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How to Define the 'Office Casual' Look for Employees

updated: October 3, 2023
How to Communicate the Office Casual Look to Employees

When the COVID-19 outbreak forced many offices to close in the spring of 2020, 71% of employed adults suddenly found themselves working from home. As 2024 approaches, this work-from-home trend doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. It’s changed the landscape of how Americans work, and how we dress has evolved with the times. Remote work has essentially removed the need to own a separate work wardrobe, and the lines between workwear and casual wear have become increasingly blurred. As a result, more and more companies are embracing a casual dress code for their employees, even when at the office.

What Is Casual Office Wear?

Casual office wear, also known as business casual, is a dress code that encourages a relaxed yet professional appearance. This typically includes khakis or slacks, button-down shirts or blouses, and smart shoes. While less formal than traditional business attire, it excludes overly casual clothing and still maintains a professional image while also allowing for comfort and personal expression.

Whether you’re an employee trying to decipher what exactly you can wear with a “casual” office dress code or an employer determining what exactly offering this benefit means, it’s important to become familiar with what makes the cut of a casual office wardrobe.

As casual office attire becomes the rule, rather than the exception, HR managers and marketing managers can embrace this trend by:

  • Updating their dress code policy to allow for more leniency
  • Providing employees with work-appropriate casual custom corporate apparel

Read on for more tips on how to redefine the workplace dress code and find ideas on how to use this new trend to your company’s marketing advantage.

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How to Explain the Office-Casual Look to Employees

While comfort is important, office casual doesn't mean rolling out of bed and showing up to work—it simply means a suit, tie, or heels isn't necessary. No matter how laid-back an office environment is, an employee's wardrobe should always remain professional and appropriate. Talking about “office casual wear” might be confusing to employees at first, since office casual wear is not, well, office wear… or casual wear.

What is the difference between office wear and casual wear?

Office wear and casual wear differ in their formality and appropriateness for professional settings. Office wear, also known as business attire, typically includes suits, dress shirts, ties, and formal shoes for men, or suits, blouses, skirts or slacks, and formal shoes for women. On the other hand, casual wear is intended to be relaxed and comfortable. It includes items like jeans, t-shirts, and hoodies. While office wear projects a professional image, casual wear is more suitable for informal, relaxed situations.

Communicate workplace expectations to employees with a detailed and comprehensive office or virtual dress code that leaves no one guessing. For example, a smart office-casual look for men and women can include:

  • Slacks or khakis
  • Dark jeans
  • Blazers or sport coats
  • Short- or long-sleeve button-down shirts or blouses
  • High-quality t-shirts in solid colors
  • Fashion scarves
  • Clean footwear—open-toed shoes and sneakers are typically appropriate

Too-casual looks to avoid include:

  • Jeans with rips or tears, even if they're intentional
  • Flip flops
  • Branded apparel, like sportswear
  • Hooded sweatshirts
  • Short skirts or shorts of any kind
  • Exercise clothing or loungewear

Does office-casual ever include jeans?

Yes, office-casual can sometimes include jeans, but this largely depends on each individual company's dress code. Here’s where your definition of “office-casual” comes in – make sure to anticipate this question from employees and include your response in the company dress code! Dark-washed or black jeans without rips or tears can be appropriate for a casual office environment. However, they are normally paired with a more formal top and shoes to maintain a professional appearance.

Is it OK to wear sneakers for business casual?

Yes, it can be acceptable to wear sneakers in a business casual setting, but they should be clean and in good condition. Opt for minimalist, low-profile sneakers in neutral colors like black, white, or grey. It's best to avoid bright colors, flashy designs, or athletic sneakers. However, office dress codes can vary widely, so make sure that any guidelines about sneakers are included in your company’s official dress code policy.

Help Your Employees Look the Part

As we redefine office casual, take advantage of the marketing opportunities that exist by giving your employees branded corporate apparel to sport at home and in the office. This is a great way to show employee appreciation and help keep it simple to think of ideas to wear at work. Some ideas include:

Not only will your employees look and feel comfortable, but the added exposure also gets eyes on your brand.

Casual Office Attire for Men and Women Fit for a Trade Show

An office-casual dress code is common at trade shows for both staff and attendees. No matter how relaxed the environment, how your workers dress reflects your company and values. Worn-out jeans, a hoodie, and a t-shirt better suited for weekend TV binge-fests should never make an appearance, whether your staff is working or attending an event. Providing branded office-casual clothing that looks sharp and represents your company's image can help your colleagues create a professional look. Consider these outfit ideas for casual office dress for men and women for your next trade show or event:

Men’s Casual Office Attire Ideas

  1. Look sharp yet casual in a button-down: Pair a white UNTUCKit button-down shirt featuring the company logo with a navy-blue blazer, khaki chinos, and brown loafers or wrinkle-free dress.
  2. Take the classic approach with a logo-embellished polo: Wear this classic trade show staple from Jaden Short-Sleeve Polo or Gildan® DryBlend™ Jersey Polo in a muted color with well-fitted beige chinos and suede loafers.
  3. Always look professional with wrinkle-free fabric: Try the Port Authority® Superpro™ oxford shirt with dark denim jeans and black or brown Chelsea boots.
  4. Don’t forget to accessorize: Pair a branded wallet or money clip with a light-colored dress shirt, black dress pants, and black oxfords

Ladies’ Casual Office Attire Ideas

  1. Look smart in style with a blazer: Wear a Soft Shawl Knit Blazer sporting your company’s logo over a silk blouse, straight-leg slacks, and classic pumps.
  2. Be ready for anything in a polo: The Ladies' Port Authority® Silk Touch Performance Polo can show off your logo while looking professional with a pencil skirt and cardigan.
  3. Keep warm in the office with a neutral-toned cardigan: The Ladies' Mercer+Mettle™ Open Front Cardigan Sweater can show off the company logo over a simple dress and a pair of flats.
  4. Walk in with confidence in a button-up: Pair a light-colored Ladies OGIO® Commuter Woven Tunic with dark-colored, well-fitted jeans and a pair of loafers or ankle boots.
  5. Keep it simple with a small, all-business wallet: Match the Manhattan Leatherette Wallet with a structured dress and low-heeled shoes.

Casual Apparel Gifts and Ideas for Clients

Smart, casual office clothes also make great—and savvy—client gifts. Everyone loves a cozy new sweatshirt or fleece, so take advantage of today's dressed-down trend by giving your clients casual branded corporate apparel to wear at home or in the office. Some of our most popular items include our:

For even more ideas, browse our promotional athleisure, outerwear, polos and golf shirts, t-shirts, and sweatshirts to find a perfectly casual client gift for your customers.

The remote work and laid-back wardrobe trends are here to stay, so contact us for the office casual clothes for women and men that can help your team dress for success. Whether you're looking for client gifts, casual office wear for your next trade shows or comfortable, professional clothes for entertaining customers, Crestline offers a range of men's and women's casual office wear that's perfect for any occasion.