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The Ultimate Guide to Business Casual Attire for Men

Business Casual Attire for Men 01 Hero

It’s true that sometimes, work can be a drag — there’s often no way around it. And to make matters worse, you may be one of the unlucky few who has to spend hours preening in front of the mirror each day before heading in, just to keep up with your fellow “businesswear” mavens. While there is a small selection of modern companies that thrive upon the idea of casual clothing being worn to the workplace (Facebook, Google, etc.), there’s no doubt that until a few decades ago (and possibly even later), dressing down was synonymous with a lack of self-esteem, a subscription to laziness, and figuratively “throwing in the towel.”

The meaning of “business casual” is about as defined as most people’s taste in music — it’s either classically inclined, immovable, and no longer susceptible to influence; or it’s entirely malleable and open to reformation. If you’re a denizen of the modern workplace, you’ve been indubitably exposed to the advantageous team-building/marketing trend known as “Casual Fridays,” during which, a majority of the world’s workforce throws on the most comfortable article(s) of clothing they can find for a day of rest, relaxation, and debatable productivity. If you’re fortunate enough to be one of the lucky employees who isn’t forced to dress to the nines, each day, then this guide is for you — a synopsis of the greatest marketing ploy to ever grace the white-collar world, and a historical rundown of how our favorite Friday function came into prominence as the most recognized workday, the world over. Below, we’ll touch on what casual workwear is, and what it isn’t, and augment your understanding with a healthy dose of history regarding the business world’s transition into the realm of lackadaisical attire. Then, we’ll guide you through a few tailored scenarios that will give you a better understanding of what to look for when picking up a head-turning set of fashionable workplace essentials.

Men’s Business Casual Attire Breakdown

What Is Business Casual?

The term “business casual” has seen an unprecedented amount of popularization in the recent decade. While it wasn’t until the late 1980s that the idea of dressing down began to infiltrate the bloodstream of white-collar businesses everywhere, the history of the trend is surprisingly abstract — spanning the entirety of the 1900s and hitting the cusp of its conceptualization sometime around the middle of the century. In an anachronistic attempt to “stick it to the man,” tech startups and successful firms that had been birthed in California’s tech hub, Silicon Valley, began to reject the bland normality that had been etched into the annals of history by their 18th-century progenitors — plaid shirts, disheveled khakis, and Adidas sneakers demarcated the realm of America’s new working class.

This idealistic trend painted a picture of successful individuals who didn’t need a suit and tie to change the ideals of the American workplace. But these firms and startups weren’t the first to adopt the idea of casualized workwear. Years earlier, the Hawaiian Fashion Guild implemented a similar train of thought. “Aloha Fridays,” as the movement would come to be known, were likely the first iteration of standardized casualization within the white-collar workspace. Instead of cashmere blazers and sharp-creased slacks, workers were encouraged to wear their favorite button-up, Hawaiian-style shirt alongside other streamlined attire in an effort to boost team morale, provide an informal end to the workweek, and promote camaraderie within the workplace. Eventually, news of this phenomenon spread to companies that were looking to provide a similar work experience, and after being nominally adopted by Silicon Valley’s most influential businesses in the 1980s, the trend began to redact what history had emblazoned as formal, professional attire.

Our selection

Let’s put this out there — the first rule of business casual is to abstain from literalization. As with anything, moderation is key, and with a term as loosely defined as “informal workplace attire,” it’s helpful to understand that there’s a lot of room for misunderstanding. The goal here is not to reject the world of formalized business wear — instead, we’ll begin with a collective embrace of a foundation that has already been established, utilizing a number of minor tweaks and changes to make it more personalized, comfortable, and efficient. Tasteful dress is still the name of the game.

At its foundation, the idea of casual attire cannot be confined to one single, preconceived notion — that kind of attitude is a rebuttal of the movement’s original concept. Always remember: business casual was created to promote individuality, self-expression, and creativity — but you should always err toward a professional style.

Attire Breakdown


Norse Projects Sigfred Merino Lambswool Sweater

Why It Made the Cut
  • Boasting Nordic minimalism and plush lambswool, this sweater is the perfect versatile pick (and makes a great layer).

Best Sweater: Norse Projects’ Sigfred Lambswool sweater takes a classic collegiate style and combines it with a premium Italian lambswool construction. It features set-in sleeves and a single-rib collar, hem, and cuffs, and it can easily be dressed up for a more professional look, or dressed down if you’re staying casual.

Material: 100% Merino wool
Fit: Regular


Why It Made the Cut
  • This laid-back, full-zip sweater is insanely comfortable, and works in both casual and professional settings.

