Since we last spoke with some of today’s young, chic CEO’s – business leaders like David Baumgartner of dean&david – we learned that pinstripe suits and silk pocket squares aren’t necessary for corporate success. In fact, in most startup companies, fashion plays a minor role. In classic industries like consulting, sales, or finance, things are a little different. But even in these fields, the dress code is becoming increasingly flexible. Surely you’ve heard of Casual Fridays? But watch out – it’s important to maintain the right sense of style, even for corporate parties and casual Fridays – to help you out, we’ve asked the fashion experts at Outfittery to help identify some stylish outfits for men to wear at occasions where business casual is required. Take note… this is how you make a great impression, gents!
Business Casual vs. Smart Casual
“The term ‘Business Casual’ refers to a formal look, but with a few casual touches,” explains Anja Mittelstaedt, the editor in chief of the Outfittery Blog. This dresscode is ideal for casual Fridays, for employees who want to present themselves as professional, but a bit less informally – fashionwise, of course. A well-groomed appearance is still an absolute must: “An elegant pair of chinos or woolen pants are always a safe choice. Try pairing these with a professional button-down, a blazer and high quality leather shoes. Colors and patterns in an outfit like this should be minimal, not so obvious. But at the same time, this outfit shouldn’t look overly casual. Jeans, t-shirts and sporty sneakers should stay hidden in your closet.”
The situation: you’re invited to an internal company party after work. The dresscode: Smart Casual. It sounds easy, not forced. But is it? “This dresscode describes an upgraded leisure look,” says Mittelstaedt. “Instead of elegant slacks, it’s permissible to wear jeans in a classic dark wash for events like these. The traditional button-down shirt can also be swapped out for a polo shirt. But a jacket should still be worn. In terms of footwear, it’s your choice between classic leather oxfords, or chic loafers.”
Who Can Partake in Casual Friday?
Casual Fridays are usually instituted in companies where the employees must typically wear very formal clothing – for example, in traditional companies or specific industries, like insurance. In younger, or smaller companies, start-ups, or companies in the creative or IT sector, dresscodes are rarely the norm. “Some companies – like Outfittery – use the reverse idea. A while ago, we decided to start ‘Fancy Tuesdays’ instead of ‘Casual Fridays.’ On these days, employees are encouraged to dress a little sharper and more creatively,” says Anja Mittelstaedt.
Favorite Pieces and No-Gos
Senior managers must command the respect of their employees, and convey a sense of confidence – this only works when your team takes you seriously. How will they react if you march into the office wearing a Mickey Mouse tie, or a cozy hoodie? Perhaps nothing, at first class. Your team might have the self control to restrain themselves to soft giggles whenever you leave the office. But in the long-run, these fashion faux-pas will start to chip away at your reputation.
When you begin at a company as a new executive, you should also arrive at the office with a solid understanding of the dress code. “A senior manager in a flexible startup can show up on Casual Friday wearing a tshirt and jeans, without sustaining any damage to his credibility. But in larger companies, executives should still maintain a sense of professionalism, even on a Casual Friday, by keeping up a sophisticated appearance.” If your company will allow you to leave your suit and tie hanging in your closet, you can bet on wearing a pair of elegant chinos, a classic button-down and a fitted jacket. “Rather than wearing black business shoes, you could wear elegant brown leather dress shoes instead. There’s an especially lovely selection of classic Budapester-style shoes available.”
Tank tops, cropped pants and open shoes like flipflops are absolute no-gos, and are not to be considered “Smart Casual,” or “Business Casual” – unless you’re going to a summer barbecue.
A Little Individuality, Please!
“The key to a stylish look is the fit of your clothes,” advises the fashion experts from Outfittery. “A perfectly fitting jacket, the right collar size of a shirt and fitting pants make their wearer look instantly more confident and well-assured.” Those who feel more comfortable in their clothing exude a certain confidence. When your shirt sleeves are too long, or you have to constantly fuss with your pants hem to keep them from slipping, you convey insecurity. If you don’t fill out your clothes, it won’t be long before people wonder if you can fulfill your role, or if you have to grow into it – literally and metaphorically speaking. To give a good impression, you should try to invest in tailored pieces where possible.
Want to underline your individuality, or show off your creativity? “You can do this with statement pieces like watches, belts, or other small accessories.” And that’s how to master the “casual look.”
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