When you picture dressing for the office, what comes to mind? Unless you work in a very conservative field, you’re probably thinking of an endless carousel of collared shirts and chinos. Maybe the occasional sweater/blazer and pair of dress pants. And…that’s about it.
There’s nothing wrong with having a work uniform (ask any number of highly successful people). But that doesn’t mean you can’t put your own personal spin on what is, to be fair, a somewhat ambiguously defined “I’ll know it when I see it” dress code. One that varies from workplace to workplace, for that matter.
This somewhat flexible interpretation greatly opens up what could be considered office-appropriate. It’s less about each individual piece (although the components do matter) and more about the overall effect of your look. One slightly dressier item can skew the whole outfit a step or two toward the more formal end of the spectrum, while more casual pieces can prevent you from looking stuffy or like you’re trying too hard. This is a guiding principle of smart casual.
The popularity of collared shirts and khakis (and polos in the warmer months) not only gets guys into a style rut, it also sets up kind of an “unintentional preppy” situation. And again, nothing wrong with that–but if preppy isn’t your thing, it’s good to know there are other options.
We don’t have a cool name for this style (yet–Rugged Business Casual doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue), but think of it as your opportunity to experiment and redefine what “dress for success” means to you.
Moc Toe Boots
JCrew Kenton Pacer Boots, $186
These boots look sharp, but they mean business from the tip of the Moc toe to the very bottom of their sturdy lug sole. Finished with Goodyear Welt construction, they’ll last even longer than those seemingly endless status meetings.
➝ Do you have to match your belt to your shoes exactly? Find out.
➝ Check out all of our Business Casual Style articles
Stretch Brushed Twill Pants
These soft heathered pants have just enough stretch to be comfortable, while remaining office-appropriate (the next best thing would be your joggers, but we recommend saving those for working from home). Their closest equivalent would be a pair of chinos; the brushed twill edges them almost into wool trouser territory. If you don’t like your pants tailored quite so slim-fitting, try the straight-fit style.
Citizen, $210 (similar)
You don’t need an over the top statement watch–quite the opposite, in fact. A quietly handsome timepiece in timeless (ha) titanium will complement this and countless other outfits.
$90 (limited sizes)
It’s a delicate balance with sweaters–solids can be a little staid and ho-hum, but some patterns are *too* bold and distracting. Steer clear of knits with snowflakes, reindeer, and the like for most of the year, and look for subtle variations in color and texture that draw the eye without overwhelming. This pullover from J.Crew is knit with a birdseye pattern adding visual interest without defined geometry, similar to your favorite heather gray t-shirt.
This slim-fitting blazer is the most overtly formal piece of the look, but it’s still versatile–you could easily pair it with a pair of good jeans for date night. It’s available in sizes XS-3XL, and the herringbone pattern adds a nice textural detail when layered over a solid shirt or sweater. We featured it as one of the best affordable blazers to keep in the office for emergencies.
Get the look:
- Boots: JCrew Kenton Pacer Boots
- Pants: 484 slim fit stretch brushed twill in “General Surplus”
- Watch: Similar
- Birdseye sweater: J.Crew (limited sizes)
- Blazer: Amazon