Discover the best options for business casual outfits for men. Explore the top menswear brands for reliable, stylish, relaxed-yet-professional choices for whatever definition of business casual your workplace allows.
The Short Answer: The Best Options for Business Casual Clothing for Men
This is a deep-dive post, so here are my absolute favorite options for business casual outfits for men up front:
Best online department stores for business casual outfits for men: Nordstrom, Huckberry, Mr. Porter and Bergdorf Goodman
- Nordstrom is my go-to-destination for business casual clothing for men. The Washington-based retailer has a strong selection of house brands combined with a variety of elevated options for business casual clothing from labels like Faherty Brand, Ministry of Supply and Marine Layer, combined with free shipping and super-friendly and responsive customer service.
- Huckberry is an outstanding online department store for business casual clothing for men, particularly when it comes to sweaters, button down shirts, and casual pants. See my interview with Co-Founder Richard Greiner for 4 essential business casual pieces he recommends from Huckberry.
- UPGRADE PICKS: Mr. Porter and Bergdorf Goodman are superb options for elevated business casual outfits for men from designers like Sid Mashburn, Paul Smith, Tom Ford, and ultra-exclusive luxury fashion house Loro Piana.
Best everyday options for business casual clothing for men: Bonobos, J. Crew, Charles Tyrwhitt and Todd Snyder
- Bonobos knocks business casual out of the park. Their stylish chinos don’t look like jeans, and they stock a full range of stylish-looking business casual clothing for men.
- J. Crew has had its ups-and-downs, but lately the retailer has shined with button down and secret-wash shirts and a wide range of office-appropriate trousers and sweaters.
- Charles Tyrwhitt, the UK-based clothing retailer that traditionally focused on crisp button down dress shirts, suits and neckties, expanded its lineup of business casual clothing during the pandemic. With choices that include button-down striped and gingham shirts, long sleeve polo shirts, quarter-zip neck sweaters, micro-check blazers, and non-iron chinos, Charles Tyrwhitt is an excellent place for business casual outfits that are on the dressier side.
- UPGRADE PICK: Todd Snyder makes such nice clothing. Look to the New York-based designer for luxury business casual attire like soft Italian knit sportscoats, Japanese Selvedge Oxford Button Down Shirts and recycled cashmere sweaters.
Most comfortable “workleisure” business casual clothing: Ministry of Supply and Mizzen and Main
- Ministry of Supply has just-about-perfected comfort-focused workleisure apparel for business casual settings with its stretchy button-down shirts and work-appropriate pants that feel like sweats. Take 15% off your order with code MF15.
- Mizzen and Main is another excellent option for dress shirts, performance polos, and chinos made from technical fabrics.
Cheapest business casual clothing for men: Tie Bar and Amazon Goodthreads
- Tie Bar sells a surprisingly rich variety of business casual clothing for men. In addition to selling, you know, ties, check out Tie Bar for everything from stretch cotton chinos and wool herringbone sport jackets to gingham non-iron dress shirts and merino crew neck sweaters.
- Amazon’s Prime Fashion brand Goodthreads is a good bet for an even wider variety of cheap business casual clothing for men. Look to Goodthreads for an incredibly extensive range of affordable business casual clothing pieces including chinos and chino shorts, lightweight polo shirts, plaid poplin button downs, slim fit wool blazers, dress jeans, and merino wool sweaters.
- If you are looking for the absolute cheapest business casual clothing options, in my opinion, Asos is a notch above SHEIN and fast-fashion alternatives like H&M.
Best options for trying on business casual clothing at home: Wantable and Stitch Fix and Trunk Club
- Wantable is a stellar try-before-you-buy service for workleisure clothing. (Take $25 off your first Wantable shipment.)
- Stitch Fix is a solid option for business casual clothing chosen by a personal stylist and delivered direct to your door. (Get a coupon for a $25 credit at Stitch Fix when you check out your first purchase.)
Best business casual shoes for men: Warfield and Grand, Amberjack, Marc Nolan, Wolf and Shepherd, and Salvatore Ferragamo
- Amberjack is an emerging menswear brand that specializes in comfortable shoes for business casual settings. Their oxford shoes feature subtle details like perforations and contrast colors that make them a great business casual shoe.
- Warfield and Grand makes an expansive range of stylish and comfortable shoes that are perfect for business casual offices and excellent value. Look to the brand for brogued oxfords and casual boots with luxury touches like Italian calfskin uppers and impressive hand burnishing.
