Autumn Business-Casual Survival Guide

Earlier this week we published an article that was designed to help you boost your university style, just in time for freshers’ week. Yet while a lot young men will soon be leaving the safety and comfort of home and striking out on their own for the very first time, many others will be facing another similar period of excitement and uncertainty.

Yes, for those of you who finished your final exams back in June, the prospect of starting a new graduate job is on the horizon. And with it comes a whole new set of style rules. Gone are the days of polo shirts, sweatshirts, jeans and Chuck Taylors – it’s time for you to enter the confusing and often terrifying world of ‘business-casual’.

Now, this term may be completely foreign to you, and that’s OK. If you plan on working anywhere near the financial sector then it’s also a term you’ll likely never encounter; your specific concerns will now revolve around navy pinstriped suits, black Oxford shoes and solid grenadine ties. But for those of you outside the corporate world, what exactly does business-casual mean?

The Rise Of Business-Casual

Business-casual is a buzzword that has risen to prominence due to the continued promotion of relaxed, friendly and calm work environments. Essentially, you’re allowed to dress in a slightly more casual way, in comparison to traditional business dress.

But even then, that’s horribly vague – how do you get the balance right? What if you lean too much to one side? It’s enough to make any guy sweat, and you’ve not even started trying to do your actual job yet!

Luckily, that’s where FashionBeans comes in. We’ve put together a list of the items that we think are essential to nailing the aesthetic. Because, in essence, what business-casual really means is this: feel comfortable and confident enough to realise your full potential. And, as a result, get those promotions and benefits you desire.

You can achieve this by building the perfect mix and match work wardrobe that can adapt to any scenario at a moment’s notice.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

1. Blazers

Come September, there are only three jackets you’ll need for the office. The first is a classic navy version, which goes with everything you can think of and will instantly smarten up any look.

The second is a grey tweed blazer: perfect for colder mornings and incorporating other textured layers such as chambray shirts, cashmere v-neck jumpers and merino wool cardigans.

Lastly, a beige cotton blazer will help lift even the most sombre of business looks while adding an element of warmth.

Just make sure all three fit you properly: they should have high armholes, be cut slim through the sides and finish below your bum. If not, make an appointment with your tailor immediately.

Lookbook Inspiration

tm lewin 2014 digel aw14 avva aw14 massimo dutti september 2014 massimo dutti september 2014 selected homme aw13 joop pepe jeans aw13 he by mango aw12 club monaco aw12 tommy hilfiger tailored aw14

Key Styles
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Wool Suit Blazer
  • Reiss Fairline B Two Button Blazer Navy
  • Asos Slim Fit Blazer In 100% Wool
  • Reiss Barney B Two Tone Modern Blazer Grey
  • Gap Wool Tweed Blazer
  • Asos Slim Fit Blazer In Tweed
  • He By Mango Premium Brushed Cotton Blazer
  • Jort Sand Plain
  • Asos Slim Fit Blazer In Cotton
2. Trousers

Chinos in neutral colours are a must for any business-casual wardrobe. Opt for flat fronted, slim-fitting versions in navy, grey, brown and beige for the best results.

A pair of charcoal/grey flannel suit trousers will also prove invaluable; they look great throughout the colder months, will add some much-needed character and texture to your office attire and can be combined with everything else on this list.

If you’re allowed to wear jeans, have one pair for the odd change of pace on dress-down Friday. Make sure they’re in a dark indigo wash with no distressing and cut slim enough to sit tight above a dress shoe.

Lookbook Inspiration

zara editions 2013 sarar ss14 selected homme ss14 reiss ss14 primark aw14 hugo boss aw14 armani collezioni aw14 banana republic pre aw14 digel aw12 avva aw14 avva aw14 avva aw14

Key Styles
  • Reiss Tullum Heavyweight Twill Chinos Grey
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Tailored Cotton Chinos
  • He By Mango Cotton Canvas Chinos
  • Brioni Tigullio-fit Cotton Chinos 206147
  • Reiss Conrad Flannel Tailored Trousers Grey
  • Lanvin Slim-fit Indigo Denim Jeans
3. Knits

Knitwear is ideal for creating practical layered looks that are full of depth. Breathable materials such as merino wool and cotton will ensure you stay comfortable and sweat free during autumn, but as temperatures drop you can also consider lambswool or cashmere construction.

V-neck jumpers and fine gauge cardigans both look superb layered over the top of Oxford shirts, while roll necks work extremely well on their own underneath a blazer – look to add all of these styles in a selection of neutral and rich colour ways to your business-casual arsenal.

