Any man can rock the formal look with ease, as long as he’s wearing a high-quality and well-fitting suit. The real challenge lies in mastering business casual—the grey area between full suit-and-tie dressing and the casual side of your closet. With such a wide range of possibilities, it can be difficult to nail down this elusive dress code. Whether you’re wearing business casual to an event, on a date, or in an informal office environment, acing this style test will set you apart from your peers and make you the best-dressed man in the room.
One catch: There are no clear rules here. Any number of casual men’s clothing items can be combined to count as “business casual.” To give you some inspiration, we’ve put together five key outfits that exemplify the business casual look. Use these ideas to hone your style skills and begin your journey toward mastering this dress code.
Business Casual Look #1: The Casual Pattern
We’ll start with the easiest business casual look to execute from the five listed here. You’ll notice that most of these looks start with a chinos-and-dress-shirt base and build from there; consider this combination your cheat code for starting any business casual look. For this classic outfit, take a patterned dress shirt—skip the tie and leave the top button undone—and pair it with belted dark navy chinos. Put on a pair of leather penny loafers or oxfords and add a cheery dress sock, if you’re feeling extravagant. Roll up your sleeves to the elbows if it’s warm, or consider swapping the dress shirt for a crew neck cashmere sweater if it’s not. That’s business casual right there in three easy steps. The most important factor here is fit—a perfectly fitted custom-made dress shirt will transform this look into something composed yet effortless.
Business Casual Look #2: Chambray and Chinos
This combo shows you can wear a tie and still fit the business casual bill. Start with classic beige chinos and add a casual take on the classic dress shirt: a denim button-down. Top it off with a textured necktie in a bold shade—bonus points for adding a touch of personality by opting for a crocheted or knitted tie. Throw on a pair of leather driving loafers sans socks and a coordinating leather belt. Add a v-neck cashmere or knit sweater for more warmth as needed. The key lesson here is to find ways to dress down formal elements with lighter touches to fit the business casual dress code.
Business Casual Look #3: The Blazer-and-Jeans Combo
This look illustrates how to dress down certain elements of your look while keeping others formal, effectively straddling the line between formal and casual dress. Pull on a crisp pair of dark wash jeans and add a solid blue oxford shirt with the top button (max two) undone. Don a pair of tan leather brogues, dress socks, and a sharp navy blazer to finish everything off. Add a stylish trench coat over everything to take this business casual look into the cooler months. This ensemble shows how elements like the blazer and shoes can take a casual outfit and lift it into the realm of business casual.
Business Casual Look #4: A Bold(er) Chino Pant
For another necktie-friendly look, start with a pair of bold blue chino pants over pristine white leather sneakers. Check out our primer on how to pair a suit with sneakers if you’re unsure about this strong style move. Throw on a striped dress shirt and a solid-colored silk necktie in red or another contrasting shade. Accessorize with your favorite tie bar, a leather belt, and no socks. This look shows a creative and intriguing side to business casual dress and can be made winter-friendly by substituting a pair of colorful corduroy trousers in place of the chinos.
Business Casual Look #5: The Statement Blazer
Every man’s closet feels incomplete without a perfect statement jacket. Our final look is an example of how you can give that statement a wider audience within the business casual sphere. Start with a solid pair of cream chinos, matching leathers, and inconspicuous dress socks. Experiment with a fresh substitute for the classic dress shirt by opting for a jersey button-down shirt with a band collar. The star of this show is a glen plaid statement blazer in a bold blue-and-violet print. Statement blazers are the perfect choice for business casual dress codes, thanks to their ability to dress down a formal look. If you’re looking to impress, this is the look for you.
Defining Business Casual for Men
By starting with a simple foundation of chino trousers and a classic dress shirt, you can go in any of hundreds of different directions with your business casual style. This guide is meant to be a starting place of inspiration for your own experimentation. Play around with the items already in your closet to create new and unique business casual looks, and don’t be afraid to push the limits. A precisely-fitted blazer or a pair of sneakers can both have their time to shine within this middle-ground dress code.
If you’re seeking a few new pieces to enhance your business casual wardrobe, schedule an appointment with your local Knot Standard showroom. Your personal stylist will work with you to craft chinos, shirts, blazers, and other casual essentials that fit you and your style perfectly. With these high-quality wardrobe staples and the five starter looks illustrated here, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the business casual look.