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Help! What does business casual really mean?

This post takes 5 minutes to read and is written by Annika Lagerqvist

Have you ever been given the dress code "business casual" and helplessly thought: well, what does it really mean? 

Then you are not alone. We asked Oxford University, which defines the term business casual like this:

"A style of dress that is less formal than traditional business attire, but still designed to give a professional and business-like impression."

Simply put, business casual is a professional but casual outfit. Though what is considered professional or business casual, varies depending on factors such as climate, culture and company.

So how should you think?

Fashion and style are subjective terms, but the difference can be crucial when you want to be perceived as professional. Leaning too much towards the business side can make you feel overdressed and uncomfortable. On the other hand, dressing too casually, like a pair of worn-out shoes and wrinkled trousers, never gives a serious impression.

Start by becoming aware of the different dress codes

Understanding what dress codes mean and following them has a big impact on your career prospects. As an employee, you should adhere to the company's standards, which means you are expected to maintain a professional appearance in the office, at customer meetings and in other business contexts.

Difficult to sell your ideas at work?

We have seen how many capable and well-educated people find it difficult to sell their ideas because of an unprofessional appearance.

It can be frustrating because clothes should not determine your competence or credibility. But the reality is that how you dress affects how others perceive you and your prospects for a business or career.

But there is no general rule of the definition "business casual." Rather, as I mentioned earlier, it depends on several factors such as industry, company size, number of employees, geography, climate, culture as well as age.

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Alessandro Squarzi knows the art of dressing business but casual

Okay, but what should I choose in the wardrobe? Good question. Here are 5 stylish tips on how to dress business casual at work.

1st Think Ralph Lauren

Go for a shirt dress or a pair of smart trousers with a blouse or shirt. Combine with a knitted sweater and sporty trench coat. Search "Ralph Lauren outfit women" or "Ralph Lauren outfit men" on Pinterest for inspiration.

2. With or without a tie?

For men; beige or khaki chinos, shirt (slightly unbuttoned), no tie. Or why not a dressy denim shirt with a tie? Again; think Ralph Lauren.

3rd Say it with socks

Even a tennis shirt, known as a "polo", paired with a blazer is a great casual look. Add a pair of stylish, colourful socks for more personality. You've seen Fredrik Eklund in Million Dollar Listing New York, right?


Well-polished leather loafers or a pair of suede loafers in summer. Here you have to think Italy. No one will notice if your clothes are bought at H&M (which, by the way, has a lot of great-looking and affordable business casual clothes) as long as you have a nice pair of well polished shoes. Basta.

5. Yes, men can also carry a bag

Computer bag, handbag, man-bag, or wallet - just as your shoes put your outfit in place, so does your bag. So if you're on a tight budget; buy your clothes at HM or a similar store, and spend a larger sum on quality shoes and bag.

Life isn't always perfect, but your outfit can be.

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