Let’s face it. You’ve navigated a lot at work over the past year, plus. Add an ever-evolving dress code to the mix, and it can be hard to keep up. Depending on your industry and profession, one of the varied types of men’s business attire may apply to you. It may feel like anything goes these days, which is why we’re here to break down five of the most common workwear categories. From the ever-present business casual, the new workleisure and casual, to business formal and professional, we’ve got you covered.
As WFH (work from home) transforms to BTO (back to the office), dress codes are becoming more relaxed. This leaves many asking, what is the difference between business formal and business casual? The most significant difference lies in the timeless suit. Once a workwear staple for men, modern-day separates now allow for more personality to shine while still providing a polished and professional look. Read on to see how we’re getting ready for work, no matter where our office is.
Type of Business Attire #1: Casual
The Modern Office Dress Code, Reimagined
With over 50% of businesses reporting a casual dress code, casual men’s workwear reigns supreme. Casual office dress codes date back to Aloha Fridays in the 1960s. Employers encouraged their workforce to don short-sleeve button-down shirts on the last day of the work week. The traditional business suit received a much-needed break during warm tropical summers. Making waves across industries, this trend arrived on the mainland as casual Fridays. Ever since, the dress codes from Wall Street to Main Street have become more relaxed. Innovative industries and Silicon Valley have revved up this movement to casual work attire. From conversational print shirts to hoodies, companies are breaking the (dress) code in many workplaces these days.
However, there are still rules to adhere to with this type of business attire. First things first: it’s important to remember that men’s casual office dress varies from industry to industry. What works at a scrappy technology start-up might differ from the daily wear at an ad agency. It’s always best to consult with your manager or Human Resources department for clarification on workwear policies. The adage that it’s always better to look overdressed than undressed still applies.
Casual Work Attire Staples
Casual types of business attire for men include everything from T-shirts, henleys and Oxford shirts to chinos, jeans and joggers. Are you lucky enough to work in an industry that boasts a casual work dress code? Try an elevated look with a knit polo in a slim-fit to pair with flat-front chinos and leather sneakers. This refined ensemble works for a variety of industries in any season. Cold outside? Opt for a long-sleeve knit polo. Scorching summer day? Choose a performance polo that will keep you cool and dry. Bonus points for a casual work wardrobe? Your work clothes go double duty for the weekend. Sustainability, for the win.
Expert Style Tip: You no longer have to follow the traditional “match your shoe and belt color” rule. It used to be the norm to keep the color shades of your accessories to similar tones and finishes. New rules allow for more mixing and matching. Feel free to pair lighter and darker shades together. Different hues and textures add visual contrast to your outfit. So go ahead and wear dark brown suede shoes with a light brown leather belt. The only rule to keep is that mixing black and brown colors is still a no-go to stay polished.
Type of Business Attire #2: Business Casual
Timeless Classics for the Office
No doubt, business casual is the type of business attire you hear about most often. This men’s workwear dress code effortlessly straddles casual and business formal wear. It’s also open to interpretation. And, this is where it can get tricky. Like casual attire, industries and companies define business casual attire differently. Not only do these definitions vary by organization, but your role also plays a part. If you often meet with clients or host meetings, a blazer may round out your business attire. Or, perhaps, you have a more creative position with the opportunity to showcase your personality through your workwear. There’s a lot of leeway with business casual dress.
Enter Dress for your Day. While your company may not have officially announced this dress code policy, it’s probably already in play. This new workwear approach empowers employees to use their best judgment when deciding what to wear. Have a day packed with meetings and presentations? A sports coat and Oxford shirt combo is your go-to. Is your calendar appointment free? Jeans and a sweater will do the trick. No matter what your workplace attire calls for, you can let your style shine through while takin’ care of business. Every day and every way. Yes, we went there.
Business Casual Wardrobe Heros
When assembling your business casual workwear wardrobe, classics include button-down shirts in any color with or without a tie. This type of men’s business attire allows for creativity to work in your favor. Play with patterns like traditional checks and stripes and style with dress pants and chinos in neutral hues. Opt for khaki, espresso and charcoal grey pants. These versatile colors will allow your dress shirts and sweaters to steal the show. Take a cue out of the Ted Lasso playbook by layering sweaters over button-down shirts. In fact, this seasonal essential is a big men’s 2021 winter fashion trend. We love marled knits and colorblock pullovers that pack a professional punch for in-person or Zoom meetings alike. Round out your outfit with a sports coat, then pour yourself a cup of ambition. Cheers.
