Business Casual is open for interpretation nowadays. In reality, you never get a second chance to make a good impression. When traveling between cities, packing for “business casual” can be a nightmare or simply visiting a client in a different industry can be tricky. For example, The West Coast’s idea of business casual is completely different than the East’s – they’re more “Steve Jobs” (i.e. black t-shirt and jeans), where we’re comfortable in a suit jacket, button down and khaki’s. Kip Hollister, our CEO, says “embracing the business casual look is a good thing for the Boston area as long as there is an understanding of what is expected. If we want to attract top technology talent to our area, we have to adapt to the culture of the business.”
Kip makes a good point. If the company you work for is in the services industry and you have clients in and out of your office, you should be expected to wear at least nice khaki’s and a button down shirt or a dress and flats. If you work in the Innovation District at a startup in Boston, it’s a different story. “You have to be a chameleon,” says Kip.
Here’s our go-to-guide when dressing business casually:
Clothes should be clean, unwrinkled and look professional. They should have a good fit and reflect what you will be doing during the day. If you are visiting a client in the technology/creative industry, you can stray away from a sports jacket. Dress comfortably, but still be respectful.
Blazer – It’s not required for business casual, but definitely freshens up your outfit.
Shirt – Button down or polo shirt suffices. You don’t necessarily have to tuck your shirt in, but it does make you look more put together. If you wear a tie, you most likely will be overdressed.
Pants – Trousers and khakis are a good option. Wear dark colors like black, blue, grey or khaki.
Shoes – Formal leather shoes, loafers, ankle boots or even suede if you want to be trendy. Boat shoes can be an exception sometimes, just be cautious about the audience. Do not wear running sneakers.
Accessories – Watches are a great touch and same with belts. No hats allowed. Always wear a belt if you are tucking in your shirt. Make sure the buckle is not too flashy and the leather is not worn out.
Shirt – Blouse or a plain shirt, cardigan or sweater. You don’t have to tuck your shirt in if you don’t want to. Never wear something that reveals your back, cleavage or undergarments.
Pants – Dress pants, khakis. Stay within the grey and black tones. Tailored jeans may be appropriate for less-formal industries.
Skirt or Dress – Be cautious about your length. If you are questioning the length as soon as you put your dress or skirt on, take it off and pick something else. Consider this rule and keep your skirt or dress 3 inches above your knee.
Shoes – Who doesn’t love shoes? Flats are a great way to stay comfortable. If you choose to wear heels, make sure they are good height so you can walk and stand for a while. No flip flops, but nice sandals for the summer months could work depending on the crowd and venue.
Accessories – Not too much, but not too little. Keep it simple and classy. A nice set of stud earrings or a pair of simple dangly ones are okay. A watch is always nice and a ring. Don’t go overboard with accessories.
In the end, you want to impress the people you are meeting or working with. It is always better to feel confident than uncomfortable.