Guide to Business Casual for Men

October 23, 2019 9 min read

Guide to Business Casual for Men

Men of all walks of life know that you need to do more than simply show up to make a statement. The clothes you wear to any event speak greatly about your style, confidence and integrity. At Penner's, we believe all men should know how to dress appropriately for every occasion. We've created this guide to act as a business casual dress code for men who want to look their best, feel comfortable and present themselves in the best way possible.

In this helpful guide, we'll shine a light on different business casual events, teach you how to identify when business casual attire is needed and show you some of our best business casual styles for men. First, let's define what is business casual for men and how this attire may vary depending on the situation.

What Is Business Casual for Men?

The term "business casual" is not foreign to most men. Whether it's the dress code at work or the requested attire for a private gathering, there's a good probability that many guys have been asked to wear their business casual apparel. When asked to define business casual, however, many men may have a differing opinion. Some guys think high-quality jeans fall under this definition while others believe business casual is a step down from a tie but a step up from denim.

The business casual style didn't exist until the mid-1960s when casual attire was worn only around the home. A Hawaiian shirt company's marketing strategy led to the popularity of "Aloha Fridays" around the country, which allowed professional men in the workplace to wear Hawaiian shirts on Fridays. Nearly 30 years later, casual wear in the office became more acceptable with the growing popularity of khaki pants, polo shirts, sports jackets and chinos as a substitute for the traditional business formal attire.

What is Business Casual?

Business casual is a style that varies depending on the context, corporate dress code and personal opinion. Traditionally, business casual wear includes wool, cotton or khaki pants, collared shirts, sweaters, leather shoes that match a leather belt and an optional tie. Essentially, it dresses the man down from a business suit yet stays away from jeans, athletic shoes, T-shirts and other attire deemed too casual for the workplace. Men should be presentable, too, with neat hair and trimmed facial hair.

Some believe that aspects of a business professional and business casual attire up for debate. Business professional attire may require professional shoes, dark socks, long sleeve shirts, a conservative tie and dress slacks. Others simply state that as long as the man looks presentable and is not wearing jeans, shorts, T-shirts or sneakers, anything is fair game. When in doubt, we always recommend that you dress conservatively and stray on the side of too formal rather than too informal to ensure you make a good impression.

Business Casual in 2019

With no clear-cut definition of business casual, and a changing workplace landscape, which includes an increasingly relaxed dress code in some offices, it's important to know how to best fit the general mold of business casual in today's business environment. Although the hallmarks of most business casual styles will be common in many offices, some employers may define business casual with more nuance. For example, burgeoning industries like technology and marketing are often more casual from day to day than more traditional fields like finance, legal and business.

Dress to match the business casual style of others in your industry and choose your attire based on your individual role and experience level. New employees should definitely lean more conservatively until they discover the limits of the business casual dress code their employers have set. Similarly, those in supervisory roles should also dress more formally than informally in their business casual attire to set a good example for their staff and as a representative of the company.

When to Wear Business Casual Attire

Business casual is common in many workplaces, but these aren't the only contexts in which you'll need to wear business casual attire. With such a wide definition within the workplace, you should already assume that the definition of business casual attire outside of the office is just as diverse. Knowing which business casual attire to wear in scenarios like celebrations, work-related events and other gatherings will help you look your best without looking out of place.

When to Wear Business Casual Attire

  • Specific social gatherings: Have you ever received an invitation to a gathering that isn't quite as informal as a party with close friends but not as formal as a night at the theater? Some social gatherings of high importance will require formal attire but there are other less serious engagements that call for a business casual dress code for men. A performance at your child's school, a meeting with coaches or teachers and real estate viewings are excellent times to wear a dress shirt and nice pants.
  • Professional events: When you think of professional events, gatherings with coworkers surely come to mind. Yes, business casual outfits for men should be worn for these engagements, but many other professional events warrant the same attire. Networking events, conferences, seminars, continuing education classes, alumni meetings and other similar activities will usually expect attendees to wear more than just casual clothing.
  • Celebrations: Who doesn't love a party? Whether it's a graduation, birthday, anniversary, retirement or any other occasion, there's a chance your invitation will not include a dress code suggestion. Business casual is a great option — lean conservative if the get together is at a restaurant or country club or feel free to shift towards informal if the celebration is at a home, park or other relaxed environment. No matter how others may be dressed, your business casual outfit will help you fit in with other guests' attire.
  • No dress code stated: Here's a tricky scenario — you're invited to an event or party but there is no dress code stated on the invitation. Although you could ask others who are attending what they plan on wearing, you chance following them into a wardrobe mishap. When there is no dress code and you're unsure of how casual or semi-formal you should look, it's always best to break out your business casual attire so you'll feel comfortable and look presentable.


Now that you have an idea of what business casual is for men and when you should choose the collared shirt and khakis over a T-shirt and jeans, it's time to start gathering outfit ideas for your closet. Business casual outfits for men cater to a range of styles and sizes. Even if you're used to wearing a suit or more comfortable with shorts and a Guayabera, you should have at least three or four different business casual outfits in your closet for these engagements.