Expert Style Tip: Match your tie to your shirt with a few simple tricks. First, consider color. Play it safe with tonal dressing, otherwise known as, clothing in the same color palette. Coordinate your blazer, dress shirt and tie color in an array of blues for an effortless and expert look. Or, go bold with dress shirts and ties in complementary colors. Think, essential blue dress shirt with a pop of orange tie for a contemporary look. And don’t forget that the number one rule for wearing patterns is to vary the proportion. For example, pair a micro-stripe dress shirt with a wide-stripe tie. Or, a small-check gingham shirt with a large-print gingham tie to create contrast. Don’t worry; it’s easier than you think.
Type of Business Attire #3: Workleisure
The New Normal is Now Business Comfort
There’s a new type of men’s business attire on the block. Enter workleisure. While dress codes and norms change and evolve, nothing has had as significant an impact as COVID-19. When many offices went remote, employees embraced business comfort attire. Above the keyboard looks paired with joggers or pajamas became de rigueur. As some companies welcome back their in-person workforce, they’re also adopting workleisure as the new normal. There is no need to sacrifice comfort for style. This way of dressing for the office seamlessly combines the ease of your WFH favorites with refined business casual basics.
To build a workleisure workwear wardrobe, we recommend starting with a pair of elevated joggers. Look for slim and streamlined fits in a variety of performance fabrications. Undoubtedly the star of this trend, your favorite loungewear essentials are getting a makeover. Wear tailored joggers with button-down shirts, sweaters or T-shirts. For a match made in workleisure heaven, opt for a henley. The button detail on this knit shirt is an instant upgrade from your everyday T-shirt. Round out your look with lug-sole boots to explore your style. Last, layer an on-trend shacket in place of a blazer for the ultimate workleisure finishing touch. Ace this dress code, and you will stay comfy while looking like a boss.
Expert Style Tip: No matter the season, your outerwear handily pulls any type of men’s business attire together. For in-between seasons, invest in a trench coat. This versatile style goes with everything—from suits to jeans. Colder winter climates call for a tasteful overcoat to wear over suits and sports coats. Style a cozy peacoat over sweaters and knit shirts for a more casual layering option. Suiting up in summer? Look no further than a linen blazer.
Type of Business Attire #4: Business Professional
It’s Time to Suit Up
The type of men’s business attire most associated with a classic suit is business professional. While this is one of the most strict dress codes, it may also be the easiest to pull off. The difference between business professional and business casual dress codes is the former follows long-established style rules. Opt for a dark-colored suit and tie to always hit your mark. You’ll find business professional workwear in banking, law, government and the C-suite. Believe it or not, it doesn’t take a lot to look like Kendell Roy from Succession. Just don’t pull a cousin Greg and wear boat shoes with your suit. While adding patterns and color is possible for this business attire, its conservative nature often calls for a subdued color palette. Are you ready to suit up for work? After living in loungewear, we are, too.
The secret to injecting creativity into your business professional wardrobe is all in the details. A proper fitting suit and tie are the first steps. Select tailored and slim fits for a sleek look. Finding the best-fitting shirt for your build is essential. Make sure your dress shirt sleeve hits at your wrist. You’ll want your cuff to peek out about a ¼ inch from your blazer for contrast. Furnishings that complete your business professional look? A belt, watch and shoes will do. The ultimate shoe of choice is a first-rate pair of Oxfords. You’ll be one step ahead at work with this refined and straightforward style.
Expert Style Tip: Button-down or button-up? It’s all in the collar. A button-down shirt has buttons on the collar to hold the collar in place. The more formal button-up has sewn-in pockets underneath for collar stays. Always opt for a button-up shirt to pair with your suit for an elegant and sophisticated look.
Type of Business Attire #5: Business Formal
The Debonair Dress Code
The type of business attire for men reserved for special work occasions is business formal. This dress code is your go-to for industry awards and evening events—a step up from business professional. Think of this style of dress as a business black-tie alternative. A dark suit, dress shirt and tie are your wardrobe heroes for this workwear attire. Add a little flair to your look with a French cuff shirt and cufflinks. Dapper details to round out your look? A tie and pocket square. The pocket square doesn’t need to match your tie. It only needs to complement it. A simple knot on your tie is understated and elegant. Or, go bold with a Windsor knot to add a little flair. Follow these easy style guidelines for your most formal business occasions.
Expert Style Tip: The only difference between a two or three-button suit is the fit. You can wear both options for both business professional and formal wear. A two-button suit works for every body type, while a three-button suit is an excellent option for taller builds. Curious how to button your jacket? For a two-button suit jacket, fasten the top button and leave the bottom button undone. For a three-button suit, it’s optional to button the top, the middle always, and the bottom never. When seated, it’s always okay to unbutton your jacket. Comfort is the key to confidence.
Are you ready to head back to the office in style? No matter the type of business attire, your new workwear is just waiting to be found. Take your style quiz and schedule a Fix. Ask your stylist to send men’s workwear pieces suitable for your specific dress code. You can relax trying on everything at home, plus shipping and returns are always free.