Dress to Impress: Business Casual Done Right

In professional offices all across America, bosses are recognizing the benefits of a more relaxed corporate culture. In many ways, this trend was preceded by a similar relaxing of American cultural mores: from our interactions to the things we wear, things have changed, a lot. Gone are the days of three piece suits, fedoras, and extended formalities, replaced in favor of "business casual."


"Business casual" is a pretty open concept, and can mean anything from jeans and a t-shirt to a suit-minus-the-tie-and-jacket. Often this is specified by the employer, but many opt to let common sense reign, with some obvious exceptions (shorts, leather chaps, and mankinis come to mind).


Still, even if today's complete man isn't excessively coiffed, he knows that looking good feels good, and that feeling good inspires confidence. With that in mind, here are our tips for putting business casual to work for you.



Even if it isn't spelled out in the company handbook, avoid T-shirts, if at all possible. But if you must, refrain from wearing cutesy graphic tees or anything with a ton of branding all over it. You're in the office to be productive, not drink beers and shoot pool. Look the part.


Other acceptable shirt options include a simple polo shirt, button down, or even a dress shirt with the top button unbuttoned. All of these options are nearly as comfortable as a tee, and communicate that you're on the ball.



If denim is on the program, then opt for a conservative cut in a dark wash. Avoid baggy or loose-fitting jeans, or the inexplicably popular "skinny jeans." While these may work for you in a casual setting, they communicate that you're at work to relax. Pressing jeans may not be necessary, but neither should they have sat in the dryer for days on end accumulating wrinkles.


Better yet: trousers. Black, olive, tan, and grey are all solid choices, but the fashion-forward among us may be able to pull off more advanced options. Again, they don't have to be pressed and starched (though it helps), just so long as they're not wrinkly.



Repeat after me: I will not wear flip-flops on casual Friday. Open-toed footwear may not be explicitly verboten, but know there is a difference between casual and business casual. Other options to avoid include sneakers (including Chuck Taylors), moccasins, and casual canvas shoes. Instead, go for boat shoes (often called docksiders) or, if you're wearing slacks anyway, a pair of casual dress shoes. 

Lou Tenney


When he's not busy writing, editing, smoking cigars, or raising his many, many children, Hayward " "It's Lou, not Hayward" " Tenney spends his days combating confusion about his real name (it's Hayward, but please - call him " "Lou" ") and mourning the matrimonially-induced loss of his moustache (what's he gonna do with all that moustache wax he made?).

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