Dress Code Types

As discussed in our previous article on dress code types, in 95% situations in your life, you will need only 4 dress codes. In this article, we will get into more detail about business formal, business casual, smart casual, and casual dress codes. You think this sounds complicated? Take a look at the dress code instructions from 1902!

Dress codes in workplaces are becoming less and less formal. With that, smart casual dress code is gaining popularity. But what does “smart casual” actually mean? How do you pull it off? In fact, it is not too hard if you follow some basic rules.

The Old Standard: Business Formal Dress Code

Business Formal Dress Code
Business Formal Dress Code

Business formal is the classic office look. Although loosing its positions to other dress codes as office environments are becoming less and less formal, it is still important in many industries. This dress code communicates professionalism, so just think about how you would like your lawyer to look like? Additionally, business formal is still the number 1 dress code for job interviews. So what is it all about?

The key attributes of business formal is a dark suit, a tie, and a white dress shirt. Oxford or loather shoes with clean lines are appropriate here. If you are wearing a black suit, never wear brown shoes! In regards to accessories, don’t get too carried away. Utilize a belt, minimal cufflinks, and different tie options.

Casual Dress Code: The Opposite of Formality

Above we covered the most formal of the 4 dress codes, now let’s take a look at the least formal one. By explaining these 2, it will be easier to see where the smart casual and business casual dress fit in.

Casual Dress Code
Casual Dress Code

Casual dress code associates with informal and comfortable clothing. But be careful not to take it too far – you still need to look appropriately and professionally. There are quite a few options to choose from. Jeans are a good choice as long as they are not excessively ripped, tattered, or hip-hugging. Match that with a plain t-shirt, polo shirt, or a casual button down shirt. Choice of shoes? Sneakers, converse, or loafers. Add a nice blazer or a sport coat on top and you are good to go! Just remember not to wear a tie or a bowtie when the dress code is casual.

Smart Casual: a Mix of Business Formal and Casual Dress Codes

Let’s start from the beginning. Key attributes of business formal dress code are a dark color 2 piece suit, white dress shirt, a tie, and appropriate footwear. Not much room for improvisation. On the other hand, the casual dress code allows you to wear informal, comfortable clothing like t-shirts, sneakers, and jeans.

Smart Casual Dress Code
Smart Casual Dress Code

So how do you mix these together? Almost any way you like! Replace the dress shirt with a t-shirt, loose the tie, add sneakers. Denims, dress shirts, and a sweater is another combination. How about a sport coat, polo shirt, and nice jeans? Go for it!

In general, mix the bellow items and you will master the smart casual dress code:

  • Pants: denims, chinos, dress pants
  • Top: Dress shirt, polo shirt, nice t-shirt, blazer, sweater, sport coat

Business Casual: a Business Formal on Hibernation

This dress code can be quite easy to pull off. Take a regular business formal attire with a suit, white dress shirt, a tie, etc. Put your jacket on a chair, loose the tie, unbutton the first button of your dress shirt and that’s it! You could roll up your sleeves to be more casual.

The best thing about this dress code is that you look casual enough, but you also have an option to go full formal without any effort if situation requires. And for those working in the office, such situations arise quite often.

If this sounds too easy, you can wear a button down shirt, paired with khakis or dress pants. However t-shirt is not an option for this dress code type.

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