We’ve got some good news for all the fashion-forward men out there: business fashion has changed. It’s out with uniform poorly fitted suits and shiny briefcases and in with “business casual”. That’s right, creative and personalised fashion has finally made its way into conference rooms and offices.
But what is casual business attire? This often dangerously ambiguous and tricky-to-get-right dress code comes with its own sartorial blind spots. Combining business and casual, and without any clear styling parameters, the corporate version of smart-casual has many dapper gents reeling with bewilderment.
In this post, we take casual business attire head on and show you how to dress to impress through smart styling. Whether you work for a highbrow law firm or a trendy new tech startup, we’ve got you covered, so that you stay a cut above the crowd and never fall foul to fashion.
A Brief Sartorial History of Casual Business Attire
Alongside profile pictures, self-branding and news feeds at a click of a button, we have the 80’s tech boom to thank for the new standards of professional style. These digital innovators from Silicon Valley set out to change the way we do business. It was out with the Patrick Bateman-style corporate bravado, and in its place a culture of transparency and inclusivity with a laid-back approach. Spearheaded by the likes of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, the new age of business also dawned a new age of professional style — the now iconic pairings of black roll necks with jeans or hoodies and flip-flops.
You may not be a fan of either gents’ personal take on business style, but their contribution to the creation of a new business aesthetic shouldn’t be underestimated. Now, what you wear to work is a statement. You’re no longer expected to fit in among a sea of black or navy suits but are instead pushed to express your own personal brand. It’s a more diverse, creative and personalised approach to fashion that reflects the changing standards of business and corporate culture.
Today, business casual has seeped into even the most traditional institutions. In 2017, members of Parliament were told to wear “business-like attire”, while the leaders of the G8 summit were told to don “smart casual”. It seems everyone is getting in on the new business styling. But does that mean that business fashion is a free-for-all, where anything goes and the more flamboyant, the better? In short, no. There’s a fine line between successful casual business attire and utter failure. Moreover, casual dressing doesn’t mean that you can’t look sharp, stylish and professional.
Here are our top tips for hitting that sartorial sweet spot between creative casual and business professional.
Stick to the Classics: The Suit
The suit’s sartorial legacy reaches back centuries and has long been the item of choice for all things business. And when it comes to casual business attire, the same rules apply: you can’t go wrong with a suit. To pull off a more relaxed approach to your professional look you need to invest in a solid foundation, and a suit is the perfect place to start. Versatile and iconic, a suit is an easy and effective way to get that sharp, ready-for-action look.
But don’t feel confined to the same poor-quality and all too shiny cookie-cutter suits of the past. Instead, mix up the fabric and colours of your suit to get a more personalised look. Tweed is an excellent choice. Did you know that tweed was the official fabric for casual Fridays in the 19th century? Back then, professional gents would don their tweeds on Friday so that they could make a quick dash to the train station and whizz off to their country estates without the need for a costume change — and that’s how casual Fridays were born.
Our Country Brown Windowpane Tweed Two-Piece pays homage to this slice of sartorial history. Made from the highest-quality tweed wool and finished with a modern cut, this suit channels elegance and durability and gives both a professional and “off-duty” look in one fell swoop.
Let Loose: The Jacket
We all know that a pairing a tailored jacket with a casual outfit is a great way to elevate your look. But, when it comes to casual business attire, not all jackets are made equal. A double-breasted, gold-buttoned blazer worn with a t-shirt and jeans will make you look more preppy school kid than bonafide professional.
So ditch the rigid jackets and opt for something a little less structured. Casual business attire has no place for shoulder pads and large lapels: it’s all minimalist lines and slim-fit cuts. When choosing your jacket, check how it fits. You want to streamline your frame by getting a jacket that fits square and snug, doesn’t peak at the shoulders and has a shorter fit, so that its sleeves end above your cuff line and the back cuts off just below your hips.
To get the look, try matching our Retro Brown Plaid Tweed Jacket with a jumper and chinos.
Button-up Creatively: The Shirt
Shirts are the easiest way of transforming an outfit, yet all too many of us get stuck in a sartorial rut. It doesn’t have to be all stiff collars and sparkling whites, you know. Separate yourself from the crowd by mixing up your colour combinations. Pastel blues, pinks, greens and purples are all great choices for adding a dash of colour to your look without going OTT.
Another, often underestimated, way of switching up your styling is to opt for different shirt fabrics and cuts. Ditch the shiny poplin fabrics and go for Oxford cloth or chambray for a casual twist. For a cool modern vibe, put away the standard white button-down and sub in Mandarin and collarless shirts. Not only are these shirt styles super on-trend right now, but they’re also easy to wear without a tie, so they work perfectly for a more laid-back look.
If you’re going all in on the casual look, a polo shirt is a good option. Just remember to pair it with some tailored trousers and a good jacket.
Don’t Get Carried Away: The Trousers
Remember how we said that there are still some unspoken rules to casual business style? Well, here’s the most important — business casual attire does not include distressed denim, leather, three-quarter length or ripped knee trousers. For this look, you need to go simple and classic. If you’re opting for jeans, go for dark blue or black denim with a slim fit. Steer clear of any indie-looking skinny jeans or overly baggy jeans — no one should ever see your underwear in the office!
If you opt for chinos, go muted. Bold, garish colours belong on a yacht in San Tropez, not in the office. Remember that front flaps and roll-ups give off a more casual look, and pleats and creases cast a more formal air. So dress accordingly. Tailored trousers are also a good bet when matched with casual items. Our Classic Navy Barleycorn Tweed Trousers work brilliantly with jumpers and shirts alike.
Get the Balance Right
Ultimately, business casual is all about balancing and harmonising the different items that make up your outfit. Tip too far into casual vibes and you’ll struggle to convince your colleagues and clients that you mean business. Err on the side of formality and you’ll look out of place in the modern workplace.
Keep the scales even — if you wear a polo shirt and loafers, add tailored trousers to smarten up your look. If you don a blazer and shirt, tone it down with some chinos. If you get the balance right, you can’t go wrong!
Browse our full collection of tweed suits, jackets and trousers to nail your business casual look.