Discover the best options for business casual outfits for men. The brands here are reliable, stylish, relaxed-yet-professional choices for whatever definition of business casual your workplace allows.
In Search of Business Casual Clothing
Business casual for men has come a long way since “the disheveled mess that was men’s wear” in the 2000s.
Over the past 20 years, companies have adopted a more relaxed dress code for multiple reasons, including improving the comfort of employees and appealing to the preferences of younger generations.
The fact that greater numbers of people are working from home thanks to the global pandemic has also strengthened the shift towards more casual business attire.
What is the Definition of Business Casual?
Business casual is a category of dress that is less formal than a suit but is dressier than casualwear. Business casual signifies a less rigid and formal dress code, though outfits should convey professionalism.
Others have defined business casual as follows:
- Social etiquette expert June Hines Moore defines business casual as “somewhere between the career suit and Saturday ‘grubs'” in her book, The Etiquette Advantage Rules: for the Business Professional.
One challenge with the definition of business casual is that it’s easier to define what it’s not: You don’t have to wear a full suit with a tie. Beyond that, business casual is open to a wide variety of interpretations.
What is a business casual dress code?
A business casual dress code is an office policy that prescribes a manner of professional dress that is less formal than a suit and tie. Classic business casual outfits may include blazers, office-appropriate chinos, slacks or pressed pants, and button down collared shirts for men and women, and blouses, shirts, skirts, skirts and dresses for women. A more relaxed definition of business casual could also include items such as jeans, polo shirts, sneakers and capris.
“It’s funny how everyone’s idea of business casual is different,” Executive Director of Dress for Success Boston Kimberly Todd observed to The Boston Globe.
Because the definition of business casual can be fuzzy, it is critical to pay attention to the specific dress code policy of your office to determine what is appropriate to wear. Business casual dress codes can range from requiring pressed pants and a collared shirt to permitting dress jeans and sneakers.
Examples of Business Casual Dress Codes
- SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, offers a draft dress code policy that defines business casual as including “All shirts with collars, business casual crewneck or V-neck shirts, blouses, and golf and polo shirts…. casual slacks and trousers and jeans without holes, frays, etc… and casual slip-on or tie shoes, dress sandals, and clean athletic shoes.” It gives examples of inappropriate attire, including t-shirts, shirts with inappropriate slogans, tank tops, muscle shirts, camouflage and crop tops… shorts, camouflage, and pants worn below the waist or hip line… flip-flops and construction or hunting boots.”
- Goldman Sachs Instituted “a firmwide flexible dress code” in response to “the changing nature of workplaces generally in favor of a more casual environment” via a short memo to employees in 2019. The memo urges employees to “please dress in a manner than is consistent with your clients’ expectations.” It adds that “casual dress is not appropriate every day and for every interaction and we trust you will consistently exercise good judgement in this regard.” Curiously, it provides absolutely no guidance on what to wear.
- The National Basketball Association (NBA) for years required players to adhere to a business casual dress code that listed acceptable attire as including dress shirts and/or sweaters, dress slacks, khakis, or dress jeans, and dress or “presentable” shoes, as outlined in Are You Entertained? Black Popular Culture in the Twenty-First Century.
- Goodman Air Conditioning and Heating maintains a lengthy definition of acceptable business casual outfits. According to their policy, acceptable Business Casual attire includes professional slacks or pants, skirts or dresses that are at least mid-thigh, collared shirts, turtlenecks and professional shoes. Their dress code also lists a number of unacceptable attire, defined as “clothing which could appear to be unprofessional” and which would include: Jeans, tennis shoes or sneakers; t-shirts, sweatshirts, sweatsuits, tank tops, warm-ups, or scrubs; see-through or low-cut tops; clothing that leaves the shoulders and arms bare, worn without a top that covers the shoulders; athletic wear/wind suits; shorts or Capri pants above mid-calf; skirts above mid-thigh; tight fitting skirts or slacks and skirts made of lycra/spandex; pants that stop at or above the knee; Leotards, leggings; and Flip flops.
What are examples of appropriate business casual outfits for the office?
Examples of classic or traditional business casual outfits would include:
- Collared button down shirts worn with or without a blazer or sports jacket;
- Office-appropriate sweaters, cardigans, blouses and tops;
- Professional slacks and pressed pants;
- Chinos, khakis or corduroy pants;
- Oxfords, derbies, loafers, Chelsea Boots, other dress shoes and boots, and professional open-toed or open-heel shoes.