Runner-Up: Belstaff’s Slim-Fit Ribbed Cotton Zip-up Cardigan is an essential piece of workplace attire. Whether you’re administering it for casual or professional occasions, this tasteful black cotton cardigan features a style-conscious funnel neck, an appliquéd designer emblem, well-placed zip fastening, and an 85/25 cotton/wool construction that puts comfortability at the top of its list of priorities.

Material: 85% cotton, 15% wool
Fit: Regular


Gitman Vintage Oxford

Gitman Vintage Oxford
Why It Made the Cut
  • This label is an undisputed expert at crafting high-quality, USA-made dress shirts, so you can trust they have you covered.

Best Shirt: Since 1978, this offshoot of the legendary shirt manufacturer Gitman Bros has been making dress shirts with impressive attention to detail, using a seasonal rotation of quality fabrics. From the thoughtfully designed unlined collar and cuffs, to the button placement and the use of premium soft fabric, these shirts leave little to be desired.

Material: 100% cotton
Fit: Standard

J.Crew Slim Broken-In Organic Cotton Oxford Shirt

J Crew Slim Broken in organic cotton oxford shirt
Why It Made the Cut
  • J.Crew is a legend in the menswear space, with Ivy League-inspired staples like this Oxford shirt.

Runner-Up: J.Crew has your back if you’re looking for ultra-fine style at an affordable price point, and their Organic Cotton Oxford is the quintessential shirt that’s in reach for any casually dressed man. Utilizing a cotton construction, button-down collar, and sustainably sourced organic cotton, this mechanical stretch garment provides its wearer with the ultimate in Ivy League heritage.

Material: 100% organic cotton
Fit: Standard


Officine Générale Hugo Corduroy Pants

Officine Generale Hugo Corduroy Pants
Why It Made the Cut
  • Few pants are as versatile as a pair of corduroys (from both a style and comfort perspective).

Best Pants: Officine Generale might have struck gold with these Hugo Corduroy Trousers, which provide a near-perfect fit and quintessential style at an attractive price point. Classic-styled belt loops, four external pockets, unfinished hems, and traditionally placed button fastenings come together to create the perfect pair of casual office pants.

Material: 74% cotton 24% model 2% elastane
Fit: Loose

Club Monaco Connor Slim-Fit Cotton-Twill Chinos

Club Monaco Connor Slim Fit Cotton Twill Chinos
Why It Made the Cut
  • Chinos are another incredibly versatile choice, and these feature some elastane for added comfort.

Runner-Up: Club Monaco’s Connor Slim-fit Cotton-Twill Chinos are unquestionably refined. They’re made with crisp, mid-weight cotton and feature an elastane and cotton mixture for an increasingly slim fit. Business-style belt loops adorn the waistband, alongside classic slash pockets and button-through welt pockets on the rear of the pant — providing wearers with an adaptable pair of tailored alternatives to the traditional slack.

Material: 97% cotton, 3% elastane
Fit: Slim-cut


Topman Skinny Fit Textured Suit Jacket

Topman Skinny Fit Textured Suit Jacket
Why It Made the Cut
  • Take this as your no-nonsense, all-arounder blazer that has a modern slim fit and a textured look.

Best Blazer: Topman always has the fashion-forward guy in mind, and this Textured Suit Jacket shows that a sharp appearance is easily attainable. A slim, tailored fit and single-breasted opening keep you looking well put together, while a Notch lapel, two-button fastening, and a tastefully textured fabrication work cohesively to bring you one of the best multipurpose blazers on the market.

Material: 66% polyester, 34% viscose
Fit: Slim
Lined?: Yes

Paul Smith Easy-Fit Wool-Cashmere Blazer

Paul Smith Easy Fit Wool Cashmere Blazer
Why It Made the Cut
  • This is a more luxurious pick from the legendary Paul Smith, made in Italy with a soft wool and cashmere blend.

Runner-Up: Paul Smith’s designs have helped to reshape the way the world sees casual workwear, and the Grey Wool Suit Jacket is a prime example of well-made attire. A wool and cashmere blend provides a comfortable, form-fitting silhouette while contrasting green stitching, Notch lapels, functioning buttons, and a diverse selection of welt/patch pockets define this perfect mid-range coat.

Material: 90% cashmere, 10% cashmere
Fit: Slightly straight
Lined?: Buggy lining

Dress Sneakers

To Boot New York Pacer Mid Brown Suede Sneaker

To Boot New York Pacer
Why It Made the Cut
  • With a cushioned footbed and a premium suede upper, these Italian-made sneakers from To Boot New York strike the perfect business casual balance.

