Business and casual don’t sound like they ought to be a word that describes a fashion trend that has revolutionized just what it means to be truly fashionable.
It has many beginnings, but it started with men in the Silicon Valley in the 1980s who wanted to redefine what it meant to be dressed for business. They tried to break the old way of what it means to have a white-collar job and how to dress for it.
It wouldn’t be unlikely to thank this new wave of business casual fashion to the tech boom. Here you have a young generation that doesn’t want to dress the same way their grandfather wore when they are growing up.
They want to redefine themselves and set standards of what it means to be casual but still dressed for business. If you’ve seen the trend, it is nothing but traditional. However, after you look at it a while longer, you find that it not only looks good, but it makes sense.
And we are not talking about pulling a Mark Zuckerberg wear a t-shirt and jeans are enough. You’re likely not working for him, and even though you are, you still want to dress the part.
You want other people in the industry to take you seriously and listen to what you have to say. You also need to look like you know what you’re saying, and you can do that by dressing up, just not taking it as far as our parents or great grandparents did with a three-piece suit and a pocket watch.
The humble beginnings of business casual
As mentioned, Silicon Valley was where the business-casual trend got established. The inspiration was thanks to one day of the week- Dress Down Friday. Here is where you traded your suits and tie for khaki pants and a polo t-shirt or an oxford shirt.
Yes, it required dressing down, but there was also the fact that you have to look like you’re going to work. Also perhaps go for a BBQ at your family friend’s house after.
That was specifically for the companies that had that kind of culture. The casual nature to business attire is said to have come about in 1966, where someone in the marketing team of the Hawaiian Fashion Guild in Britain came up with ‘Aloha Fridays’ and thus introducing a dressed down day of the week to the workforce.
Of course, this has morphed now to not only be for a particular day of the week to everyday wear.
So, what is business-casual now?
Before you get excited about getting into another dimension of white-collar wear, we first need to get something out of the way. Business-casual has a uniform.
You might switch it up as you did with the suits you wore, but the standard is the same. What you’ll find across the board are chinos and polo shirts. That’s the standard in the market; you can consider that your starter park.
Don’t get business-casual wrong. It is not entirely a laid back version of the traditional suit and tie. You do have to exercise judgment of when it’s important. If you’re going for a client meeting, unless you share the same dress code culture, you’ll still fall back to the suit and tie.
If you’re a manager, you might not want to be in chinos and polo t-shirts like the staff you’re managing. You still want to carry yourself with the respect that your position commands.
What does that look like?
Let’s start with a blazer. It’s the fastest way to dress up a simple outfit and to kick out those hoodies that turn any look to being too casual. However, the type of blazer that you go for does matter.
You don’t want something with shoulder padding and double-breasted. It looks out of place for the business-casual look, and you might also be trying too hard.
For your blazer, then this kind of fashion should be shorter in length and have little to no padding on the shoulders. In general, it is not as structured- it’s your body that does that.
It’s also not rigid and is typically made of soft material that moves when you do.
If you don’t want a blazer, you can also opt for a cardigan. It is best as a plain solid color, preferably dark; it shouldn’t look like something your grandmother spent most of the year knitting for you.
Again, you want to look like you’re going to an office job and not for a winter vacation with singing Christmas carols on the itinerary, not that there is anything wrong with that.
Even when you’re wearing the unstructured blazer or cardigan, you want to wear something more business-like with it. You ought to pair it with a button-up shirt and chinos or trousers to bring about a balance.
Unless otherwise stated by HR, a lot of places are not pro jeans, so you should best save those for the weekend.
You might want to throw in jeans as part of the casual part of business-casual, but you ought to think, again, do I have a meeting? Will people take me less seriously if I show up in jeans? What about my colleagues?
There is a lot we cannot cover in such an article, that is, the ins and outs of smart casual. The best approach is to spend some time online to check out all the various ways you can come up with a fantastic business-casual outfit.
Overall, you want to start with what is in your closet.
The fastest way to check if you’ve gone too business or too casual is to check the balance. If you have on an official shirt, tailored-to-fit trousers, and a blazer, you’re too much on the business side.
Swap the shirt for a polo shirt and voila. Throw on some leather shoes, and you’ve completed the look.