Do's and Dont's of Business Casual

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Common Business-Casual Dos & Dont's


Do: Wear Workwear

Even the hoity-toity etiquette experts at Debrett’s concede that “there are few occasions now, in these more casual times, where jeans are an absolute no-no”.


Don’t: Wear Just Workwear

As Debrett’s cautions, “The wrong pair of jeans will mark you out for all the wrong reasons.” They should be “cut well and not looking too old and shabby”.


Do: Be All Business

If in doubt about jeans, wear chinos or trousers; if in doubt about trainers, wear shoes. You can always take a tie off, but you can’t pull one out of thin air.


Don’t: Be All Casual

Enduring the inevitable quips about having a job interview because you’ve dressed too smartly is better than having to go to one because you haven’t.


Do: Dress Appropriately

Legendary designer Sir Hardy Amies defined businesswear by saying, “I suppose it really depends on what your business is.” A start-up will be far less rigid than a law firm.


Don’t: Dress Like A Worker Drone

Amies later undermines that by adding: “To be serious, it obviously means a suit made in a dark cloth, and a shirt and collar.” We respectfully disagree, sir.


Do: Nail Your Presentation

If you’re wearing casual pieces such as a T-shirt and trainers, they should be pristine and not worn, stained or anything you slob around in at home.


Don’t: Get Ink On Your Sleeve

Yes, times have changed, and this applies more to barristers than baristas, but think twice before unbuttoning your cuffs and uncovering your tattoos.


Do: Mix Textures

Worsted-wool business suits, poplin shirts and silk ties are smooth and shiny; the same items in coarser, matte fabrics have a different, more casual feel.


Don’t: Mix Business & Athleisure

Sporty polo shirts, trainers and crew neck sweatshirts (not hoodies) can work, but not anything that you might work out in. Mamil toe is a HR issue.


Do: Change Your Working Patterns

Like coarse textures and light colours, patterns typically have the effect of making otherwise smart pieces feel more casual than solid options.


Don’t: Wear Pinstripes

Unless they’re in a very casual – and ‘fashion’ – outfit (e.g. pinstripe trousers, T-shirt and trainers), they shout ‘business’.


Do: Check Your Schedule

No meetings with internal bigwigs or external clients? The coast, like your diary, is clear to go more casual. Maybe keep a blazer handy, though, just in case.


Don’t: Take A Casual Approach

As with open-plan offices, it was assumed that business-casual would increase productivity, but studies suggest that the opposite is true.


Do: Add Attachments

They’re by no means ‘essentials’ (few fashion items are), but a good metal watch and a leather bag will add some polish to the most casual of rigs.


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