There can be fewer more confusing terms than ‘casual’ business wear. In terms of fashion it’s a kind of no-man’s land. A man knows where he is with formal business attire – suit, shirt, tie, shoes; five days a week, perhaps losing the tie on a Friday. Simple, and sorted. But casual business wear is a different matter.

The golden rule to always bear in mind is that you should dress up rather than down. You’re still at work, not hanging out at the weekend, so don’t go way too casual – the scenario you definitely want to avoid is the one described in this article; rocking up for a business meeting wearing sandals is completely out. You have to be smart, professional, and make an impact with your outfit.


Make sure to wear clothes that fit – which means loose shirts and shapeless, baggy trousers are definitely out; you’ll just look like a brow-beaten and tired 9-5 office worker otherwise. In the warmer months, go for crisp, tailored shirts and in several colours too.

White and sky blue are absolute classics and brilliantly versatile as they go with just about anything and everything, but subtle stripes and a gingham pattern work too. Companies such as Dobell have a great range online that you need to check out.

business casual tips tricks

Depending on the climate you can either wear the shirt on its own (in the heat of summer, try to avoid short-sleeved shirts, better to roll up long-sleeved versions), or with a blazer (blues and greys are less formal than black), or with a V-neck sweater.

Make these plain in colour and don’t be afraid to sport brown or green in the autumn and winter. If you have a particularly important meeting – with clients, for example – and want to step it up a notch, a tie beneath a V-neck is classy enough to smarten the image.

COMME DES GARÇONS zip shirt, MSGM button blazer


Trousers are trickier, in a way. You shouldn’t wear the trousers of a suit without the jacket so consider instead chinos – navy or tan are preferable to beige, which can look a little ‘middle-aged Dad’. Again, make sure they’re fitted well, ideally even skinny fit. Too large and you’ll look like you’re on the golf course.

PT01 classic chinos in navy, PT01 classic chinos in beige


Jeans? Possibly. Skinny or slim fit, in black or very dark blue is acceptable – boot cut is completely out, as is anything too pale. Ripped is a definite no-no. That said, some companies will completely frown on denim, others will accept it. The best way to judge is just to see what fellow employees wear first.

PAUL SMITH straight leg jeans, ARMANI JEANS regular fit jeans


Footwear is key. Here, stay formal. Oxfords and brogues are ideal – dark and light browns, burgundy or black. Chukka boots are an alternative. But keep well away from trainers or hi-tops, and reserve canvas pumps for designated ‘dress down’ days if worn with jeans.

CHURCH’S ‘Shangai’ brogues, HENDERSON BARACCO buckled shoes


There you have it – a few simple tips to ensure you abide by the casual rule and yet never feel underdressed and exposed in your place of work. Make sure to stay up to date with Style Division using the links below: