When you think of business casual, what comes to mind? For some, the image of trouser-suits, neckties, skirts, and heels comes to the forefront. Others might picture more relaxed attire that doesn’t feel so “formal” and stuffy.
The reason people think differently about what business casual looks like is because it’s been a major “grey area” for years.
Up until the 1990s, suits and ties were considered traditional in an office setting. When a new generation came into the business world, they brought with them a more relaxed sense of style. While it hasn’t completely erased the suit and tie generation, it’s clear that there is more focus on the “casual” today than there was in the past.
Some of the most famous names in the world of business and industry have adopted an affection for casual attire, from Mark Zuckerburg to the late Steve Jobs. Richard Branson’s company doesn’t even have a dress code, and instead, uses a casual work environment as a way to boost productivity.
The definition of business casual is constantly changing, and that will likely continue. So, what does it look like today? What is acceptable to wear to work, and why are certain trends currently in style?
Creating a Casual Environment
Photo by Kim Cruz, Pexels
One of the reasons business casual is starting to focus more on the “casual” side of things is the current work environment across the globe. Again, some of the biggest names in business focus on casual attire to create a more positive, relaxed work environment for themselves and their employees. The benefits of a happier, more relaxed workplace include:
- More motivated employees
- Better attitudes
- Reduced stress
- Increased productivity
- Supportive employees
- Boosted creativity
Casual attire is becoming even more prominent in the startup industry. If you choose to further your education to get an MBA and build your own business, you’ll quickly see that. You’ll also get to decide on the kind of environment you want your business to build its foundation upon. With the benefits of casual attire, this decision may be crucial.
Work environments, in general, have also seen a change. Most recently, the gig economy and remote working have both seen a huge boost. This is due, in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, remote working was becoming more popular even before the pandemic hit. When people can work from home or their favourite cafe, they can dress in whatever makes them feel comfortable. As a result, they’re bound to get more done wearing their favourite shirt instead of a suit and tie. It’s one less thing they have to think about, so they can focus on their job, rather than being uncomfortable and stuffy.
What Are the Current Trends?
Although many workers today prefer casualty, it doesn’t mean that all offices consist of employees wearing t-shirts and blue jeans. The basics of business casual attire today include a jumper, chinos, and an optional shirt and tie for men. For women, the norm tends to be a blouse, dress slacks, and close-toed shoes. The current trend is for things to fit snugly, but not too tightly. Needless to say, the shoulder pads and boxy looks of the ’80s are long gone.
What should you do, though, when the dress code is super casual, or there isn’t a dress code at all? Don’t assume that it’s an excuse to wear dirty, ragged clothes to work every day. You can still look your best and feel your best while maintaining a sense of professionalism. There are some basic rules to follow that usually work for everyone, including:
- Wear what makes you feel confident
- Tie your look together with a few accessories
- Choose shoes that aren’t dirty, even if they aren’t dress shoes
- Have fun with prints and patterns
- Consider any first impressions you might have to make
Even if you’re working remotely, you’re going to feel better about yourself and your workday if you take the time to really “get dressed” in the morning, rather than spending the day in gym clothes or whatever you may have slept in. It’s still important to take pride in what you wear so you can feel confident and motivated, no matter what the current trends are.
Where Fashion Meets the Future
Photo by Leon, Unsplash
One current business casual trend that is impossible to ignore is sustainable fashion. It’s not just becoming popular in the business world, of course. Sustainable fashion is something prominent on the minds of consumers, considering 13 million tons of textile waste is produced across the globe each year. Even some fashion designers are starting to adapt their designs and creations to become a part of the sustainability movement.
You can’t ignore the fact that sustainability has caused a shift in what people look for in business casual attire. Thankfully, since sustainable fashion is becoming so popular, it’s easier than you might think to jump on board, by shopping at second hand shops or recycling your clothing in other ways. You can also shop with companies that are dedicated to sustainability, including wrapping things together with ethical jewellery that betters the planet and positively impacts human rights, all at once.
Once again, current business casual fashion trends reflect the state the world is in. From the popularity of remote working to concerns about the environment, current workplace fashion is an accurate depiction of where we are as a society — constantly evolving and changing along with the people.