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Business Casual vs Business Professional

We may earn a small commission from product links. Blog posts at Nimble Made are written to provide value and advice for our readers—any product(s) we recommend are items readers use and love.

Written by Tanya Zhang

When it comes to dressing yourself for work, you may find yourself feeling a little confused about the different dress codes especially when it comes to business casual vs business professional, black tie optional, smart casual, and more. You’re not alone, as many people don’t know the difference between business casual and professional.

If you’re here, there’s a good chance you’re figuring out how to dress yourself for work or the office, which involve two things: 

The first thing is that you remain professional in whatever style you wear no matter what the business attire is. The second thing is showcasing either your personality or professionalism in the style that your job calls for. 

When it comes to clothing styles, however, they can range from extremely casual to professional suits and ties in business formal attire. As such, it’s important to understand that the way you dress is a reflection of your career or the career you’re striving for. Thankfully with the coming of modern times, office style is now commonly business casual

This does leave room for error, however, as some people might take casual in a totally different direction. Even with business casual office wear or business casual attire, you want to make sure you’re staying relatively professional. 

Here, we have a detailed style guide to understanding business casual vs business professional, and provide tips to help you make the most of either dress code.

 business casual dress code infographic from nimble made

Business Casual vs Business Professional Dress Codes

Office dress codes can set the tone, from business formal attire to business casual attire. Some employers believe that customer-facing roles require a professional appearance, while others maintain that business casual attire is easier and more comfortable.

The idea is that this business attire dress code will ultimately lead to higher work efficiency. Choosing between these styles of dress is something management takes seriously. Therefore, it is important to understand the difference between the two.

Business Casual

mens casual shirts

With this style, we’re talking slim-cut jeans, a nice cardigan, polo shirt or flannel, and even sneakers. Jobs that allow for business casual attire tend to be places that are geared toward the younger crowd. 

Having the ability to wear what you are most comfortable in is admittedly ideal. Just be cautious about what’s appropriate and what isn’t. The business casual style is all about creating a comfortable atmosphere and is great for after-work activities with friends.

Business Professional

business professional attire for men

You’ll know that this is the dress code as soon as you walk into the office. Usually, companies that care about their appearance and magnitude will expect their employees to have a professional dress shirt and be suited up complete with a tie - we like them slim for business formal

mens ties

Business professional is also where you dress for the career that you want to have. People take note of those who take care to show up on time and look professional every morning. There are different ways you can go about collecting the pieces for your business formal attire, which we’ll get into later. 

Different Business Casual Attires

Casual and Creative Environments

The line between an outfit you’d wear at work and an outfit you’d wear to the Sunday farmer’s market is thin, but not completely broken. You are more able to showcase some of your personality with business casual attire, but be sure to keep it appropriate. 

If you’re determined to keep it simple with a t-shirt, then we suggest checking out quality shirts like the ones that are made at Nimble Made. They’re basic, yes, but simple and soft enough to give you class and comfort to make it through the workday. Below is a detailed list of everything business casual that you can use or should keep at home. 


  • Do pair basic colored tees like the ones Nimble Made carries with cardigans, flannels, etc. You can find quality t-shirts at Nimble Made in the link down below. 
  • Don’t wear anything with a lewd, religious, political, or offensive reference. You want to avoid rubbing anyone the wrong way, especially your boss, so make sure to dress appropriately!
  • Don’t wear anything that shows too much skin. For example, a tank top or obscenely deep v-neck should be left at home. 


  • Do wear slim-cut jeans. You don’t have to be afraid of mixing it up with a different wash. Experimenting is fine as long as the color doesn’t overwhelm your entire outfit. 
  • Do invest in quality denim and pants that fit. A good fit goes a long way. 
  • Don’t wear baggy jeans or pants in general. Wearing ill-fitted clothing to your workplace has a negative effect on your appearance. You don’t want your boss thinking you’re sloppy. 


