What Is Business Casual Attire? (With Example and Tips)

By Whitney Headen

Updated May 24, 2022 | Published February 11, 2019

Updated May 24, 2022

Published February 11, 2019

Whitney Headen is CEO of 19th and Park and The Life Currency (TLC). TLC is redefining traditional mentorship in the digital space to college students, young entrepreneurs and young professionals through information-based editorial content, peer-to-peer communication, educational resources and digital recruitment services.

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While the definition of business casual attire may vary from company to company, there are some commonly accepted guidelines you can follow to ensure you are dressing appropriately.

In this article, we'll define business casual attire with examples of appropriate business casual outfit ideas.

Related: Guide To Business Attire (With Examples)

What is business casual?

Business casual attire is broadly defined as a code of dress that blends traditional business wear with a more relaxed style that’s still professional and appropriate for an office environment. 


Business casual ideas for women

There is a wide array of business casual dress options for women from dark jeans and slacks to blouses and sweaters. If you’re unsure what is considered acceptable in a specific setting, it’s best to select more traditionally accepted business casual outfits. Then, you can observe your surroundings and adjust accordingly.

Business casual clothing options for women might include:

  • Slacks, khaki pants, chinos, knee-length skirts or dark jeans without holes

  • Blouses, sweaters, button-downs, henleys or polo shirts

  • Knee-length or maxi dresses

  • Optional hosiery or tights, especially for added warmth during colder months

  • Optional cardigans, blazers or jackets

  • Closed-toed shoes such as loafers, oxfords, pumps, flats or boots

  • Simple, professional accessories such as scarves, belts or jewelry

Read more: Guide To Women's Business Casual Attire

Business casual ideas for men

Business casual attire for men is typically more straightforward. Acceptable options fall between a full suit and pants paired with a professional shirt, button-down or sweater.

Business casual clothing options for men might include:

  • Business dress pants, khakis, dark jeans without holes 

  • Button-down shirts, sweaters or polo shirts

  • Closed-toed shoes such as loafers, oxfords or brogues

  • Optional belt that matches your shoes

  • Optional tie and jacket, cardigan or sport coat, especially for added warmth during colder months

Read more: Guide To Men's Business Casual Attire

Gender-neutral business casual

There are also gender-neutral options for business casual dress. During interviews and at work, it’s important to feel confident in what you wear. Consider these options:

  • Slacks, khakis or other non-denim pants

  • A sweater

  • A button-down shirt or another tidy-looking style like a henley or polo shirt

  • Boots, loafers or oxfords 

Read more: Guide To Gender Neutral Attire

Defining business casual by industry

The definition of business casual attire can vary by industry and can be impacted even further by individual company culture. Here are a few examples of how business casual can look in common industries:

  • Agencies: In a creative agency setting, such as advertising, it may be acceptable to add a bit of creative flair to your attire with a pop of color, or a patterned tie or shirt.

  • Education: Most educators work in a classroom or office and can wear khakis and a polo with loafers, or even dark, non-ripped jeans with a nice shirt and flats, loafers or oxfords. Many combinations of business casual styles work for educators.

  • Entertainment: In the entertainment industry, it’s usually acceptable to dress more creatively, which includes bolder accessories and trendier clothing.

  • Fashion: Traditional “business casual” rules usually don’t apply to the fashion industry, and most employees wear clothing that truly expresses their individual styles and is aligned with the latest fashion trends.

  • Finance: Finance professionals often wear more conservative attire such as suits or dress pants with button-up shirts. Classic accessories, such as watches, ties and jewelry are also appropriate.

  • Medical: Medical professionals usually wear lab coats or scrubs in the hospital or medical office and are always on their feet, so it’s acceptable to wear casual clothes and comfortable shoes.

  • Service Industry: It’s very common to wear uniforms if you work in a service industry—hospitality, retail, transportation, etc.—so you’ll likely only have to worry about your accessories and shoes. Comfortable flat shoes are a must-have, and it’s encouraged to keep accessories to a minimum.

  • Tech: Some tech industries may have a casual dress code, as opposed to a business casual dress code. Always ask human resources for guidelines if you’re not sure. And err on the side of dressing more conservatively, when in doubt.

What not to wear with a business casual dress code

Here are several things you should avoid wearing in a business casual environment:

  • Well-worn athletic sneakers or tennis shoes

  • Flip-flops

  • Stained or wrinkled clothing

  • Clothing with holes, such as distressed jeans

  • Clothing that is too tight or short

  • Clothing that is oversized or too loose

  • Shorts

  • Tank tops or strapless shirts unless paired with a blazer, jacket or cardigan

  • Backless or low-cut tops

  • Crop tops

  • Clothing with inappropriate logos or text

Related: Q&A: Are Jeans Business Casual? (With Examples)

Additional tips for business casual attire

Also consider the following as you decide what to wear to a business casual workplace:

Beware of casual Fridays

Some companies allow employees to dress more casually on Fridays than other days of the week. It's best to take note of acceptable casual Friday attire based on what others are wearing before straying too far from the daily dress code. A good rule of thumb is to mimic the attire of your manager or other leaders at your company. Always avoid clothing with controversial images or language.

Overdress for a job interview

When deciding what to wear to an interview, it’s best to overdress than to underdress. If a company has a business casual dress code, consider wearing a full suit for your first in-person interview. This will allow you to make a positive first impression and identify what others in the office wear so you can model their style in subsequent interviews.

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