How to Pull Off Casual Clothes in the Office (While Still Looking Professional)

It used to be that if you were a man who worked in an office, you wore a suit and tie. Simple (if a little boring). Then came casual Friday. Now, even banks have relaxed their dress codes to allow for business casual. Which is great news. Unless, of course, you have no idea what actually qualifies as business casual, an all-too-common problem. Luckily for you, we've got some easy-to-follow guidelines that will keep you looking stylish, comfortable, and professional. From the right sneakers (yes, you can wear sneakers!) to how to properly dress up a pair of jeans, here are seven rules to make sure you don't sacrifice the "business" part of business casual.

1. Keep the denim dark and rip-free

Denim is by no means off-limits for the office. The trick is to go with a slimmer cut that isn't too skinny, and, for the most part, stick with a darker wash, like a black or a raw indigo. And to keep things from getting too casual, pair your jeans with a crisp oxford shirt or even a blazer. 


2. That said, light wash isn't out of the question.

For the most part, dark denim is the more professional way to go. But light denim can work. You just have to be more careful about what you wear it with. Just as with the dark denim, make sure it's a slimmer fit and rip-free. Then pair it with either a crisp white oxford and a navy blazer, or maybe a tailored cotton khaki blazer. And stick with something like Chelsea boots or loafers rather than sneakers. Lighter jeans already skew casual, and you don't want to go too far with that. 

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3. Sneakers are great, but keep it minimal.

Yes, everyone is super impressed that you nabbed the latest Jordan collab, but save those more adventurous sneakers for your off hours. At the office, stick to something more subtle and minimal, with a streamlined silhouette. You can wear them with everything from jeans and a button-up shirt to a full suit.

4. Accessorize, but with restraint.

From belts to watch bands, accessories are an easy way to bring personality to a business wardrobe. Just do it sparingly. NATO watchbands are a great place to add a little extra visual interest (plus they're inexpensive and easy to switch up to suit different looks). 


5. Carry a stylish tote or a soft leather briefcase.

Nothing torches a professional look like a giant frat-style backpack. Of course, you don't want to go too far in the other direction either with an old-school hard leather briefcase. The best thing to do is stick to the middle with a stylish tote or a soft leather briefcase. It will show people that you're an expert at the business part of business casual. 

6. To tuck or not to tuck? It's all in the shirt, always.

It might seem counterintuitive, but tucking in a button-down isn't always the best move. Some shirts—in fabrics like denim, chambray, or flannel—are designed with shorter hems so that they can be worn untucked. Formal shirts in broadcloth (and some oxfords) have longer hemlines, which should always be worn tucked in to avoid the Going Out Shirt look. Generally, it's best to err on the side of tucking in. But with the right shirt, untucked is totally doable. 

7. The navy blazer is your friend.

The suit and tie may be reserved for board meetings or interviews, but blazers are always welcome. And while there are plenty of great blazer options out there, navy is the classic choice that goes with almost anything. You can stick with something more traditional and structured, or go with an unstructured design for more versatility. Either way, a navy blazer is the ultimate business casual stalwart. 

This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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Scott Christian
Scott Christian is a style writer for
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