Just What Is Business Casual?

Are there any words quite as terrifying in combination as “business casual”? You can dress smart, and you can dress casual, but once people start talking about that whole grey area in the middle it’s easy to get kind of lost. Business casual workwear clothing in Sussex may be nothing like business casual workwear clothing in Birmingham.

Fortunately we’re here to help. There are a few simple guidelines you can follow that will ensure you always look the part wherever you ‘re working.

Bear in the mind that although it’s hard to go wrong with this list, most offices will have their own rules and quirks, so pay attention to what others are wearing in the office.


The no-nos here are pretty easy to guess. Jeans, Bermuda shorts (indeed, any kind of shorts) and sweatpants are all mistakes that you should probably avoid here. But then there is the khakis controversy. Some people are pro-khakis – they look smart and clearly aren’t jeans. Others think khakis look just a bit too casual, that it shows a reluctance to wear proper office gear.

For women, skirts that are split at or below the knee are considered acceptable, and the skirt as  whole should always be at a length that allows you to sit comfortably in public. But there are limits, anything very short and tight that goes more than halfway up the tight is not a good idea. Neither are beach or sun dresses.


For your top you can get away with casual shirts, dress shirts, tops, polo-shirts and turtlenecks. You’ll also be hard pressed to find a suit or sports jacket that won’t pass muster in the office.

On the other hand, tank tops and tops that show your mid-riff are not acceptable. Some offices allow T-shirts, most do not, and even if T-shirts are allowed you should avoid profanity and any cartoons, slogans, pictures or cartoons that might be offensive.

You should also avoid tops with bare shoulders and sweatshirts.


When it comes to shoes you’ve got a lot of options. Athetic shoes, walking shoes, boots, loafers and leather-type deck shoes and high heels for women, but try to keep to conservative looking styles. You don’t want to be seen wearing flashy trainers, flip-flops, slippers or crocs.

Jewellery, Makeup and Perfume

If you’re wearing any personalised jewellery you should try to keep it as tasteful as possible, with body piercing kept to a minimum. With perfume and make-up, less is more.

Hats and Head Covering

While I’m sure you look great in a hat, the sad truth is hats aren’t considered appropriate in the office. However, if you wear head coverings for religious or cultural reasons most businesses will allow you some leeway.

Gareth Lamb is a freelance writer working for GP Workwear in Sussex.