Are jeans appropriate for a business casual office?
Maybe. While traditional business casual outfits might variously include sport jackets, blazers, button-down shirts, polos, chinos, slacks, and cardigans, some companies have a more relaxed business casual dress code that also permits clean sneakers and jeans. Other firms may only allow jeans or sneakers on certain days like Casual Fridays.
My advice? If you are walking into a new business casual office environment, err on the side of of more professional dress to start. (For guys, think a blazer, button down shirt and chinos or pressed pants). Over time, you can take guidance from your company and consider what your colleagues are wearing.
Where Can You Find the Best Business Casual Clothes for Men?
There’s great flexibility in business casual attire. You may wind up wearing a laid-back style or adopting a look that’s more elegant, even if it’s not strictly formal. Regardless of your style, you need high-quality clothes from reputable companies.
Here are some of my favorite places to find stylish business casual outfits for men.
According to one of its founders, Andy Dunn, Bonobos is in fact named after an endangered great ape. But the origin of its name doesn’t reflect the fact that it’s a stellar source for men’s wear, giving you many options for upscale business casual attire.
Bonobos has become one of my go-to destinations for business casual outfits for men.
Whether you’re picking out a button down shirt, some stretch-washed chinos, or a knit blazer, you can depend on the durability and stylishness across a wide variety of business casual outfit essentials.
I also love the fact that you can go by a Bonobos Guideshop to touch and try on their business casual clothing so you can get a better feel for the lineup, style and fit.
(Look inside Bonobos’ Georgetown Guideshop in Washington, DC to learn more.)
Dunn and his co-founder, Brian Spaly, launched the company in 2007 as an online retailer and subsequently opened a flagship store in New York City. In 2017, Walmart purchased the company for $310 million.
The wide selection at Bonobos means that you can put together any kind of outfit on the spectrum of business casual, from more relaxed to more formal.
With Huckberry, you can feel like an adventurer, even if you work behind a desk most of the day. The company’s offerings include outdoor gear and masculine home décor.
They’ve also distinguished themselves with the quality and style of the extremely well-rounded and extensive catalog of business casual outfits for men they stock.
Huckberry combines a solid lineup of their own house brands like Flint and Tinder, Proof, and Wellen with some of my favorite direct-to-consumer labels for business casual outfits like Faherty, Finisterre, Marine Layer, Relwen, and Taylor Stitch.
In 2010, Andy Forch and Richard Greiner founded this U.S. company with combined savings of only $20,000.
In 1901, Carl Wallin and John Nordstrom opened a shoe store in Seattle. This was the start of what would become the modern day Nordstrom, a giant among department stores, a company specializing in luxury retail and working with a variety of high-end brands.
Assemble your outfits by choosing from among their blazers and sport coats, dress shirts, and polo shirts. Some items, like Oxford shoes, can work well both for formal outfits and business casual attire.
Along with their in-house brands, such as 1901, Nordstrom carries many other brands that specialize in business casual outfits.
Look to Nordstrom to discover smart business casual outfits for men from the likes of Alex Mill, Billy Reid, Balenciaga, L.L. Bean, Ralph Lauren, Bonobos Everlane, Faherty Brand, Mizzen and Main, Outerknown and Rhone.
Like Stitch Fix, Trunk Club will send a box (“trunk”) of clothing to your home after you provide information about your measurements and preferences. You can keep what you like while returning whatever doesn’t suit you.
Trunk Club got its start in 2009 as a clothing service in Bend, Ore. founded by Joanna Van Vleck. It was subsequently led by Brian Spaly and established as a Chicago company.
Trunk Club offers a stellar combination of quality clothing labels and an extremely convenient service. I love that Trunk Club lets you preview and make edits to your trunk before it is shipped out.
With their clean designs and preppy but unpretentious vibe, clothes from J. Crew suit a range of business settings. Whether you’re looking for chinos or blazers, J. Crew’s wide selection makes the company a reliable resource for business casual attire.
J. Crew started out as Popular Merchandise, a clothing company founded in 1947 by Mitchell Cinader and Saul Charles. In 1983, the company changed its name to J. Crew and became a major force in catalogue sales. Its flagship store opened in New York City’s South Street Seaport in 1989.
One of the reasons J. Crew is worth considering is the way it has shaped fashion trends across decades for men, women, and children. The company has employed innovative designers and gained fans among famous figures (including the Obamas).
The iconic company went through a rough patch during its bankruptcy proceedings, and I began to search for alternatives to J. Crew.
