These days, fewer and fewer guys are wearing a suit to the office day in and day out. And if you’re one of these men for whom a suit is no longer a nine-to-five necessity, figuring out what, exactly, constitutes a business casual ensemble has probably gotten a lot more difficult. After all, business casual is a still a dress code that’s specified for everything from casual Friday at the office to the parties that your friends and colleagues throw on the weekends. But when you don’t have to wear a suit at any point during the workweek, how do you define business casual? And how do you figure out the new rules for suit-free offices?
Fortunately for you, the new business-casual rules for a suit-free office aren’t really that difficult to figure out. And they’ll likely afford you a lot more sartorial freedom than you might imagine (especially if, like us, your imagination of a “business casual” uniform still conjures up images of guys in tan chinos and ill-fitting polo shirts). Looking for boss-accepted and style blog-approved ways to go without a suit? Then here’s your playbook.
1. Divide and conquer
If you still love your suits, but know that you’ll be the only guy at the office or the party wearing one, then consider easing into this business-casual venture slowly by switching out just half of your suit. Have a grey suit that you just can’t bear to take out of its weekly rotation? Put on the trousers, shirt, and tie as usual, but leave the jacket in the closet and opt, instead, for a minimal cotton jacket, like a military green field jacket or an indigo chore coat. Or if you really want to make a statement, pair black trousers with a black leather jacket.
2. Keep it trim
When you want to leave the blazer behind, your best bet is to commit to trim and well-tailored silhouettes. A pair of subtly patterned trousers, a button-front shirt, and a V-neck cardigan can all age you if you’re swimming in extra fabric or wearing dull colors. So choose pieces that fit close to the body, and colors that are a little more bold than neutral, to punch up the impact of the outfit and avoid looking like a grandfather.
3. Go monochromatic
We’re not alone in our obsession with monochromatic looks: A tailored ensemble in a single shade is a big trend on the street style front, as well. Try your hand by dressing head to toe in a single color: perhaps a tweedy grey sportcoat, a pair of grey chinos, and a grey crewneck sweater layered over a crisp white shirt. Or if blue is more your speed, and denim is permitted in your office, you can try a textured navy blazer with a navy sweater and a dark pair of rigid jeans. (Just save the ones with impressive fades for the weekend.)
4. Ditch the buttons for a day
It’s easy to think that you have to wear a button-front shirt to get away with a business casual ensemble. But if you pair them with the right pieces, there are plenty of other shirting options to choose among. Consider a turtleneck under an unstructured blazer, a trim polo shirt with a textured blazer, or even a slim-fitting, luxuriously-constructed crewneck tee with a darker blazer. Keep everything slim-fitting to keep the look clean.
5. Nail the details
No matter how you choose to turn the traditional nine-to-five uniform on its head, it’s important to ensure that you get the details right. Make sure that all of the clothes you choose to wear are tailored to perfection (and that nothing’s been crumpled in the back of your closet gathering wrinkles). Make sure that the colors and textures you choose are actually a good match — which probably means getting dressed in the dark is a no-go — and ensure that accessories like a tie, a pocket square, a pair of socks, or even your briefcase all work harmoniously with the ensemble you’ve chosen. When you’re breaking traditional dress code rules, it’s always a good idea to make sure that the outfit is exactly right.