The workplace may be getting increasingly casual (we’re blaming you and those damn Adidas sandals, Zuckerberg), but that doesn’t mean you should look like every other cubicle-bound drone at the office.
Think of what you went through to get that job, of all that time spent polishing your resume and brushing up on your interview skills. Now do you really want to celebrate your success by looking like a schlub?
Business casual is the way to go, but does anyone actually understand what ‘business casual’ is? Dressing five days a week in ill-fitting shirts, baggy trousers and indistinguishable blazers isn’t it – and it’s definitely not the way to climb the corporate ladder.
The first and most important piece of advice
Please, for the love of all that is holy and tailored, purchase clothing that fits you properly. Nothing ruins an outfit – whatever the dress code and no matter how expensive the clothes are – like wearing something that doesn’t fit. The first secret to looking smart is sizing correctly.
Once you’ve nailed the fit, you can start building out your wardrobe. We recommend beginning with pieces that are easy to mix and match, so you can get the most possible bang for your buck.
After you’ve built a solid closet full of staples, you can start getting more creative, but for now let’s stick to the basics.
The business casual essentials
This is where the mix-and-match approach is really key. If you build your selection of essentials carefully, you’ll be able to achieve maximum levels of versatility with minimum levels of effort (which is crucial in the mornings, when you haven’t had your coffee yet).
We’ve already put the kibosh on shapeless shirts, so let’s move straight on to colours. Solids are obviously the easiest to match, so focus at first on standards such as white, light blue and pale pink. Once you’re set on that front, you can move into brighter colours and bolder patterns. Always keep in mind that you should be more business than casual, so only wear a shirt if the collar can stand up without a tie. Stiff is always better than limp, right gents?
Trousers are the new black – start investing now. Chinos are the go-to choice for semi-dressy work wear. Stick with classic colours – navy and camel – and opt for a fit that’s slim but not skinny. You also can’t go wrong with a pair of suit trousers, again in a multi-purpose colour such as grey. If jeans are appropriate in your workplace, go for something on the more formal end of the denim spectrum. Your office jeans should also be slim-but-not-skinny and should have a dark wash. No shorts, please.
The classics are safest when it comes to your footwear. Loafers, Oxfords, Derbys, brogues and monk straps will all look suitably smart at the office and go with anything you wear on top. Colour-wise, black, brown, oxblood and tan are your best bets. Try some colour in summer, but keep it to shoes and small accessories.
Optional business casual extras
If you really want an outfit that says “I’m headed straight to the top, better start clearing out that corner office ASAP”, you’re ready to throw these optional business casual extras into the mix:
While you’re working hard at the office, your jacket should be hard at work for you. The right one speaks volumes, so choose carefully. Three jackets are all you really need to get by: a navy blazer, a tweed sport coat and a modern corduroy jacket. The corduroy might seem dated on paper, but if you opt for something fitted with contemporary details it won’t look dated in practice. The tweed jacket is an easy-to-wear classic that’s especially great in autumn. And the navy blazer… well, do we really need to tell you why that’s a work wardrobe staple? When it comes to pockets, go patch. It will save you looking too corporate and will help give off a cool Italian vibe
This is not the time for anything knitted by your insane aunt. Avoid jumpers with crazy patterns, as well as anything too thick to be worn over a shirt and under a jacket. The basics are best – solid colours, a slim fit and a belt line length. If you’re going the cardigan route, wear a tie and always leave the bottom two buttons undone. If you’re the type to wear bolder colours, then the sweater is a great clothing item to give an otherwise boring work wardrobe a little pep.
Lastly, when it comes to accessories, we say less is more. Do away with the tie and stick to the idea of “casual”.