Article By Matt Allinson | @Ollinson
The Rise Of Business-Casual
Business-casual is a buzzword that has risen to prominence due to the continued promotion of relaxed, friendly and calm work environments. Essentially, you’re allowed to dress in a slightly more casual way, in comparison to traditional business dress.
But even then, that’s horribly vague – how do you get the balance right? What if you lean too much to one side? It’s enough to make any guy sweat, and you’ve not even started trying to do your actual job yet!
Luckily, that’s where FashionBeans comes in. We’ve put together a list of the items that we think are essential to nailing the aesthetic. Because, in essence, what business-casual really means is this: feel comfortable and confident enough to realise your full potential. And, as a result, get those promotions and benefits you desire.
You can achieve this by building the perfect mix and match work wardrobe that can adapt to any scenario at a moment’s notice.
So let’s get to it, shall we?
Come September, there are only three jackets you’ll need for the office. The first is a classic navy version, which goes with everything you can think of and will instantly smarten up any look.
The second is a grey tweed blazer: perfect for colder mornings and incorporating other textured layers such as chambray shirts, cashmere v-neck jumpers and merino wool cardigans.
Lastly, a beige cotton blazer will help lift even the most sombre of business looks while adding an element of warmth.
Just make sure all three fit you properly: they should have high armholes, be cut slim through the sides and finish below your bum. If not, make an appointment with your tailor immediately.
Chinos in neutral colours are a must for any business-casual wardrobe. Opt for flat fronted, slim-fitting versions in navy, grey, brown and beige for the best results.
A pair of charcoal/grey flannel suit trousers will also prove invaluable; they look great throughout the colder months, will add some much-needed character and texture to your office attire and can be combined with everything else on this list.
If you’re allowed to wear jeans, have one pair for the odd change of pace on dress-down Friday. Make sure they’re in a dark indigo wash with no distressing and cut slim enough to sit tight above a dress shoe.
Knitwear is ideal for creating practical layered looks that are full of depth. Breathable materials such as merino wool and cotton will ensure you stay comfortable and sweat free during autumn, but as temperatures drop you can also consider lambswool or cashmere construction.
V-neck jumpers and fine gauge cardigans both look superb layered over the top of Oxford shirts, while roll necks work extremely well on their own underneath a blazer – look to add all of these styles in a selection of neutral and rich colour ways to your business-casual arsenal.
Another versatile design to consider is the chunky shawl neck cardigan – the perfect substitute for a blazer during the transitional season, it will help add a tactile element to your standard trouser and shirt getups.
Make sure they fit you in the neck and shoulders and consider having darts put in the back if the sides are too baggy. You should be able to fit two fingers comfortably between your neck and collar, and when you turn your head the collar should stay still. The cuff should end where your thumb and wrist meet.
Look to build a collection of solid styles in classic business-appropriate shades such as white, blue and pink, complementing these essentials with striped, check or gingham versions.
5. Neck Ties
A tie probably won’t be required in an office with a business-casual dress code – but that’s even more of a reason to have some to hand.
What if you’re asked to make a presentation? Or what if the managing director is paying your division a visit? A tie would sure come in handy, right? If you’re only going to buy one then make it a navy knitted silk version as they are simple, classic and versatile enough to pair with any shirt and jacket combo you can think of.
Other great options are: grey wool, navy and white stripe, black and white polka dot, and burgundy/black/navy grenadine.
This is easy: purchase all the classics that make up a capsule wardrobe and you won’t go wrong. Think black Derbies, chocolate brown Oxfords, burgundy penny loafers, tan desert boots and brown brogue boots/shoes.
Depending on the office you may even be able to throw in some smart trainers – but if you do, opt for a black or brown minimal leather pair to maintain a professional note.
Remember that people (read: clients, peers, your boss) will instantly judge you on your shoes, so invest in the best you can afford, look after them properly and keep them clean and polished to ensure you always make the right impression.
Finally, a word on accessories. I’ve personally worked in plenty of places that have frowned upon wearing a pocket square, deeming them too flashy and flamboyant.
It’s easy to see why – they really have only become popular amongst menswear enthusiasts, after all. So try and judge your audience before pulling the trigger on that blue and pink floral version you got for Christmas.
The same applies to superfluous formal accessories such as tie bars, collar pins, statement watches and other forms of jewellery.