- For a bolder look, Marc Nolan offers a wide range of bold business casual shoes and Wolf and Shepherd makes an exceptionally unique Crossover Longwing Hybrid Dress Shoe that could work in the right business casual setting.
- UPGRADE PICK: While there are plenty of storied English and Italian luxury shoemakers to choose from, Salvatore Ferragamo is one of my favorite options for ultra-luxury designer shoes. Their oxfords and slip-on loafers can elevate your business casual style.
Introduction: The Rise of Business Casual Attire
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 global pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards more casual business attire.
Sebastian Malczewski, founder of Marc Nolan shoes, observed in an interview with Modern Fellows that “there has been an undeniable shift towards relaxing standards of dress and leaning more into clothing that is comfortable and casual.”
He sees business casual clothing and footwear as “more versatile and flexible for all that we do in a day,” and recommends options that are dressy yet comfortable. “You want shoes that will pair with a suit or something more relaxed to work, and then bring you straight to happy hour without having to change.”
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 variously 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.
- In Dressing the Man, one of my favorite books on men’s style, Alan Flusser observes that “dress-down business casual” is “built on the foundation of the sport-shirt-and-trouser combination.” According to Flusser, business casual outfits can be as varied as “a high-quality cotton dress or sport shirt atop dark wool trousers” to “crisp jeans below a fine-gauge, long-sleeve, cut-and-sewn knit shirt.”
- Financial Times journalist Robert Shrimsley has written that, “ordinarily business casual for guys seems fairly clear. It is a pair of chinos, a blazer and a good shirt, no tie.” But he laments, “instead of just grabbing a suit,” business casual dress forces you to think about how to dress. “Are chinos too casual? Grey flannels too business?” Business casual, he concludes, “is not liberating but oppressive.”
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, and you probably shouldn’t don flip flops or tank tops. There is a lot of open space between those two guardrails, which leaves business casual 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, hybrid dress sneakers for men and capris for women.
“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.
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.
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.
Since then, Huckberry has significantly increased its revenue, opened up offices in three cities, and is regularly featured in major publications, including GQ.
Huckberry Co-Founder Richard Greiner told me in an interview that, “we make badass pants.” He suggested checking out Flint and Tinder’s 365 pants and Proof’s Rover pants as a way to get to know their in-house brands. “They are both versatile, comfortable and fit well,” he said and added that, “life is a lot easier when you have a handful of the same pants in different colors that you can always count on.”
Entrepreneur Nicholas Wheeler founded the UK-based Charles Tyrwhitt in 1986 as a mail-order company. Today Charles Tyrwhitt is a vibrant omnichannel retailer that sells direct-to-consumer online, via mail order catalogs, inserts in the New York Times, and a global network of brick-and-mortar retail stores.
Charles Tyrwhitt is one of my favorite destinations for affordable, off-the-rack dress shirts for men. The company, which is a stylish alternative to Brooks Brothers, also offers a nice range of polos, non-iron casual shirts and trousers that are perfect for business casual outfits.
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.
Nordstrom, like Huckberry, is one of my favorite places to discover high-quality and stylish business casual outfits for men.
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.
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.) J. Crew is also increasingly a good place to look for sustainable fashion and organic cotton clothing.
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 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.
Clothes from Faherty have an outdoorsy and laid-back vibe, putting them more on the casual side of the business casual spectrum.
Admittedly, some of their lineup can leave you picturing yourself hiking on a windswept beach or riding a horse at a ranch.
At the same time, Faherty offers a range of dressier 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.
Co-Founder Alex Faherty notes that one of his favorite business casual offerings from Faherty is the Inlet Blazer. “This is such a great core style that can be worn at work and to a nice dinner or wedding,” he observes, adding that, “the style is so comfortable you won’t feel like you’re wearing a blazer all day and we refer to it as the blazer for guys who don’t wear blazers.”
Launched in 2013 by Alex and Mike Faherty, who are twin brothers, Faherty has gained fans among celebrities, including Matthew McConaughey and Neil Patrick Harris.
The company has also developed a reputation for being socially conscious, particularly by partnering with Native American designers and artists.
As I wrote in my Essential Review of Faherty Brand,
Faherty offers a stylish array of versatile, heritage-quality clothing for women and men. The stylish clothing startup has become one of my go-to options for comfortable business and smart casual attire.