Best Dress Sneakers: To Boot New York’s Pacer is made with a premium Italian-made silhouette that cleverly combines casual and professional wear, featuring a soft suede upper and a cushioned footbed for added comfort. And you can easily transition from the office to the city thanks to the low profile and versatile design.

Upper: Suede
Outsole: Rubber

Thursday Boots Premier Low Top

Thursday Boots Premier Low Top
Why It Made the Cut
  • These full-grain leather sneakers from Thursday Boots have shock-absorbant footbeds, and come in a variety of build options for a personal look.

Runner-Up: Thursday Boot’s Low Top sneaker is a very tasteful pick, and features a premium full-grain leather upper, natural Vachetta leather insoles, and shock-absorbant footbeds to make sure you’re getting just as much support as you are style assistance.

Upper: Full-grain leather
Outsole: Rubber


Buck Mason Herdsman Shawl Cardigan

Buck Mason Herdsman Shawl Cardigan
Why It Made the Cut
  • Buck Mason always delivers reliable and comfortable pieces, like this roomy shawl cardigan.

Best Cardigan: Buck Mason calls upon a yarn-dyed blend of Merino and cashmere that’ll keep you warm on cold days and garment-washed it for added softness. The relaxed fit of this cardigan has a roomy feel and is certainly true to the garment’s roots, and it’s finished with two front pockets and horn buttons. 

Material: Merino wool, cashmere
Fit: Relaxed

Tom Ford Linked Rib Shawl Collar

Tom Ford Linked Rib Shawl Collar
Why It Made the Cut
  • For those that like the finer things, this luxurious cardigan from Tom Ford is Italian-made and oozing class.

Runner-Up: If you want the finest cardigan the industry has to offer, look no further than Tom Ford’s Linked Rib Shawl-Collar — an iconic silhouette that symbolizes tasteful craftsmanship and impeccable style. Constructed from 90% Merino and 10% Mulberry silk, this five-gauge, Italian-made garment offers a classic fit and fully fashioned construction that personifies the designer’s commitment to tasteful, functional menswear.

Material: 90% Merino, 10% Mulberry Silk
Fit: Classic


Common Projects Suede Chelsea Boots

Why It Made the Cut
  • As far as footwear goes, few silhouettes fit business casual as well as the Chelsea boot.

Best Boots: Common Projects’ primary interest with the Chelsea Boot is the creation of a durable, stylish, and classic piece of footwear that can be worn anywhere from the office to the bar. These tasteful trademarks feature suede uppers, elasticated side panels, a leather lining and midsole, and a rubber Crepe outsole for an exceedingly handsome look. To top it all off, they’re built and crafted in Italy by the most talented shoemakers around.

Upper: Suede
Outsole: Rubber

George Cleverly Balmoral Leather Lace-Up Boots

GEORGE CLEVERLEY Balmoral Leather Lace Up Boots
Why It Made the Cut
  • Made in England with supple calf leather, these boots from George Cleverly will look good pretty much anywhere.

Runner-Up: George Cleverley is a renowned name in menswear, and the William Cap-Toe Horween Shell Leather Boots are a testament to well-fashioned footwear. Featuring impeccably sourced black polished calf leather, pull tabs, leather linings, and Dainite rubber soles, these lace-up classics fit the bill for any and all casual/professional applications.

Upper: Leather
Outsole: Rubber


Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto

Why It Made the Cut
  • Hamilton captures classic American design in this modern reimagining of a truly timeless timepiece.

Best Watch: This Hamilton watch is based on the 1960s Intra-Matic and features a domed sapphire crystal, premium ETA 2892-2-based movement, and impressive attention to detail (which you can see in the minute hand that runs along the edge of the dial).

Case Size: 38mm
Movement: Automatic
Crystal: Sapphire

Seiko Presage Cocktail Time

Why It Made the Cut
  • We’re big fans of Seiko over here, and this dress watch is one of the best you can get at this price range.

Runner-Up: With a striking ice-blue radial sunburst dial, this Seiko dress watch is quite the looker. And the faceted dauphine hands, polished shark tooth indices, and dark blue leather strap tie it all together. You really can never go wrong with Seiko (especially at this price point).

Case Size: 40.5mm
Movement: Automatic
Crystal: Hardlex

The Best Men’s Style Essentials for Going Back to the Office

Mens Office Style Essentials 01 Hero

We cover some more business casual apparel over on our guide to the best men’s style essentials for going back to the office, along with some more professional picks if that’s what you’re looking for.