When first entering the world of business, most men and women don’t understand what clothes are appropriate to wear. Although dress codes vary from office to office, the general expectations are the same; dress in clothes that are nice and appropriate for your job. Sometimes though, the difference between business casual and business professional is difficult to navigate, as the difference can be as simple as wearing a different colored top and removing a blazer. To help you distinguish between the two, we’ve broken it down for you.
Unless your office is extremely conventional or states otherwise, business professional is typically reserved for interviews, formal events, or important client meetings.
- For Her
A tailored pantsuit or skirt suit paired with conservative footwear is appropriate. Although heels are recommended, keep the stilettos at home and wear low to mid-sized heels instead. Styled hair and natural-looking makeup is strongly recommended.
- For Him
Men should always wear a suit and tie when they need to dress in business professional clothing. There’s no need for a tuxedo since you aren’t getting ready for prom, but a nice blazer and matching pants that fit well will make you look sharp and ready for success. Underneath the suit jacket, you should wear a tucked-in, solid-colored dress shirt and a tie. For shoes, stick to dress shoes with dark colored dress socks that go above the ankle. Finally, don’t forget good hygiene! You’d be surprised just how much of an impact clean grooming and ironed clothes can have.
- For Everyone
Clean grooming, neutral colors, and conservative footwear work best for all. A confident smile and positive attitude will polish off your look.
Remember, first impressions are important. If you’re not sure of the dress code, go with business professional. No one will condemn you for being the best-dressed person in the room. As the saying goes, dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
When you think business casual, think, “Sunday best.” Business casual can be the trickiest attire to navigate because it’s not casual, but it’s not business professional either. Business casual is usually perfect for company luncheons, a normal day at the office (depending on your own office’s dress code of course), and all other informal office events.
- For Her
In the case of both business casual and business professional, women have many options to choose from. For example, knee-length dresses with sleeves, khakis or other nice pants, or skirts paired with a blouse are all perfectly appropriate. Again, try to keep shoes on the conservative side. Wearing closed-toe flats or nice sandals with business casual clothing and keeping heels reserved for business professional attire is usually the best option. For business casual, you can stray away from neutral colors and try out a few trendy looks, but proceed with caution.
- For Him
A collared shirt (typically a solid colored polo), dress pants or khakis, and a belt are standard. A button-down shirt, sport jacket, or cardigan can be thrown into the mix for variety, but no tie is necessary. Loafers or closed-toe dress shoes are ideal, and unless your office has stated different expectations, business casual usually includes having your shirt tucked in.
- For Everyone
Where jeans are concerned, don’t wear them unless you’re 100 percent sure they’re accepted, which can vary from casual Fridays to never. Stick to conservative shoes and always remember your good hygiene and a confident attitude. Finally, an iron and a lint roller can be your best friends if you let them. With these tips, you’ll be sure to impress.
Check out our printable infographic for an easy on-the-go reference: Business Dress Code
Madeline Neal is a senior at LSU studying Mass Communication. When she’s not taking selfies with her dog, Emma, you’ll find her at a local bakery eating chocolate chip cookies. In her spare time, she watches reruns of “The Office” and hopes one day to live in New York City.
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