How to dress business casual

Do you want to dress correctly at work? Have you ever wondered what business casual means? Well, you’re about to learn.
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How to dress business casual depends on your type of job. The business you work for will set the bar on how casual you can be, but at no point does the ‘casual’ ever mean sloppy.

Business casual is a step down from business dress. I believe it’s important to know what business dress code is, so you don’t wrongly step into it.

What is business dress code?

Quickly, business dress is when you wear a suit, shirt and tie. A suit being matching colour jacket and trousers.

So, what’s business casual?

Business casual in a nut-shell is losing the suit and switching to a blazer or sports jacket, swapping the dress trousers (dress pants) for a pair of chinos or in recent times, a pair of dark denim jeans.

That it?

No, it gets complicated. Remember I said smart casual is dependent on your job? Let’s break it down into three main areas, white-collar workers, service professionals and those in a start-up.

Business Casual

White Collar Business Casual

If you’re a teacher, sales representative, corporate executive, doctor, solicitor, clergyman, pharmacist, finance manager or clerical worker – you’re considered a white-collar worker. There are others but you’ll get bored.

First off, your main piece will be a non-matching dark navy blazer, with dark horn buttons. I would avoid shiny metal buttons, such as gold or silver. Their heritage doesn’t stem back to business use. You can also wear a sports jacket, which is a more casual type of blazer. Sports jackets tend to be what I wear.

No suit, no jeans.

Instead, opt for chinos or dress pants. The colour cannot match your blazer or sports jacket, that would be a suit. Instead pick a contrasting colour, such as grey, light grey but not blue. You need contrast to make the outfit work. Cords are also good to wear in colder months.

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A sweater is a good choice to wear when it’s colder. Wear it over your shirt even with a necktie. Again go for a contrasting colour, nothing too bold.

If you’re wanting to inject some personality into your outfit – add a pocket square to the blazer. You could also swap out your leather watch strap for a nato one. This will give the outfit of a pop of colour.

Leather bag

You should keep the accessorising traditional. You’re fine to add cufflinks but stay away from leather bracelets, anchor bracelets – that sort of thing. Tie clips are great – a necessity really.

Your shoes should mostly always be brown, reddish browns work well such as oxblood. The type of shoe you wear is important: oxfords primarily, as well as derby shoes (pretty much the same just different lacing system). In the winter you can wear some oxford boots, great for the changing weather throughout the day. Especially here in England!

A leather shoulder messenger or clutch bag is an essential accessory for the business casual look. It keeps stuff out of your pocket, retaining that super awesome look you’ve got going on with your trousers.

Top all that off with a scarf and a pair of gloves.

No backpacks! Ever.

Service Business Casual

If you’re someone like me who runs a service business, selling an intangible product such as such as accounting, banking, consulting, cleaning, landscaping, web development, insurance etc. You fit under this umbrella. If, however, you’re in a start-up – skip to the next step.


But be mindful of this dress code as it will serve you well when you step it up a notch at client meetings.

  1. A blazer or sports jacket (optional).
  2. A dress shirt with a vest when worn without a blazer
  3. Tie (optional)
  4. Button down collared shirt
  5. Knitted woven tie
  6. No denim
  7. Chinos
  8. Sweater
  9. Cardigan
  10. No trainers. Brown – derbys, monk straps, loafers
  11. Canvas or weather / patinaed leather bag
  12. Overcoat

Start-Up Business Casual

Start-Up Business Casual

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If you’re in a startup then anything goes. However, you wouldn’t be reading this far if you didn’t want to dress business casual. It’s going to be to your advantage in doing so.

So let’s discuss how you can step it up a notch. I did touch on this in a previous blog, which I will link to here but I will summarise the points below.

  1. No t-shirts. Replace it with a polo shirt.
  2. No crocs, flip-flops. Wear boat shoes instead.
  3. No jeans. Wear chinos.


Personally, I own a peacoat and a quilted jacket. These are two perfect very versatile choices which are my go-tos on different days. The peacoat is great because it’s warm. Being double breasted it looks slimming and just looks amazing! The quilted jacket offers better protection from the rain and always looks smart.

I don’t own a trench coat, they’re similar to appearance to a peacoat, just without the warmth but they’re a fine choice to wear in the warmer months of the year and pair beautifully for the business casual look.

I hope that explains business casual and you’re now well informed.

If you’re still struggling, how about trying out a personal stylist to do the leg work you. Here check this out!


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