Recently, I’ve found J. Crew has emerged with an excellent selection of high-quality and stylish business casual outfits for men, including chinos, button downs and their famous Ludlow suit separates. (The Ludlow blazer is an awesome option to dress up a business casual outfit.)
On their site, the company emphasizes steps taken to reduce the environmental impact of clothes production and to increase transparency about pricing and fair labor practices. Their transparency is especially evident in how they openly break down the cost of different items.
Michael Preysman started the company in 2010 by selling inexpensive t-shirts. Everlane has since evolved to selling well-made, long-lasting clothes that have an understated elegance, often in earthy or neutral tones.
Although Preysman initially rejected the idea of brick-and-mortar locations, Everlane opened its flagship store in New York City in 2017, and has opened several others since, including in Washington, DC.
If you’re searching for budget-friendly business attire, Tie Bar is an excellent choice. They have a wide selection of items, including dress shirts, pants, and an array of neckties. You can also spruce up your look with one of their accessories, such as a pocket square or scarf.
The company’s evolution includes an expansion from formal attire to casual wear, broadening the range of clothing options and garnering excellent reviews.
For a company named after neckties, Tie Bar has a remarkably versatile array of business casual outfit options for men.
Goodthreads by Amazon
Since its founding in 1994, Amazon has expanded into many marketplaces, so it’s no surprise that the company also launched house-brand Goodthreads in 2017.
Goodthreads serves as a convenient, affordable way to get the basic items you need for business casual attire. As Amazon’s mid-level clothing brand, it’s comparable in style to J. Crew, and a stellar alternative to fast-fashion options like SHEIN.
Whether you’re looking for a button-down shirt or a V-neck sweater, Goodthreads has a range of possibilities in different colors and sizes. Other popular items include patterned socks and five-pocket chinos.
The Goodthreads line is exclusive to Amazon Prime members. A Prime membership will give you access to special deals, and various items are eligible for free two-day shipping.
For more on Goodthreads, Button Downed and other house labels, see Modern Fellows’ Guide to Amazon Fashion Brands for Men.
H&M, which started as a Swedish clothing store in 1947, has turned into a multinational corporation with hundreds of locations around the world.
The founder of H&M, Erling Persson, initially sold clothes only to women. Since then, H&M’s offerings have expanded broadly and include a wide variety of business casual attire for men.
H&M is also positioning itself as an innovative company, exploring how to integrate clothes with smart technologies and committing to environmentally friendly practices. As a customer, you can help drive these developments in fast fashion.
If you want an alternative to off-the-rack outfits, Woodies is your best choice for custom business casual clothing for men. You can customize the shirts and chinos to suit your measurements and body type. Woodies also allows you to personalize cuffs, collars, and pockets.
Jacob Wood was able to launch his company in 2014 thanks to Kickstarter funding.
Woodies doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar store. Operating through online orders, it ships around the U.S. and to dozens of other countries.
Clothes from Woodies feel comfortable and have important practical qualities. For example, you can pick business casual shirts that have a high resistance to stains, odors, and wrinkles. Along with giving you a suitably professional look, these clothes are conveniently low maintenance.
Before launching his own fashion label in 2011, designer Todd Snyder worked for Ralph Lauren, J. Crew, and Old Navy.
Snyder, who has revolutionized men’s wear in recent years, delivers consistent excellence in elevated business casual clothing.
Turning to the company’s guide for suit styles, you can put together a professional look that works best for you.
Whether you’re visiting the online store or strolling through the flagship store in New York City, you’ll discover clothes that are both casual and sophisticated, reflecting a refined taste.
The clothes from Faherty have an outdoorsy and laid-back vibe.
Admittedly, much of their lineup can leave you picturing yourself hiking on a windswept beach or riding a horse at a ranch when wearing the high-quality apparel from this brand.
At the same time, Faherty offers a range heritage-quality and beautifully designed items that make them an excellent resource for elevated business casual attire.
Look to Faherty for well-made woven belts, double-knit blazers, stretch oxford shirts and more casual knit and flannel button downs, and gorgeous shawl collar, crewneck and cardigan sweaters.
The company has also developed a reputation for being socially conscious, particularly by partnering with Native American designers and artists.
The high-end casual clothes at Club Monaco have an elegant but unostentatious appearance. With these tastefully designed clothes, you can easily put together elevated business casual outfits.
Founded in 1985, the Toronto-based company has stores in Canada, the U.S., and several other countries.
