Upgrade Your Office Style: What to Wear for Business Casual

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Use a chambray in place of your other blue shirts.

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A tie that starts a conversation.

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We're still at the office, stick with a dressed up watch.

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A cardigan sweater serves as a great substitute for a jacket.

The dress code is “Business Casual”…

A common term coined with uncommon parameters. It’s been a phrase used in offices for decades, but still gentlemen have had a hard time deciphering its true meaning. Am I too dressed up? Is this too casual? Should I wear a tie? The reality of business casual in the workplace has shifted into a disheveled mix of untucked shirts, athleisure, and shredded denim that should see the bottom of a garbage can.

Business casual is described as the point where you start mastering the median between formal business attire and more relaxed weekend looks. See it as a time to explore and test your boundaries. For those who dress up most days, use it as an excuse to experiment with more relaxed looks. For those who default to jeans and a t-shirt more than they would like to admit, use business casual to refine your style.

The office is a place where formal and informal situations are daily occurrences. Internal meetings, videos conferences, lunches with your colleagues–everyday a different interaction can occur. While it’s always important to make a great first impression, daily business casual attire should be purposeful, sophisticated, and most of all, comfortable.

Start with the right shirt. Personally, there’s nothing that a great fitting chambray shirt can’t do. A fabric that has a great feel, great look, and can replace that standard twill or pinpoint shirt you might typically wear. If you’re looking for an even more relaxed feel, opt for a button down version.

chambray shirt business casual outfit

| WEARING | Chambray Shirt, Striped Silk Knit Tie, Cotton Cardigan Sweater, Light Grey Trousers, Classic Weejun Penny Loafers, Orient Bambino v2  | PHOTOGRAPHY | by Victoria Saperstein

Brian has said this in the past, but if you are going to wear a tie for business casual, make sure it’s a knit one. I find that I’m wearing knit ties much more often than any other ties in my wardrobe. Easy to dress up or dress down, I rarely find a time when I don’t like wearing one.

A striped knit tie makes a statement in this otherwise conservative look. For some, it might draw too much attention, but I find that an interesting tie can be a great conversation starter with the right people in the office. Not your style? Swap it out for a solid navy or brown version.

Time and time again I find myself relying on the cardigan sweater. Why? Perhaps it’s because the cardigan sweater is a versatile substitute for your everyday blazer. Its “put together” look makes it an ideal business casual staple. This cotton maroon one is the perfect transitional piece from the winter season into spring. It keeps you warm when the office is too cool, yet it’s thin enough to wear under a blazer.

While you can certainly wear jeans with this outfit, my experience tells me to dress for the job you want, not for the job you have. A light or medium grey pair of tropical wool trousers works perfectly in any situation and particularly well for this business casual outfit.

Lastly, no office style would be complete without a great pair of loafers. The Weejun has been an iconic shoe for generations and for good reason. They’re classic, comfortable and for business casual, they match perfectly.

chambray shirt business casual outfit

Let us know…would you wear this look in your office?

Thanks for reading!

Stylishly Yours,

Steven D. Elliott
He Spoke Style

Chime In

  • DF_Silverlake

    Nice look, though working in a California tech company the sight of a tie (knit or not) would still scare the cargo-shorts and logo-Ts off most of my coworkers.
    Not really digging the collar of that shirt, spread so wide it looks like it’s pulling and sort of folding weirdly. Love the fabric though, my chambray shirt sees regular use.

    • Steven Elliott

      California is a tough climate to crack. Cool some days, warm others. I appreciate the comment and perhaps a button-down version would be a better fit. Would make this much more approachable in a tech office.

  • Tom B

    I’m also in tech, although in my case, a Boston-area company. Nevertheless, NOBODY wears a tie, not even the CEO when making customer presentations. I spent a week at our HQ, wearing a tie just for the hell of it and got lots of raised eyebrows :). A cardigan, though, is my go-to for 3 seasons. Wearing one now. Extremely versatile, with or without a sportscoat/blazer.

    Keep the Steve articles coming, very enjoyable and a great new viewpoint!

    P.S. North Carolina, where we live, has five seasons – Winter, Spring, POLLEN, Summer, Fall. I wear a hazmat suit and during POLLEN, it’s the only way to go!

    • Steven Elliott

      Thanks Tom! I’m glad that you are enjoying what I’m putting up. I totally understand people staring. Dress for yourself and you’ll never have to worry about impressing anyone else. Here is to hoping you have your Zyrtec prescription filled.

      -Steven