We loved the aesthetics of the hit series Mad Men as much as anybody did. The sharp three-piece suiting strutted around in by Draper et al. was an absolute boon for sartorial menswear at the time, but since his tenure at Sterling Cooper came to a halt, you won’t have failed to have noticed that men’s business attire has been on a march to a much more casual destination.
Sure, the suit is still alive and kicking, but it’s not the same worsted wool coat of armour it once was. Soft tailoring in the form of unstructured jackets is now the norm, and that’s only on days when you might need to impress a client. For all other times, business casual has been the dominant dress code.
So what is it and how do you best achieve it? Read on to discover everything you need to give your business wardrobe a relaxed upgrade for 2024.
What Does Business Casual Mean In 2024?
‘Business casual’ typically refers to a dress code that falls somewhere between formal business attire and casual wear. In the office, that might mean the suit is superfluous to requirements, and smart separates are a better, more laid-back approach.
In some workplaces, it might mean that the omission of a tie is playing by the rules but a suit is still required, while in others, dressing in a more classic preppy way with chinos and jersey could be perfectly acceptable. So before you go striding into the office in your off-duty clothes, take the temperature of the place to better understand where the sartorial expectations begin and end.
As a rule though, you can expect business casual to include dress shirts as a cornerstone of your Monday-Friday looks, but even they are changing with the times. One brand spearheading a unique repositioning of the dress shirt is Collars & Co., the New York-based outfit that has deftly combined the structured collar of the traditional dress shirt with a fitted polo shirt body.
This results in an incredibly comfortable alternative to the dress shirt, but without losing any of the visible formality of the structured collar. Comfort in the office has never looked so good.
Slacks or chinos in colours such as navy, grey, khaki, or black are safe choices, especially if they are gently tapered. While not always necessary, a blazer or sports coat can elevate a business-casual look, especially if you opt for interesting fabrications such as tweed or a knitted style, both of which are inherently more casual than the suit jacket.
But in place of tailoring, the quarter-zip sweater has perfect business-casual appeal since you can wear a collar beneath it in a preppy style or layer it over a tee for a more laid-back office vibe. You can probably ditch your Oxfords in place of loafers or Derbies, but some offices are perfectly OK with lo-fi minimalist sneakers, too.
7 Key Business-Casual Pieces For 2024
The dress polo shirt is a relatively new phenomenon but it has already gained traction thanks to the rise of business casual. There are no better purveyors of it than Collars & Co, who have been able to master the genre by crafting their versions in an extra comfortable, 4-way stretch fabric.
The semi-spread collar styles are perfect for the office and come in a huge variety of colours and styles, from plain tones to ginghams and checks.
The cornerstone of a versatile business-casual look is often the simplest of garments: the T-shirt. But that doesn’t mean any old T-shirt will do. Even if your workplace has a relaxed approach to dress codes, your tee still needs to look smart and polished.
Collar & Co’s Lucca T-shirts are exactly that, crafted from a proprietary blend of cotton and silk and cut in a figure-flattering shape. Dress them up with a knitted blazer or use them as a clean base layer below a crew-neck sweater or quarter-zip.
Either way, you have a super soft and comfortable platform that will form the foundation of your business-casual wardrobe.
Stretch Dress Shirt
When you require the formality of a long-sleeve dress shirt but want the comfort of a classic stretch polo, Collar & Co’s Quattro Flex Dress Shirt should be your go-to.
Crafted from a 4-way stretch, breathable and wrinkle-resistant fabric, and featuring a semi-spread collar with wraparound stays, it is the perfect dance partner for relaxed tailoring. It can equally be worn beneath a crew-neck sweater for a more preppy look.
A nice bit of detailing is the dress cuffs, which reinforce the dress shirt DNA without compromising on comfort.
An icon of Ivy League style, the quarter-zip sweater has become ingrained in business-casual lore, offering a relaxed alternative to the tailored blazer or suit jacket.
Collars & Co have produced a stunning collection of quarter-zip styles made from a heathered cotton blend with just the right amount of stretch, alongside super-soft merino wool options.
While fitted, it’s roomy enough to layer over their dress polos or Quattro-Flex shirts and is available in a variety of understated tones befitting the business-casual code.
While we love a beautifully tailored trouser, in the realm of business casual, those sharp edges and razor-blade pleats might look a tad too formal. That’s where chinos come in, and specifically, Collar & Co’s Five-Pocket Cotton Stretch Pants.
These pants have been constructed with a gradual taper from the thigh for a contemporary silhouette, using nothing but carefully selected premium cotton materials. Available in a wide range of colours, these pants are incredibly versatile, enabling you to dress them up with a shirt and blazer or pair them with a sweater and polo for a more laid-back vibe.
Bookend them with classic Derbies, loafers or even double monks.
Hard-line sartorialists might have a tough time accepting the business-casual code, but if your love for the tailored jacket borders on obsession, then there is a middle ground – the knitted blazer.
Textural, warm and comfortable, but with the silhouette and details of a traditional jacket, the knitted blazer is an excellent business-casual alternative. Collars & Co have produced a sublime example of this style, constructed from a merino-blend cloth using a half-Milano stitch.
Available in navy and light grey options and featuring front lapels, two front pockets and two button closures, it’s a beautifully soft layer to wear over a dress polo with chinos.
The quilted vest was, once upon a time, a symbol of the countryside, and a purely utilitarian garment designed to keep your torso warm. Yet over the last half century or so, it has become much more of an urban commodity, finding its home in the city.
Lightweight, warm, functional and stylish, it has become an emblem of modern preppy style. Collars & Co have produced two of the best value versions we have found, both of which slide into the business-casual remit.
The first is a navy style constructed from quilted polyester fabric that’s windproof and features brown suede-style trim around the pockets and back collar. The second is its inverse, constructed from brown tech suede. Both would look excellent combined with a quarter-zip sweater or layered over a crew neck and dress polo.
A paid partnership with Collars & Co. – words and opinions Ape’s own.