Another versatile design to consider is the chunky shawl neck cardigan – the perfect substitute for a blazer during the transitional season, it will help add a tactile element to your standard trouser and shirt getups.

Lookbook Inspiration

h&m 2014 h&m ss13 avva aw14 tommy hilfiger tailored aw14 he by mango september 2012 louis vuitton aw13 de fursac aw14 dune aw14 he by mango fall 2014 massimo dutti nyc 5th avenue aw14 el burgues k boxing aw14

Key Styles
  • Allsaints Ettrick Crew Jumper
  • Reiss Alto V-neck Merino Wool Jumper Bordeaux
  • He By Mango Turtleneck Wool Sweater
  • Uniqlo Men Extra Fine Merino Crew Neck Sweater
  • Uniqlo Men Extra Fine Merino V-neck Cardigan
  • French Connection Glacier Roving Wool-blend Cardigan
  • Reiss Walter Merino Wool Cardigan Navy
  • Loro Piana Cashmere Cardigan
  • Gant Rugger Cable-knit Melange Cotton Sweater
4. Shirts

Oxford cloth shirts – need we say more? They are the work horse of any stylish man’s capsule wardrobe and come in a wide array of colours, patterns and styles.

Make sure they fit you in the neck and shoulders and consider having darts put in the back if the sides are too baggy. You should be able to fit two fingers comfortably between your neck and collar, and when you turn your head the collar should stay still. The cuff should end where your thumb and wrist meet.

Look to build a collection of solid styles in classic business-appropriate shades such as white, blue and pink, complementing these essentials with striped, check or gingham versions.

  • Uniqlo Men Oxford Long Sleeve Shirt
  • Uniqlo Men Oxford Long Sleeve Shirt
  • Uniqlo Men Oxford Slim Fit Long Sleeve Shirt
  • Incotex Glanshirt Slim-fit Cotton Oxford Shirt
  • Ben Sherman clerkenwell Collar Shirt
  • J. Crew Slim Vintage Oxford Shirt In Heathered Cotton
  • John Lewis Oxford Stripe Long Sleeve Shirt
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Slim-fit Check Cotton Oxford Shirt
  • Austin Reed Long Sleeve Tattershall Check Oxford Shirt
5. Neck Ties

A tie probably won’t be required in an office with a business-casual dress code – but that’s even more of a reason to have some to hand.

What if you’re asked to make a presentation? Or what if the managing director is paying your division a visit? A tie would sure come in handy, right? If you’re only going to buy one then make it a navy knitted silk version as they are simple, classic and versatile enough to pair with any shirt and jacket combo you can think of.

Other great options are: grey wool, navy and white stripe, black and white polka dot, and burgundy/black/navy grenadine.

  • Reiss Champ Knitted Silk Tie Navy
  • J. Crew Drakes Wool Tie
  • John Lewis Classic Striped Tie
  • Drakes Dot-embroidered Wool And Silk-blend Tie
  • Drakes Silk-grenadine Tie
  • T.m.lewin Navy Knitted Silk Tie
6. Shoes

This is easy: purchase all the classics that make up a capsule wardrobe and you won’t go wrong. Think black Derbies, chocolate brown Oxfords, burgundy penny loafers, tan desert boots and brown brogue boots/shoes.

Depending on the office you may even be able to throw in some smart trainers – but if you do, opt for a black or brown minimal leather pair to maintain a professional note.

Remember that people (read: clients, peers, your boss) will instantly judge you on your shoes, so invest in the best you can afford, look after them properly and keep them clean and polished to ensure you always make the right impression.

  • New Look Lace Up Shoes
  • He By Mango Leather Loafers
  • Reiss Chainey Leather Lace Pumps Black
  • Next Loake Tan Suede Desert Boot
  • Mr. Hare Bernard Leather Derby Shoes
  • John Lewis & Co. Durham Leather Brogue Boots Brown

Finally, a word on accessories. I’ve personally worked in plenty of places that have frowned upon wearing a pocket square, deeming them too flashy and flamboyant.

It’s easy to see why – they really have only become popular amongst menswear enthusiasts, after all. So try and judge your audience before pulling the trigger on that blue and pink floral version you got for Christmas.

The same applies to superfluous formal accessories such as tie bars, collar pins, statement watches and other forms of jewellery.

Final Word

So there you have it, a quick survival guide on dressing in a business-casual work environment.

Next week we’re going to cover what to wear to a job interview when going for a promotion, changing careers or just trying to get on the ladder.

For now, make sure you let us know your thoughts/tips on dressing for a business-casual office environment in the comments section below…