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The Difference Between Business Casual and Professional

Business casual and business professional, do you know the difference? If you are about to enter a new job or your very first, it's important to know what is expected.

Business Professional

In today’s workplace there are still industries, like finance and law, that demand professional attire. Following the rules in this case is simple. Business professional attire means a suit, dress shirt, and a tie. The only real question is what suits to wear and how many do you need. If you have to wear a suit four (casual Friday excluded) or five times a week, we recommend owning a minimum of three suits. The most versatile colours and every man’s starting point are dark blue, charcoal grey, and black or medium grey. A solid fabric in a muted colour is the key to being able to wear the same suit more than once a week. By working with these suits as your foundation, you can bring variety to your attire by changing up your shirt, tie, shoes, and belt. And it goes without saying that the suits should be tailored to fit. Even the finest fabric looks cheap if the jacket or pants don’t hang properly.

When it comes to shoes for suits, you can’t go wrong with a classic pair of wingtips, plain, or cap toe oxfords. Remember make sure the shoes match the feel of the suit and the belt colour matches the shoes. Don’t wear brown shoes with a black suit and don’t wear a brown belt with black shoes. Otherwise, the rules are simple. Some of our favorite business professional shoes:

Business Casual

This one is a little trickier because every company has its own idea of what this term means. So, what is business casual? Just as the name implies, is not quite business professional but not truly casual either. It lies in the grey area between the two. In the 90s as industries moved from business professional to business casual a lot of men found themselves caught out. It was both troubling and costly. A suit and tie, day in and day out, what could be easier? Now they were forced to choose something new every day, and many had to fill in an empty space in the closet that was full of business suits and weekend wear with nothing in between.

The key thing to remember is that business casual is not casual. The idea is to look like a professional but without having to wear a suit and tie. Chinos or dress pants and a button-down dress shirt is the standard business casual uniform. Jeans can be worn (our tip is not to do this on your first day!) but ensure they are smart jeans, no tears and keep to a solid colour with no extreme fading. A jacket or blazer can be added and steer clear of a tie. If you have a closet full of suits, don’t throw them out, you can always wear one with an open collared shirt and a pair of more casual shoes.

Casual vs professional, if you’re still unsure, call the company in advance. Most HR departments are happy to share information about the dress code. If the information is still too vague, dress more formally than you think, especially the first week or so. In the meantime, observe your coworkers, they can help you figure out the boundaries. No matter what, avoid jeans and t-shirts until you’re certain they are acceptable. Remember dressing a bit above code shows that you take your career seriously.

On the shoe front, the good news is that there is no shortage of styles that offer the business casual look that pairs with chinos and casual pants. Most Derby’s are versatile choices. A dress boot always fits well with casual business attire. Or try something even more casual, but without going overboard, like a loafer or boat shoe. Some of our favorite business casual shoes:

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