  • Do wear clean and basic colored sneakers. It’s okay to wear something simple and comfortable, but make sure the quality is intact.
  • Do utilize the power of lace-up boots. They can be terribly comfortable while also giving you a sophisticated look. 
  • Don’t wear anything that doesn’t require socks. Loafers may be appropriate for boating, but they’re usually best paired with shorts. As such, these are not suitable for business casual or any style with “business” in it.     


Casual in Professional Work Environments

This style can be a bit finicky to achieve perfectly. It requires a balance between the casual side of your outfit with the professional side. The choices of accessories to either add or do away with can determine whether your outfit is business professional or business casual. It can be a decision between a tie and a bow tie. Either way, we’ve got the tips for you.  

Take this as an opportunity to showcase your personality a little bit with fun but simple choices. If you just want some basic colored but quality button-down casual dress shirts. Soft, simple, able to get you through the workday.


  • Do wear something collared. It doesn’t have to be a super fine dress shirt, but something breathable with a collar can bring you closer to a professional look like a polo shirt. 
  • Don’t wear ill-fitted shirts of any kind. You want to keep things slim to your body, or you risk the baggy look. Don’t drown yourself in a shirt! 
mens tshirts for casual outfits


  • Do utilize chinos. Their fabric and array of colors are complementary to most jackets and collared shirts. They’re comfortable and still give off a professional look whilst remaining casual. 
  • Don’t wear pants that don't fit well. Minding the length matters. We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: Don’t wear clothes that don’t fit you.


mens shoes boots

  • Do invest in some oxford shoes or lace-up boots. They come in different basic and earthy colors that add elegance to your outfit. It uplifts your outfit enough to make it professional for the workplace. 
  • Don’t wear sneakers. Though they may be perfect for a casual setting, they are not universal and don’t apply to business casual. Therefore it’s better to leave the sneakers at home and opt for the more professional-looking shoes.  


These can be particularly important when putting together your wardrobe. Accessories for men have the ability to change up different outfit combinations to give them a different feel. They can also help to showcase your personality in different ways. Add a brown belt to match your shoes and make sure the belt is the right size.

Nimble Made has a nice collection of different types of accessories ranging from tie clips to collar stays and wallets. They also have a good range of slim ties with proper tie length with varying designs and colors that still manage to keep things neutral whilst staying fun. Check out what accessories Nimble Made carries to scope out which accessories seem preferable to you. 


Dressing for Business Professional Attire

The business professional look is never complete without a suit and tie. When it comes to a professional dress code, it demands a high level of perfection and starts with adopting a professional state of mind. These are the 7 best suit colors we recommend having for men.

Suits do take some investment, but there are definitely places where you can bargain hunt for quality. Hopefully, obtaining a job that requires a strict business professional dress code like business formal or semi-formal means you have the finances to invest in the wardrobe that comes with it and the means to wear business professional attire. Here's a guide on how a suit should fit

As well as all the other types of business professional shirts, Nimble Made also specializes in quality dress shirts at an affordable price which is a perfect source for that professional dress code. You want to source your dress shirts from a place that takes into account the quality of their products. 

The affordable price is definitely a positive, showing that premium items can be brought to you affordably. Either way, you can’t go wrong with a quality item, regardless of the price. Cheap suits that are ill-fitted will make you look more naive than you care to. Check out their selection in the link below.  


  • Do wear professional dress shirts. You can get these long sleeved shirt in arrays of colors and always fit into the professional dress code!
  • Do learn the art of ironing. It will help you when your delicate clothing comes out wrinkled from the dryer and come in use for a job interview. Here's our opinion on whether you should wear a tie to a job interview.
  • Don’t substitute all your dress shirts for button-ups and button-downs. Button-ups have stiff collars and may be suitable for work. Button downs are considered a little more casual.
  • Don’t wear loud, brightly colored dress shirts. You want something that has enough pattern, like gingham, but that won’t overwhelm your entire outfit.  

  mens shirt fit slim


  • Do invest in some pairs of slacks. These are business professional pants and always great for business casual - you can’t get much better than these pants for a professional dress code
  • Don’t wear jeans or any denim of any kind. You’ll have to leave the slim-fitted jeans at home for the weekend. 


