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 eight 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. Dark Wash Straight Jeans by DSTLD, dstld.com
2| That said, a 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. Federal Slim Straight Jeans by Paige, nordstrom.com
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. Capri Triple White by Koio, koio.com
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. A good, not-too-pricey watch is a great place to add a little extra visual interest. The Mod Watch by Timex x Todd Snyder, toddsnyder.com
5| Swap your briefcase for a backpack.
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: a high-quality leather backpack is right down the middle. It will show people that you're an expert at the business part of business casual. Leather Backpack by Common Projects, mrporter.com
6| You can't go wrong with an oxford shirt.
Especially if you're not sure how to pull off jeans in a more professional environment, keeping the top half of your outfit buttoned-up helps. It makes certain that your outfit isn't straying too far into the casual department. Any color works, but you can never go wrong with white. It looks good on its own and layered under blazers or jackets. Air Oxford Shirt by Everlane, everlane.com
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. Burbank Blazer by A.P.C., endclothing.com
8| Don't discount your outerwear.
If it was designed for mountain sports, save it for the mountain. Pairing sports outerwear with business apparel is a quick way to look out of place, even in a casual office. Invest in a simple but capable trench or Mackintosh-style jacket for the wet and cooler months. You'll still be warm and dry, but you won't look like you're getting ready to head to Sagada after work. Trench coat by Selected Homme, topman.com
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.