Having spent the past year and a bit adjusting to a new normal of working from home, it's safe to say that our approach to getting dressed for work has completely changed. Suits have been replaced with sweats as comfort has taken priority and concerns about appearance have diminished. But what does our newfound obsession with loungewear mean for the future of workwear? Now that offices are beginning to reopen, we find ourselves in a quandary, with a need to renegotiate and redefine office attire.
The answer lies in business casual – the workplace dress code du jour. Read on for everything you need to know about business casual – including exactly how to master it.
What is business casual?
The business casual dress code is an elusive concept that many struggle to grasp. As its name suggests, it sits somewhere between formal business attire and more relaxed, everyday garb. The key to mastering business casual is to give weight to both sides, ensuring equal parts comfort and professionalism. Your look should serve you just as well for having an important meeting with your boss as for heading for a post-work pint.
When in doubt, it's better to err towards the more polished 'business' look rather than casual – you can always remove a jacket or tie if you feel too uncomfortable or stuffy. Classic, tailored cuts and smart neutral hues will give you an air of sophistication – as will a collar.
What counts as business casual?
While pre-lockdown business professional dress codes meant suits and ties, business casual offers more nuance and the potential to inject a bit more personality. Invest in high quality staples that can transcend dress codes – think crisp white Oxford shirt, deconstructed blazer and high quality chinos in a neutral colour. An unstructured suit is another great call – give it a casual edge with a crisp plain white tee underneath.
If you really want to wear jeans, make sure they're smart: darker indigo or black hues tend to work well in office settings. Some companies don't allow jeans to be worn, even with a smart casual dress code, so make sure you double check your company's policies.
When it comes to footwear, closed toe shoes are a must: dress shoes such as brogues, derbies and loafers are ideal. If you can't fathom abandoning your beloved sneaker collection, opt for minimalist leather sneakers with a sleek and simple silhouette in a classic shade like navy or white.
What not to wear for business casual
Save loud shirts and tees, flip flops and shorts for your summer holidays and sweatpants and running shoes for the gym. Avoid ripped, bleached or overly tight jeans. Steer clear of threadbare T-shirts and ragged trainers. And finally, it should go without saying, but you'll freak your colleagues out if you rock up to work in a tux.
The best business casual buys
L'Estrange All Day Oxford Shirt
London-based label L'Estrange is the ultimate go-to for premium, made-to-last staples that you'll wear on repeat. Case in point: this reengineered Oxford shirt, made from luxuriously soft cotton with 2% elastane for increased movement and stretch. A looser than average weave gives it superior softness.
Luca Faloni Dolomite Grey Chunky Knit Cashmere Cardigan
Luca Faloni's shawl collar cardigan is crafted in Northern Italy from 100% four-ply cashmere from the prestigious Cariaggi Fine Yarns Collection, making it as luxurious as they come. The streamlined silhouette and distinguished shawl collar lend it a sense of sophistication, making it perfect for bridging the gap between business and casual.
SIRPLUS Navy Brushed Cotton Blazer
You can never go wrong with an unstructured blazer in an office setting. SIRPLUS makes some of the best we've come across: theirs is made from soft brushed organic cotton and features a relaxed fit with patch pockets and sustainable corozo nut buttons. Team it with SIRPLUS' matching trousers.
Myrqvist Orust Black Calf Derbies
These Myrvist derbies are as sturdy as they are stylish, thanks to their double studded rubber sole and Goodyear welted construction. They'll have you looking the part, with undeniably sleek open lacing and punching running all the way from the front to the rear.
NOMOS Glashütte Orion Neomatik 41
A return to the office calls for an impressive timepiece that will complement the rest of your attire but never distract from it. Enter NOMOS Glashütte's Orion Neomatik 41, which has been recently upgraded with an entirely new caliber with a date function. The slender silhouette lends it a sense of timeless elegance. This is a watch that you'll cherish for decades to come.
Mismo M/S Soft Work Bag
A practical yet stylish bag is a must-have for carting all your work essentials to and from the office. Mismo's M/S Soft Work Bag is ideal thanks to its roomy interior, multiple pockets and easy folded top closure. The aesthetic is clean and sophisticated yet casual enough for everyday use. The detachable shoulder strap allows you to wear it as a crossbody bag when on the move, and can be neatly removed and carried by the handles when you want to make the right impression.