  • Do invest in some oxford and dress shoes that are at least three different colors. The variability of choices will help you put together more and more combinations of outfits. 
  • Don’t be discouraged by the high prices. Think of it as an investment in the career you’re working on. Remember, quality over quantity.  


  • Do ensure that you have a nice collection of simple neckties to help bring your outfits together and make sure they're tied at the right length. Remember to keep it basic colors and designs so as to not draw too much attention.  
  • Don’t wear anything too flashy or bright. From jewelry to brightly colored neckties and even pocket squares, it’s best if you stick to the colors that can match with the rest of your outfit
  • Business Professional vs Business Casual Style Tips 

    Finding the right outfits for each professional dress code will take some trial and error whether it's for a job interview or your daily uniform. There are plenty of hacks and advice you can learn before moving forward with any purchases in learning how to dress professionally. 

    Even if you do make a mistake, don’t worry. This is a journey of learning, and mistakes are bound to happen. Don’t be afraid of the mistakes; just be ready to learn from them. Before you go, here are some more tips to keep in mind when you’re styling for work. 

    • Don’t wear an extremely fancy jacket with business casual shirt and jeans
    • Wear button-down shirts for anything business casual, as they tend to be more casual than button-up shirts. They should always be long sleeved shirts and fitted to your body well. 
    • Stay away from baggy clothing. Period. This holds true for both business casual and business professional attire.
    • Remember to choose quality over quantity. Pick the clothing that comes from trusted and quality brands. 
    • Don’t wear shorts, distressed jeans, or any athletic clothing of any kind where business casual attire is required. And absolutely stay away from these in a business professional setting.
    • Keep it simple with basic colors and designs. The more business professional you’re going for, the less color and flash you want in your clothing.
    • Keep to straightforward with simple colored patterns. 
    • Keep away from wearing informal shoes like sandals, slip-ons, or any other form of overly casual footwear. Even in a business casual environment, these are to be avoided.
    • Don’t be afraid of accessories and what they can add to your outfits. Things like pocket squares and suspenders can go a long way in showcasing your personality. 



    When it comes down to it, understanding the difference between business professional attire and business casual attire is all about adhering to the basics and choosing simple patterns to ensure a well-rounded wardrobe. 

    The important part is to blend in rather than stand out awkwardly. Having a set dress code always makes things easier because you have fewer things to think about in the morning. Office settings that lean more toward business casual ensure that you can let your personality shine through in both your product or service and your sense of fashion.

    Conversely, business professional workplaces have stricter dress codes. With that said, jobs that require business professional attire provide the perfect opportunity to look your very best and dress professionally. So take advantage of it and find the clothing that accentuates your professionalism. If you liked this article, check out our guide to semi-formal vs formal attire.


    Frequently asked questions about business casual vs business professional

    1. What is the difference between business casual and professional?

    What is the difference between business casual and business professional attire? The terms "business professional" and "business casual" are often used to describe interview attire. Business professional clothing consists of a two-piece suit.

    2. Are jeans business professional?

    Denim, athletic gear, and athletic footwear should never be worn but jeans can be business casual with the right outfit. Dressing professionally does not include offensive t-shirts, distracting jewelry, and garments with rips. 

    3. What is business appropriate attire?

    Appropriate business casual attire typically consists of slacks or khakis, a dress shirt or blouse, an open-collar or polo shirt, an optional tie or seasonal sport coat, a knee-length or shorter dress or skirt, a tailored blazer, knit shirt or sweater, and loafers or dress shoes that cover the entirety or the majority of the foot.