answer applies as well.)   

Is it acceptable to wear makeup? 

So it was suggested in the previous answer that tattoos can be covered with makeup so to expound on that answer, yes makeup is acceptable.  It is better to use discretion and only apply makeup that does not interfere with your job performance. Outlandish applications of makeup can cause you to garner attention for negative reasons. While makeup, just like clothing, can make you stand out among others, you should always evaluate if it is necessary to detract from other qualities that can bring you attention such as, job performance.

If you need some names of good makeup brands search these websites

Is acrylic, long length or brightly colored nails acceptable? 

It is better to use discretion and only apply acrylic or false nails that do not interfere with your job performance. The most important thing to remember is that it is better to error on the side of caution than to draw unwanted attention to yourself. A good French manicure is timeless and looks great whether natural or acrylic.

What type of hairstyles is considered Business Causal?

Just as there  is no universally accepted dress code or standard of dress that can bear the label of “Business Casual” the same goes for hairstyles. Once again, it is better to use discretion and only wear hairstyles that do not interfere with your job performance. Avoid dyeing your hair  colors like blue, green, purple, or pink if hair is dyed if hair is dyed it make sure it is a color that naturally occurs such as dark brown.

Facial hair is also to be worn at your own discretion or according to your preference. But steer clear of any hair grooming practices that interfere with you being able to do your job without hindrance.

Is it expensive to dress in a Business Casual style of dress?

It depends. There are ways you can cut down the costs. If you happen to have just started working and need to buy clothing quickly here are some websites with affordable and stylish clothing. Here are some websites from some stores that are affordable:

A GREAT TIP: When clearing out old clothes don’t just throw all the old wardrobe just because its older. To save money, you can also go through your own clothing that you already own and pick out items that you feel are good to incorporate into a new Business Casual wardrobe. Separate these items to build around the new items you gradually purchase. Have items that are too big altered, and have items that are too small let out. Have faded clothing dyed and buttons and zippers replaced.

What about more expensive stores for Business Casual clothes?

Not everybody is looking to cut costs when developing not everybody is scrimping and saving. If you are the in the position where price is not an issue here is some websites from some stores that are still affordable for some but pricier than the previously mentioned websites:


I think the best thing to do to adapt to a Business Casual style of dress is to first get a clearer understanding on what that style of dress consists of. While there are elements of casual dress, it is adapted to be in a professional arena.

What are your thoughts?

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