Best Business Casual Styles for Men

Although most assume that business casual clothing is geared toward the workplace, it's important to be prepared for the events above — especially since they may be held indoors or outdoors at various times of the year. With so many unique opportunities to wear your business casual attire, you should be prepared for any occasion with at least a handful of go-to outfits that will meet the business casual standard and align well within particular contexts. Consider these business casual outfits for men.

1. Safe for the Workplace Business Casual Dress Code for Men

If you're like most professionals, you'll need at least a few business casual outfits for the office — even if your team typically wears more formal clothing. It's always good to begin by purchasing a few standard business casual items that you can mix and match to create multiple outfits. Choose two or three matching sets of pants and sport coats with a dress shirt that is lighter or darker than the set. Purchase two pairs of casual shoes in neutral colors to pair with many outfits.

Purchase your shoes and belts together to ensure that they match. Socks and suspenders are also good to have on hand, provided that they match your outfits as well. When in doubt, remember two things — always choose more formal or conservative attire and refrain from mismatching your attire. Belts and shoes of two different leather colors, for example, will clash. When in doubt, trust the neutral options you've selected to look put together well in the workplace.

2. Keeping Cool and Business Casual

Let's step out of the workplace and consider social gatherings that lean to the informal side. From graduation and retirement parties to outdoor events, summer usually heats up with a handful of engagements that require more than shorts, flip flops and T-shirts. There's one very casual example of business casual dress that's ideal for warmer weather — the dress shirt and slacks combo. Leaving the tie and the jacket at home, a dress shirt and nice pair of pants are cooler business casual options.

Swap your sport shirt for a light colored dress shirt that will keep you cooler than darker colors. For bottoms, we suggest either a pair of Dockers Signature Khaki pants or a pair of 100% pure linen pants that make you one with the summer breeze. Slip on a pair of Dockers shoes to match the pants or even a pair of Hush Puppies. Whichever shoes you choose, match them with the same color belt.

During some special occasions, like a beach wedding or celebration at a park, feel free to add a hat to your business casual outfit. You may be able to pull off one of our Stetson or Genuine Panama hats, but remember that hats are only appropriate in certain contexts. When in doubt, either remove your hat when you enter into a function or leave it at home to ensure you show no disrespect.

3. Warming Up With Business Casual Attire for Men

Just as you'll be invited to gatherings in the summer, you'll also want to have proper business casual attire ready for the winter months. Although you can count on a good winter coat to keep your appearance stylish yet professional on the go, it's always good to have a few warmer business casual items in your closet to wear indoors. Holiday parties are just one of the many occasions when cozy business casual clothing is ideal.

Cardigans and Sweaters are Great for Warm Business Casual Wear

Choosing a business casual outfit during the colder months is not difficult. Start with what you'd normally wear in a business casual setting — a dress shirt, dress pants and dress shoes. Instead of pulling a jacket or blazer out of your closet, opt for knit. A cardigan or sweater is comfortable, warming and still within the business casual dress code for men. Add some additional style with a tie and choose wool or cotton socks to pair with your outfit.

4. Business Casual for High-Profile Events

Depending on the event or the conventional viewpoints of those in attendance, some business casual outfits simply won't make the cut. Even though the occasion may be listed as "business casual," you want to come ready to stand out in the right way. We suggest the simplest business casual attire that most men already own — a suit without a tie. It's one level beneath formal attire yet still highly appropriate for more distinguished spaces that hope to create a relaxed setting.

As always, make sure your dress shirt, pants and jacket are wrinkle-free. Consider wearing a piece of jewelry, like a watch or cuff links, that's respectable but not flashy. If you really want to make an impression, we suggest getting a custom suit tailored just for these occasions. Since many men either have suits solely for weekly work or exclusively for special engagements like weddings, a custom lightweight wool suit provides you with a nice outfit that's perfect for business casual and formal functions.

5. Business Casual for Your Style

If you've looked at all the business casual outfits for men above but still feel like you want one more unique clothing option to really capture your style, we have just the suggestion. You could choose a Hawaiian shirt for your company's Aloha Friday, or you could really stand out with a great looking guayabera shirt. Although these casual short sleeve shirts are perfect for oceanside activities, the long sleeve guayabera shirt lends a little more formality. Available in muted colors, they are great alternative business casual options.

Regardless of which pants, dress shirts and shoes you prefer, it's important that you meet the proper attire expected at work, events or other engagements. However, we also believe that all men should present themselves proudly whenever they walk into a room. At Penner's, our team of professional tailors and clothiers will help you feel comfortable and confident no matter your size or style. Our business casual outfits for men are catered to your style and designed to fit the mold of business casual for any occasion.

Business Casual Attire for Men at Penner's

What is business casual for men? In our opinion, it's a selection of attire that ranges from relaxed, respectable wear to stylish yet professional outfits that fall just short of a formal look. Since one company's definition of business casual may be vastly different than the opinions of those requesting a business casual dress code at special events, we recommend having at least three to five unique outfits on hand that cover the spectrum of what is usually expected in business casual contexts.

Men's Business Casual Attire at Penner's

Let us help you perfect your own business casual style. Give us a call or stop by our store and browse our amazing selection of business casual attire for men.