Of all the annoying dress codes in menswear – and there are plenty – business-casual is the most opaque, the most open to interpretation and pretty much the only one that could you get you a call from HR. It’s because the modern workplace is changing. Businesses across the board are adopting more casual forms of dressing, which is a welcome shift. Nobody wants to do overtime in a three-piece suit. Hitting this constantly moving target is, however, worthy of a bonus in itself. Generally speaking, it’s a tailored look, but one that’s soft and comfortable, not so buttoned-up. At the same time, not even Mark Zuckerburg will turn up to the office in sweatpants. we had a thought shower, blue-skied some business-casual outfits that give 110 per cent and now we’re ready to circle back with modern, failsafe looks that you can run up the flagpole.
If in doubt, go for separates. They’ve long been an indication the wearer is dressing down, or at least aiming to look less formal than they would be wearing a full suit. In days gone past, separates may have been worn on casual Friday, but nowadays they’re something close to the ultimate business-casual outfit. It’s a versatile look. With separates you’ll have a tailored silhouette, but one that can easily be worn to the bar after work, or on a date later that evening (after you’ve closed a boardroom deal during the day of course). It’s something about the mix of fabrics and shades in the top and bottom half that gives everything a slightly more casual feel. The best thing about separates occurs when you remove the tie. Do this on a suit and it’ll often look sloppy and like you’ve forgotten to wear one. With separates though it looks like a choice, and one that works thanks to the more laid back nature of the contrasting jacket and trousers.
Wear Denim To The Office
For most men, a denim shirt is squarely filed under casual wardrobe, to be worn only on the weekend. Most men however are missing a trick. That’s good news for you though: mastery of this often ignored design ensures people notice when you clock in. It should go without saying that a denim shirt will reduce the formality of your outfit. So, if sartorial dissent is likely to land you in hot water, avoid. This is a move for offices that genuinely embrace more casual dress, not those that half-heartedly suggest dressed-down Friday. For the rest of you there are plenty of options. In summer try putting a pale blue denim design (sans tie) beneath a pale camel suit and finish the look with black penny loafers. When cooler weather arrives, go for a darker denim and a thicker material. Team with a burgundy knitted tie, a midnight blue suit and the same loafers. That’s not all the denim shirt can do either, it’s skilled at sprucing up separates. Try teaming a mid-blue denim design with a brown double breasted blazer, grey flecked formal trousers and black derby shoes for a look that feels aeons away from the regulation boring blue suit.
Get Office Style Down To A Tee
Bringing the tee into your tailoring rotation is arguably the easiest and quickest way to revolutionise your workplace attire, with every guy surely having a plain white tee knocking about their wardrobe. The aforementioned PWT is your best bet for pulling the look off, working as both a neutral shade, while also providing a clean contrast with pretty much the full range of the colour palette, allowing you to go more daring with your suit pattern and colours. Black is also a nice, crisp option and links up well with green and grey tailoring. Steer clear of hooking it up with a black suit mind as the all-over black can have your look stray back into uniform territory. In the summer months, dare to bare a Breton top under a navy linen suit for an easy, breezy way of mixing up the tee-suit combo.
Jacket Not Required
Blazing a trail at work doesn’t have to mean wearing a blazer while you do it, especially during the more temperate seasons. With the right shirt and trouser combo, you can look sharper than every office frenemy who still sleep-walks to his desk in a boring a two-piece. The look can also look pedestrian with the wrong choices, though. Here’s what not to do: wear the same black or navy trousers with the same white or light blue work shirt that everybody else wears, only without the tie or blazer. Instead, pair some check trousers with a crisp white shirt or go tonal and create some depth with different shades of blue or grey. Look at cropped trousers to make the most of some business-casual shoes (like suede derbies or minimalist sneakers), but tell colleagues that you still mean business by doing up the top button of your shirt.
Swap Your Blazer For A Cardigan
While the humble cardigan isn’t going to win you any awards for raw sex appeal any time soon, as a stand-in for a blazer at work it’s best in class – turns out grandpa knows best after all. The beauty of wearing a cardigan to work is that essentially it operates in the exact same way a blazer will, the only difference being that it’ll dial down the formality a notch without compromising on the appearance of professionalism. For those wary of the cardigan’s bookish charms start with a black navy or charcoal grey wool design, worn with a white shirt, a navy tie, light grey tailored trousers and black derby shoes. Those more cardigan confident however should take the look tonal by matching the shade of their cardigan to either a polo shirt beneath or to their trousers. Don’t be afraid to try cardigans with a bit more design flair either. A classic shawl collar design will work excellently with a grandad collar shirt or alternatively a cable or waffle weave can be just the thing to add interest to a winter work look. There are a few caveats on daring design though; flecked knits are best left to the weekend and longline designs are best left on the rail.
Suited And Booted Or Knitted And Fitted
One of the most sophisticated ways to wear tailoring is with knitwear. Over the past couple of seasons we’ve taken to tonal looks incorporating a fine gauge knit in a similar shade to that of the suit – it’s a move favoured by Richard Biedul, among others. For a clean, minimal look opt for a simple crew neck jumper in cashmere or Merino wool, tuck it into your suit trousers and wear your jacket over it as you would with a shirt. Alternatively, wear that same knit over a shirt for a more traditional take on tailoring and knitwear. When winter comes around don’t forget the knitwear world’s secret weapon – the roll neck. Wear it under a single-or double-breasted jacket and pretend you’re a Bond villain disguised as a desk jockey. Just keep it trim and dark; a chunky fisherman’s roll neck won’t work near any form of tailored clothing, not when there’s business to be done.
Channel Gramps With A Grandad Collar
Like a boring button-down but without the excess baggage, the grandad collar shirt came about when blue-collar workers in the 1920s shed their ties – which got caught in the machines, ouch – and cut the then-unnecessary collars off their shirts. It mimics the current, evolving workplace situation when even politicians and investment bankers don’t have to do business with a tie around their neck. The lack of a collar naturally brings down the formality of tailoring, and you can further its casual nature by looking for options in a laid back linen and cotton mix. Leave the top two buttons undone and when day descends into night and you end up at the pub after work, untuck the shirt and roll-up the sleeves for a slick and natural transition.