In a world of SHEIN-influenced fast fashion that sees clothing often discarded after just a few wears, I’ve come to appreciate the trade-off of paying more for pieces that are worthy (and capable) of lasting a long time. I feel like I could pass down my Faherty Legend Shirt or Teton Jacket to my future grandkids the same way my grandfather passed down his shacket to me.The Essential 2023 Faherty Brand Review (Plus Advice from Co-Founder Alex Faherty)
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.
Don’t let its name throw you off. Netherlands-founded Suit Supply offers a wide variety of affordable-luxury business casual clothing options for men. From wool-silk-linen-blend blazers and stretch cotton chinos to long sleeve polos and turtleneck sweaters to truly boss outerwear, I love Suit Supply’s European-influenced, fashion-forward style.
Mall staple and Gap-owned Banana Republic remains a solid if not terribly exciting option for business casual outfits. Shop in-person and online for blazers, button downs, polos, slacks and more.
Connecticut-based Vineyard Vines is one of the preppiest business casual clothing companies for men (and women). Founded in 1998 by Ian and Shep Murray, the company has moved well beyond its initial focus on achingly colorful preppy ties.
Vineyard Vines offers a wide range of business casual clothing for me from linen buttoned shirts to performance wool blazers, stretchy chinos and polos emblazoned with their signature whale.
The Cheapest Business Casual Clothing Options for Men
These are the absolutely cheapest options to find business casual clothing for men on the internet:
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.
If you’re looking for a reliable source of cheap, fashion-forward business casual clothing, Asos is worth a look. They offer thousands of business-casual appropriate articles of clothing and shoes from basic button down shirts and chinos to tasseled loafers, linen pants and tan blazers. Their silhouettes tend to run slim, with a number of skinny fits and muscle shirts thrown into the mix.
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.
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.
Learn more about Ministry of Supply via Modern Fellows’ interview with founder Aman Advani (and see which piece of clothing he recommends you try first).
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.
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.
A Brief History of Business Casual Clothing
Business casual for men has evolved significantly since the concept was originally introduced in the mid-to-late 20th Century.
Timeline: the Evolution of Business Casual Clothing
1950s: The faintest hints of business casual attire can be detected as early as the 1950s in America. Esquire observed in its 1957 Fashion Guide for All Occasions that, “the habit of wearing sports clothes during the week ends and evenings at home is carrying over into what should be business dress,” a trend that they lamented at the time.
1960s: The first steps toward business casual attire trace back to Hawaii. In 1962, the Hawaiian Fashion Guild, led by then-president Bill Foster, launched their “Operation Liberalization” lobbying campaign to promote wearing the now-iconic Aloha shirt (aka the Hawaiian shirt) at work. In 1966, the State of Hawaii began permitting government workers to wear casual shirts on Friday, giving birth to “Aloha Fridays.”
1970s: Over the course of the next generation, some of those Hawaiian workers and their entrepreneurial family members moved to the mainland, bringing their ideas and casual wardrobes with them to Silicon Valley in particular, author Linda Arthur documents in Aloha Attire: Hawaiian Dress in the Twentieth Century.
1980s: The spread of Casual Fridays in the 1980s was “the first pebble in the avalanche that toppled the suit as the everyday dress of the white-collar warrior,” writes Richard Thompson Ford in his 2022 book Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History.
1990s: Business casual attire gained traction in the 1990s thanks to an overall trend towards casual fashion and clever marketing. In 1992, Levi’s brand Dockers blanketed 25,000 Human Resources managers across the United States with a new Guide To Casual Businesswear, which is credited with advancing the trend. By the mid-1990s, 9 out of 10 companies allowed some form of business casual clothing. Dockers even garnered a mention on Seinfeld.
2000s: The 2000s were a low point “the disheveled mess” that was office attire thanks to business casual. Work wardrobes became too casual with employees provided too much leeway and not enough direction to navigate the changing world of business wear.
2020s: The COVID-19 pandemic sparked another revolution as employees were forced to figure out Home Office Casual. Zoom shirts and athleisure bottoms became a go-to combination for office workers at home. Many companies have further relaxed the office attire policies in the wake of the pandemic to allow employees to wear “smart casual” or “dress for your day.” According to a survey by Stitch Fix, 50% of workplaces have become more casual in the wake of COVID.
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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