Despite being a Business university student, I am seldom required to wear a suit. However if a formal event arises, I usually gravitate towards picking my conservative navy suit as it is often the unspoken dress code. Thankfully, I still get wear out of my other suits by breaking them up into separates, the art of wearing each piece (top and bottom) separately from each other. Besides wearing them for more celebratory events such as birthday dinners, parties, or the occasional nightclub, I utilize my suit jackets for “Business Casual” attires. But really, what is “Business Casual” attire?
To me, it refers to a dress code that applies formal (or at least what society portrays as formal) pieces together to create an inherently casual look, reflecting the recent emergence of nonchalant dress code norms. This can be a little tricky, I mean how does combining formal pieces equate a casual look? After attending multiple “Business Casual” meetings, such as unofficial job interviews or collaboration discussions, I have learnt how to dress appropriately for Business Casual.
The key to create a formal-casual-esque look is to go with 3F-2CP, 3 formal and 2 casual pieces. Your ensemble will typical consist of at least 5 items, trousers/shirt/jacket/shoes/accessories. Choose to go formal with 3 pieces and casual with the other 2.
For this particular day I had a meeting with a local designer, I opted to go with a charcoal windowpane jacket (formal), light blue dress shirt (formal), burgundy penny loafers (formal, albeit rather debatable), higher waisted jeans (casual) and a burgundy knitted tie (casual).
To play it safe, I highly recommend reserving the slacks for a casual piece such as jeans, corduroy or chinos. It gives you more freedom for your other pieces, as it will serve as an anchor that neutralizes the formality.
I also recommend picking either a white or a light blue dress shirt with a button down collar. Light blue tends to appear a little less formal than white, making it my preferred choice for such meetings. You could potentially opt for a casual shirt, like a mandras or plaid shirt. But I would only suggest such an option if you do decide to go tieless and that you are relatively comfortable with the individual you are meeting.
Shoes, although questionable, can be casual. Be sure to pick a shoe that has a relatively slimmer silhouette and in a darker shade (dark brown or burgundy). White is an exception if they are sneakers. But again, I am always hesitant with sneakers unless I am really comfortable with the individual.
The jacket is arguably the most importantly component. Pick a jacket in a medium to darker shade. A navy jacket in a seasonal fabric such as flannel, linen, hopsack or even in a herringbone pattern works 100% of the time. If you do want to derive in other colors, gray/charcoal/olive/dark brown are your best bets. A windowpane pattern (pictured) is appropriate, as long as it isn’t too prominent.
Lastly are the accessories. Knitted ties are THE best for projecting a business casual look, as they are, by nature, casual. If you do decide to pick “Casual”, ensure that your other accessories are casual too. This includes your watch and pocket square. For your watch, pick one with a leather band to exude formality or a nato strap for casualness.
Also, it’s important to identify the place you are going beforehand. If it’s at a café located right in the middle of downtown, you might really need to bring a blazer. However, if it’s at a restaurant outside of town, a dress shirt might just be sufficient.