Photo by Brooke Clark

The term “business casual” can be a contradiction. I equate it to the mullet — two hairstyles combined into one salacious hairdo, the outcome being business in the front and a raging party in the back. Depending on your vantage point, the message can be difficult to decipher. Did you come to party, or to conduct business? While I may not understand mullets, I can help navigate business casual.

First things first: Fit is paramount! Irrespective of clothing cost, there is nothing worse than poor fit. It not only ruins first impressions, but also diminishes the perception of being a capable business professional. Schedule some quality time with your tailor, and show your garments some love. Let’s dig into the other essentials.

Godfried Addae provides personal branding and style coaching through The Urbane Gentleman, theurbanegentleman.com. His mission is to help men put their best foot forward in terms of appearance, behavior, and communication. He believes that when you look your best, you feel your best, and ultimately put your best self forward personally and professionally. Godfried is also a menswear designer focusing on custom suits, blazers, shirts and formal wear. He designed the blazer and dress shirt he’s wearing in this photo. He lives in Kirkland. Follow him on Instagram @mr.godfried


Blazers and Jackets

I’m a huge fan of unstructured blazers. They are made with minimal to no lining or shoulder padding. The result is a lightweight and breathable garment that drapes naturally on your shoulders and works for business and casual settings. Navy blazers are a staple, but I encourage you to experiment with different colors and patterns.
Fit: Ensure proper fit across the shoulders, hem sleeves to show 1/2 inch of shirt cuff, and taper the body to avoid a boxy look.
Fabric: Cotton, linen blend, four-season, and lightweight wools.


Shirts and Polos

Traditional button-down shirts are versatile year-round. Neutral colors such as white and light blue make outfit coordination easy; they also reflect heat, keeping you cool and comfortable. Next to solids, try adding stripes or gingham (my personal favorite) to the rotation. Polo shirts also present a smart option when fully buttoned under a blazer.
Fit: Similar to jackets and blazers, make sure your shoulders fit. You should be able to fit two fingers comfortably between your neck and the buttoned shirt collar. Have a tailor add darts to the back to taper excess fabric.
Fabric: Cotton (avoid polyester).


Shoes

You can’t go wrong with loafers, monk straps, brogues, and oxfords year-round. Depending on your office environment, try a pair of leather sneakers in tan, oxblood, brown, or navy. You might also trade in the funky colored socks for a pair of no-show socks for a more casual look.


Accessories

No outfit is complete without a few essential accessories.
Watch: A leather-strapped watch pairs nicely with business or casual looks.
Pocket Square: Add to your collection with options like linen, cotton, or chambray.
Belt: Match your belt to your shoes (extra credit if your watch strap matches, too).
Briefcase: I know we love our backpacks; however, nothing looks sharper than a leather briefcase. Have the leather treated to combat the inevitable rain shower.


Trousers and Pants

Warmer weather means you can have a little bit more fun. This includes colored chinos, but save the pastel colors and linen fabric for the weekend.
Fit: Ensure proper waist fit. Hem pants with little to no break to avoid bunching at your shoes.
Fabric: Cotton, lightweight wool.