What Does Business Casual Mean?

Whether it's casual Friday or a mid-week social business function, business casual is part of our everyday working lives (a little less with the recent work from home trend).

But what does business casual really mean? What is expected of me and what is appropriate to wear? Here are the answers.

What does business casual mean

Business Casual

Questions Answered:

  • What does business casual mean?

  • What to wear

    • Can you wear sneakers in business casual?

    • Can you wear jeans in business casual?

  • What not to wear

What Does Business Casual Mean?

Business casual can be defined as casual wear with formal components.

Jeans, shorts, t-shirts, and short skirts are typically off limits but each workplace has its own set of guidelines.

Can you wear sneakers in business casual?

This rule varies by employer but we tend to urge business casual dressers to stay away from wearing gym sneakers.

Certain sneakers that have a more casual look to them may work fine, but most should be excluded from your business casual outfit.

Can you wear jeans in business casual?

While some offices allow jeans within their business casual guidelines, most organizations tend to stick with some sort of slack (pants that aren’t jeans).

This does vary by workplace so ask your HR department or manager.

90% of all US companies have casual day of some kind and 33% allow casual clothing every day. - Stitchmine

What Can You Wear? 

You can focus on the “business” or the “casual” side of business casual, but your office will often decide which way to lean. 

Check the company dress code. Though it's casual, there may still be rules you have to follow.

If this is your first casual day with the company, you should lean on the business side of the concept making sure that your outfits are still highly professional.

You are less likely to have a problem if you are overdressed than underdressed.

Keep an eye on your boss's and co-workers' for ideas of how casual you can eventually go.

Seeing what the office trend is can be very helpful when deciding what you should wear.

For Men

  • Business casual usually means you can ditch the suit. Dress pants, dress shoes, and a button-down shirt is an excellent place to start.

  • Eventually, you may be able to use a polo shirt, but you should see if anyone else wears polo shirts first.

  • Ties are often considered optional on business casual days. However, some companies may still expect a tie to be worn.

  • Blazers, sweaters, and vests could work depending on the season. 

For Women

  • You can typically wear dress pants or a skirt, a dress blouse, and closed toe shoes on a business casual day.

  • Some companies are more relaxed with shoe options these days, so open toe or sandals may be acceptable, but you will want to find out before you wear those. 

  • Jackets and hosiery are usually optional on business casual days.

  • You can also wear sweaters depending on the season.


What to Avoid?

  • You want to avoid being too casual when picking your outfit. Stay away from jeans (unless told otherwise), tee shirts, and shorts.

  • When choosing shirts, avoid large logos and graphics. Some companies can find these inappropriate. 

  • Make sure everything fits well and conveys a business tone. Too loose or too tight could make the outfit look messy and inappropriate.

  • With shoes, avoid sandals, flip flops, tennis shoes or athletic shoes. These are becoming more common in some places, but until you see others wearing them regularly, it is best to stick with dress shoes. 

Final Thoughts | What Does Business Casual Mean?

So, what does business casual mean? The official answer is “It Depends”.

If you can skip a few of the more stuffy business accessories while still keeping the overall professionalism that your company expects, your outfit should be in the clear.

Have fun with it but remember - it’s always better to fall on the side of “too business”, as you never want to come off as “overly casual”.

Good luck out there!

Title: What Does Business Casual Mean?

Category: theGuidance

Tags: business casual, what does business casual mean, can you wear sneakers in business casual, can you wear jeans in business casual, corporate casual, business casual wear, what is business casual

Author: Reid is a contributor to theJub. He's an employment and marketing enthusiast who studied business before taking on various recruiting, management, and marketing roles. More from the author.