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When it comes to dressing yourself for work, you may find yourself feeling a little confused about the different dress codes. You’re not alone, as many people don’t know the difference between business professional attire and business casual attire.
If you’re here, there’s a good chance you’re figuring out how to dress yourself for work or the office (not that a ton of people are going in during COVID), which involve two things.
The first thing is that you remain professional in whatever style you wear. 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. 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 Professional Attire vs Business Casual Attire, and provide tips to help you make the most of either dress code.
What Is the Dress Code?
Office dress codes can set the tone, from more formal professional dress codes 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 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 Attire
With this style, we’re talking slim-cut jeans, a nice cardigan 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 Attire
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.
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 professional attire, which we’ll get into later.
Dressing for Business Casual
Casual and Creative
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.
You don’t want to risk a trip to HR or shocking people during a meet & greet if your graphic tee is going to offend anyone. You usually have the freedom of comfortability, but you still need to balance out your outfit to avoid looking too comfortable.
Chances are, you want to be able to move up the chain of command, and they’re only going to pay attention to people who work on their appearance. A tie and jacket may help you stand out above the rest.
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 utilize sophisticated graphic tees. It’s a good way to showcase your personality without wearing anything that might be too inappropriate
- 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!
- 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 slobby.
- Don’t wear jeans that can’t even reach your ankle. There’s baggy, and then there’s the opposite. It’s just not worth looking like a teenager that has had a sudden onset of puberty.
- Do wear clean and basic colored sneakers. It’s okay to wear something simple and comfortable, but make sure the quality is intact. It’s one thing if you show up in your ten-year-old Converses compared to a nice clean pair of white sneakers.
- Do utilize the power of lace-up boots. They can be terribly comfortable while also giving you a sophisticated look.
- Don’t wear anything open-toed. Sandals and flip-flops are not appropriate for business casual
- 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, Yet Professional
This style can be a bit finicky to achieve perfectly. It requires a balance between the casualty 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.
Down below, you’ll find the ins and outs of achieving the balanced and coveted business casual look. You want to look easygoing, but you still got bosses to impress.
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 shirts, Nimble Made has a great collection. 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. You can check out Nimble Made’s quality collection of collared shirts that fit the model for this piece.
- Do pair your t-shirts and collared shirts with a jacket or blazer. You want to be able to layer your upper body accordingly, and with blazers, you can immediately elevate your outfit.
- Don’t wear graphic tees or t-shirts alone. Stick to the collared shirts. Flannels can also be a casual collared shirt if your work allows you to keep it as casual as possible.
- 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!
- Do wear slim-fit jeans that are more on the darker side. Leave the experimentation of different denim washes for the weekend rather than a casual and formal workplace.
- 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 chinos or pants, in general, that pool around your ankles. Minding the length matters. We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: Don’t wear clothes that don’t fit you.
- Don’t experiment with different colored chinos if you aren’t ready. Wearing colors that aren’t basic and complimentary can be quite hard to match. Make sure your fashion knowledge is savvy enough to distinguish between what matches and what doesn’t.
- 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.
- Do be sure to wear clean shoes that aren’t beat up. These tips are all to ensure that you don’t inadvertently show up looking like you haven’t bought a new piece of clothing since college.
- 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.
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 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.
- Do opt for a tie every now and then. Ties aren’t strictly for business professional wardrobes, but they can easily elevate a business casual outfit, and the same is true for bow-ties.
- Do consider belts and making sure they match easily with your outfits. Leather belts are universal and should have a place in your closet set aside for them.
- Don’t buy cheaply made accessories. Quality has to be over quantity when it comes to watches, glasses, and bags. If you don’t have too much money, don’t worry. People usually just invest in these items over time, and you should, too!
Dressing for Business Professional
The business professional look is never complete without a suit and tie. This dress code demands a high level of perfection, and it starts with adopting a professional state of mind.
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 means you have the finances to invest in the wardrobe that comes with it.
As well as all the other types of business professional shirts, Nimble Made also specializes in quality dress shirts at an affordable price. 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 them in arrays of colors, letting you be able to style them with anything!
- Do learn the art of ironing. It will help you when your delicate clothing comes out wrinkled from the dryer.
- 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.
- 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
- Do wear pants that are fitted to you. Half the time, men believe that if it hangs on their legs securely, it fits. What it’s actually doing is making you look like you’re swimming in your clothes.
- Don’t wear jeans or any denim of any kind. You’ll have to leave the slim-fitted jeans at home for the weekend.
- Don’t iron your slacks. Some men may think that pants aren’t possible to get wrinkled, but anyone with business professional clothing knows that this is not the case. Of course, those with the financial means will just get their clothes dry cleaned, which works, too!
- 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.
- Do switch it up by buying different styles of oxford shoes like their boot counterpart. Once again, the variability of choices will help you in the long run.
- 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.
- Don’t buy square-toed shoes. The shape and design of them are clunky and hard to pair with. You’re better off sticking with simple designs that are universal and appealing.
- Do look into experimenting with different pocket squares in your blazer. Pocket squares have the ability to add a touch of color or design to your simple look.
- Do ensure that you have a nice collection of simple neckties to help bring your outfits together. 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.
Style Tips to Keep in Mind
Finding the right outfits for each situation will take some trial and error, but you’ll pick it up quickly. There are plenty of hacks and advice you can learn before moving forward with any purchases.
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.
Tips for Business Casual and Business Professional
- 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.
- Polo shirts are to be avoided. They may have collars, sure, but the effect is more of a golfing attitude than a working one.
- During winter, you can pair sweaters and cardigans over your collared shirts for a layered business casual look.
- 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.
- Once you’ve completed your wardrobe, you can begin to experiment with different types and colors of clothing.
- Keep to straightforward with simple colored patterns.
- Don’t wear any loud patterns that overwhelm your outfit.
- 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. So take advantage of it and find the clothing that accentuates your professionalism.