A Guide to getting Business Casual Right.
Posted on January 7, 2013
Alright. Fine. I’ll finally write that thing about business casual. Business casual is boring fashion but it looks so damn good. There are a million ways to pull it off but I’m going to be a reductionist because it makes my life easier. There are basically two ways of going about business casual: follow a recipe or wild style. And trust me, with business casual we’re gonna get real wild up in here.
Follow the Recipe.
First things first. Google “Wearing the right color for your skin tone.” Awesome, now you know what colors to buy. Make sure you have a flattering haircut (You can google haircuts for your face shape. It’s like the internet is magic.) Re-read my blogs about how your clothes should fit. Where does the shoulder seam go? You better know the answer.
Now that you’ve laid the foundation, you put on some slacks or khaki pants and an oxford shirt. That’s it. That’s what you wear. You have a few options about other things to put on but slacks or khaki pants and an oxford shirt is your new jam. You can add a tie. You can add a sweater. You can add a vest. You can add a sweater vest. You can add a jacket. You can add a sweater, a vest, and a jacket. See where I’m going with this. Now that you have the recipe of well fitting, correct for your skin tone slacks/shirts combo you look better than half the population.
Seriously guys, fit is everything. Let’s look at some pictures.
You take this basic look and either keep it as is or turn it into:
Or you could just go to the Nordstrom’s business casual section where they pick out your clothes for you, just like mom. It’s like the 100 days of business casual Christmas. It’s a really convenient service but you’re paying out your eyeballs for things you could get cheaply.
To quote Macklemore, “Trying to get girls with a brand? Then you hella won’t.” As long as your pants/shirt fit you, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on this look.
I’m going to blow your mind here for a second: you generally have to pay more money if you want to deviate from the formula. You can get away with not wearing an oxford shit, if you look like cash money. Let’s talk about this for a minute.
If you are wearing slacks and just a sweater, that sweater needs to be top notch in quality. You can not get away with a sweatshirt and slacks. Remember how in high school the pretty girl or quarterback got away with murder? Same thing. If you look really attractive (read: expensive) you can get away with more. A couple examples of this are:
This guy is straight up wearing a hoody and jeans. However, if he’s rocking those yellow jeans cuffed with some boat shoes or some monks, I’d call it safe. The reason he can get away with this as business casual is because the hoody is obviously an expensive knit and his jeans are dyed with expensive dye. It looks pulled together because the fabric is decadent and everything fits well. Expensive looks more dressed up. The exception is brand recognition. If something is expensive because it has a Nike swoop on it, you’re not going to have the same effect. Know what you’re paying for. Don’t pay for a name. It’s bougey.
Ideally, you’ll end up looking like this guy. Nice slacks and a beautiful cashmere sweater. It looks like business despite not having a collar. The fabric is why. If he were wearing a long sleeved cotton shirt with the same cut and fit, it would be too casual. But why would that be too casual? Because it doesn’t look expensive. You want to look respectable at work and we respect power. Money is a route to power. Do you see where I’m going with this? No? Alright I’ll tell you a story.
This morning while I was getting coffe I was looking at three men in line. Two of the men had impecable West Hollywood outfits. Rich expensive knit sweaters, perfectly fitted wool slacks, and stylish leather shoes. The works. The third guy in line looked like fresh hell. However, he wasn’t wearing cheap clothing and I was staring at him trying to figure out why he looked so much worse than the other two. At first, I thought it was because he had a few extra pounds on him, then I thought maybe it’s because his clothes didn’t fit very well, everything was a little too baggy and he had an unkempt beard. Then he turned around and I saw it was Zach Galifianakis.
Quick! Someone tell me why it doesn’t matter what he’s wearing!!! Because he has fame. He’s in the talkies. Fame is another route to power. You have to look powerful to command respect. Keep in mind, the king doesn’t have to tell you that he’s king. Likewise, rich men don’t have to tell you that they’re rich. They look rich because they wear powerful looking clothing.
You can wear powerful looking clothing without being rich and borrow on that respect. You follow the recipe which is a uniform of people making money (acquiring power). Alternatively, you can demonstrate power by just wearing expensive clothes. It’s like both easy mode and hard mode. It takes less thought but more money. So that’s the long and short of why a cotton shirt is not the same. Also, I’m really rich and powerful. I get coffee in the morning with movie stars. Yeah that’s right. I live in the Hollywood Hills. I name drop. Are you not entertained?
Here’s the wild-style done poorly. This man doesn’t look professional in his slacks and sweater because the slacks are too baggy, the sweater is too long in the torso and arms, and the plain white tee shirt makes the sweater look casual. I bet he could take that seater and layer it over the recipe and look great.
A scarf is an easy way to class up an outfit. The accessories quite literally make jeans and a tee shirt into business casual. A blazer and scarf can go a long way because the blazer is a staple of business formal and adds formality to any outfit and a scarf breaks up the monotony of the tee shirt. The scarf is a distraction from the casual shirt. And does the scarf trick work if your scarf looks cheap? What do you think? No, it doesn’t work.
Ready to be dazzled? That picture above is from H&M’s fall line. Everything that man is wearing is cheap but it doesn’t look cheap. That’s the magic of shopping around.
I hope we’ve all learned something here today.