One of the founders, Joe Mimran, decided to launch the brand after struggling to find a plain white shirt for himself that was both high in quality and relatively affordable. He started Club Monaco with his brother, Saul, and Alfred Sung, a notable Canadian fashion designer.
Just from browsing through their Wear-to-Work Shop, you can get ideas for classy ensembles that include funnel-neck coats, wool turtlenecks, and dress trousers. Clean designs and monochromatic colors make it easy to mix and match items of clothing in different outfits.
Thread.com ought to be better known. The clothing startup, which was founded in London in 2012, helps you shop for hundreds of brands with minimal effort.
If you live in the U.S., all orders over $100 come with free standard shipping.
The company’s founders, Kieran O’Neill and Ben Phillips, wished to make it as easy as possible for men to find the clothes they need.
To that end, the company implements machine learning and artificial intelligence to act like stylists and personal shoppers for their customers.
Without the need for any fees or subscriptions, you take a style quiz, and Thread.com gives you personalized suggestions for clothes.
Even before taking a quiz, you can browse through their online style guides, which include business casual outfits for men. The many brands they sell include top British brands, such as Burberry and Barbour.
Where Can You Find the Most Comfortable Business Casual Outfits for Men (aka “Workleisure”)?
An entire new industry has sprung up to make business casual for men even more comfortable. Companies like Ministry of Supply, Rhone and Lululemon have emerged to offer extremely comfortable business casual outfits for men made from technical performance fabrics.
I decided to break out a separate category here to highlight the best workleisure options for extremely comfortable business casual clothing for men:
Ministry of Supply
Founded in 2010, the Ministry of Supply offers high-technology clothes for your business casual outfits.
Along with being stylish, these incredible work leisure clothes come with a range of useful properties, including enhanced durability, breathability, and odor control.
They’re also significantly less likely to wrinkle or rip, even if you sprint through city streets while wearing them.
For example, the Velocity suit jacket is extremely comfortable while providing a full range of motion and remaining in good shape after outdoor activity and the use of a washing machine.
The company’s other innovations include an award-winning jacket that provides heat using a smart thermostat.
It’s no surprise that the Boston-based company is on the cutting edge of clothing technology.
The founders, Aman Advani and Gihan Amarasiriwardena, are graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They also invest some of the profits of their company in science education, and they’re committed to reducing their company’s environmental impact.
Mizzen and Main
When Kevin Lavelle founded Mizzen and Main in 2012, his goal was to develop business wear that wouldn’t leave men a sweaty, wrinkled mess.
That’s the way he often felt while working at an office job in Washington, D.C., a city that can get quite hot and humid. (He launched his company in Dallas, another city notorious for its high temperatures.)
Mizzen and Main uses performance fabrics, what you’d typically see in active wear. Along with making you feel more comfortable, their high-quality clothes, which include dress shirts and chinos, give you a stylish and professional appearance.
Another positive quality in Mizzen and Main is that their clothes are easy to care for. The fabric can be cleaned in a washing machine, and you don’t have to waste a lot of time dealing with wrinkles.
Rhone is a reliably strong choice for active wear, and their offerings encompass athletics, leisure, and business. Their aim is to sell versatile clothes that perform well and make their customers look driven and professional.
Founded by Nate Checketts, Ben Checketts, and Kyle McClure, Rhone got its start in Connecticut in 2014. Since then, the brand has been selling worldwide through its own stores and through partnerships with other companies, such as Nordstrom.
GQ has given Rhone recognition for wonderfully designed fitness shirts, and the company is also excelling in work leisure attire.
For example, their collection of on-the-move commuter pants includes items that go well with a workplace outfit while being comfortable enough for weekend leisure. They also offer button-down shirts that look flattering and professional.
Lululemon’s founder, Chip Wilson, started the company in Vancouver in 1998.
Since then, stores have popped up around the world, with hundreds in the U.S. alone. As more people work from home, the lines between leisure wear and business attire will likely blur even more.
Lululemon has spurred an entire industry of competitors. Check out Modern Fellows’ Guide to Alternatives to Lululemon to learn more about athleisure brands.
What’s Your Favorite Option for Business Causal Clothing for Men?
Be sure to note if you’ve shopped from any of these companies, or if you think any great options for business casual are missing from the list. What are your favorite brands, and what does business casual mean for you?
About JakeJake is passionate about exploring entrepreneurs' global journeys. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs behind the innovative brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age. Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and/or fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine, and has provided analysis on international business for BBC Radio, NBC News, CNN and Time Magazine.
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