Although many of us use the term “business casual” in everyday dress code lingo, do you really know what outfits and accessories truly match what your boss and workplace have in mind when they use the term? The fact is that many young adults don’t actually understand what constitutes business casual attire. Before you walk into your first day on the job or attend an after-hours party with a bus-cas dress code, consider these common beliefs about what this attire really is.
Most Employers Mean “Smart But Comfortable”
When you think of the word “causal,” you probably imagine wearing sweatpants and a pajama top around the house. However, don’t let the “casual” part of things fool you. In the corporate world, casual simply means “nonrestrictive.”
To many employers, business casual actually means “smart” or “work-like,” but comfortable. This means you can lose the tie or tight pencil skirt, but still wear a button down shirt or professional-looking blouse. Business casual doesn’t equal tracksuits or tank tops, but you can likely get away with flats or even less formal footwear.
Many Employers Mean “Functionally Formal”
There are many jobs where business casual not only involves looking professional, but also includes functionally dressing for the job. For example, a senior estate manager might wear a tie, but wouldn’t wear velvet shoes because they may need to walk the estate grounds in rainy weather.
Because of this, “business casual” looks can vary from job to job based on your day-to-day responsibilities. Additionally, the formality level of your workplace attire often aligns with your salary and level on the corporate ladder.
Some Employers Think That “Business Casual” Motivates Employees
There are some managers who only recommend business casual attire because they believe it has some sort of motivational power. They think that employees are happier and more productive when they’re not wearing a tie or uniform. In these cases, it is best to lean more towards the “business” end of the spectrum than dressing casually.
What Business Casual Doesn’t Mean
“Casual” never means fancy attire, nor does it mean pajamas. It also doesn’t mean unkempt, so don’t think that you can get away with messy hair or a 5 o’clock shadow. It’s also important to remember that your employer is paying you to work, so don’t push the limits unless you want to find another job. What you wear at home is your business, but keep things conservative when at the office.
No matter what version of business casual your workplace uses, do not use your workplace attire to make a statement. You may use clothing as a form of expression when you’re not at work, but those types of clothing should stay in your closet during the work week. When in doubt, dress how you would for an interview or base your clothing choices off of co-workers who have a long standing with the company.