The term ‘business casual’ has always been slightly vague when it comes to deciphering dress codes.
Not only can business casual attire vary by company and industry, the lengths to which you can stretch business casual dress codes can vary depending on the region or even city you live in.
So, what exactly does business casual mean? Are jeans considered business casual? Does color matter? What about the occasion? If you’ve been wondering how to incorporate jeans into a business casual dress code, read on to learn more.
What is considered “business casual?”
Business casual is a broad term that means clothing that is professional, yet more relaxed and comfortable that traditional business wear. Basically, it’s a cross between a suit and tie, and your favorite jeans and sneakers, marrying fashion and function. This is still pretty vague, though, and purposefully so. Business casual is meant to be a broad, subjective dress code so that you can still express yourself, while maintaining an appropriate appearance. According to Business Insider, appropriate business casual clothing includes:
Business casual for men:
Slacks or khakis
Closed toed loafers or dress shoes
Business casual for women
Slacks or khakis
Knee length dresses or skirts
Simple, everyday jewelry
Are jeans business casual?
Unless jeans are explicitly prohibited, they are considered business casual, with some caveats. Consider the jeans style and color, as well as the occasion you’re dressing for before throwing on a pair of jeans to the office. Also, styling matters! For example, a slick pair of dark jeans will immediately look more casual when paired with a t-shirt and flip flops. Consider what you’re pairing with jeans and which accessories you choose to complete the look.
Are jeans business casual for women?
Yes, depending on the style and fit. Stick to well-tailored, crisp jeans—think classic slim or straight fits, skinny jeans, and boot cuts, avoiding baggy boyfriend fits or loose, stretched out jeans. Steer clear of denim with rips, frays, raw hems, or distressing. When paired with a blouse or knit sweater and some high heels, tailored jeans can be elevated perfectly for a professional setting.
Are jeans business casual for men?
Yes, however, as previously mentioned, it all comes down to the style. Opt for tighter, more tailored fits, as opposed to loose baggy jeans. The waistline should be high enough to to be sufficiently covered if wearing an untucked shirt, and hemlines should hit the ankle or lower. Slim fits and straight fits are usually best, paired with a polo, sport coat, or open collared shirt and loafers.
How to dress jeans up for work
1. When in doubt, go dark
Although jeans as a whole are considered business casual, not all jeans are business casual, and color plays a big part. As a general rule of thumb, the darker the jean, the more suitable for a business casual dress code. If your workplace is on the casual side, however, you can opt for a lighter wash. For men, opt for colors like Black, Rinse, or Heritage Rinse. For women, Black, Dark Stone, Aged Medium Stone, Indigo 75, and Heritage Rinse are all perfect colors to nail business casual attire.
2. Choose the right fit and fabric
Since you’ll likely be moving around and constantly standing and sitting, choosing the right jean fit will ensure that you’re comfortable all day. For example, opt for a mid or high rise jean to avoid any embarrassing faux pas when sitting down, and a softer denim for easy movement. Avoid thicker fabrics that restrict movement. Our Performance Denim offers stretch and durability for a full workday, available for men and women, while our Four Way Flex fabric is made with plant derived TENCEL Lyocell for comfort and movement.
3. Choose the right accessories
Pair denim with more formal accessories to elevate the look. Choose a classic leather or silver watch, simple gold or silver jewelry, a leather belt, or handbag to tie it all together. Avoid colorful accessories like woven jewelry, large statement necklaces, casual backpacks, or hats, as they tend to look casual and dress jeans down.
4. Consider the occasion
Is it Casual Friday? Is it a company party? Is business casual simply the everyday office dress code? Are you meeting with clients? Depending on the occasion, you may want to choose your jeans accordingly. For example, you may want to choose dark, slim fitting jeans for meeting with clients, and a lighter wash for Casual Friday.
The general information above are simply rules of thumb that could apply to most businesses, however, it is also important to consider your surroundings. Cities with an emphasis on outdoor adventure like Vancouver, Calgary, or Boulder may have a different definition of business casual than concrete jungles like Toronto and New York City. And don’t get us started on what’s considered business casual in different countries around the world!
According to a BBC travel story, you can expect business casual attire to get more and more casual the further west you travel in the US. For example, along the East Coast, business casual attire includes a tailored sweater or blazer for men and women, collared shirts, pressed slacks, leather shoes, and no jeans. In cities like Denver and Seattle, business casual takes on a more outdoors-y approach, including jeans, boots, and vests. Once you reach California, business casual could mean anything from formal suit and tie, to brazen printed shirts for the more eccentric tech companies.
The same can be said for Canada. In Vancouver specifically, you can expect business casual to look a lot like the Denver and Seattle version, with a more casual emphasis, unless in the finance, banking or more conservative industries.
Business casual outfit ideas that include jeans
Jeans, a sport coat, and leather shoes
This is a quick, simple way to dress up a pair of jeans. Throw on a sport coat in corduroy or cotton twill. As for a shirt? As long as the jacket is neutral and doesn’t clash with the jean color, you can even experiment with light patterns and colors.
Jeans, a silk blouse, and high heels
For women, a pair of skinny jeans paired with a classy silk blouse and high heels will never go wrong. Depending on your work setting, feel free to experiment with simple blouse patterns or a colored shoe.
Jeans, a tailored sweater, and boots
This one’s for the more outdoors-y cities, like Vancouver and Denver. Pair dark, straight leg jeans with a tailored sweater and leather boots and you’re good to go! Just be sure the boots are clean and scuff-free — you may want to keep a separate pair for the actual hikes.
Jeans, a cardigan, formal jewelry, and leather shoes
Here’s another one for women, for a more casual look. Pair straight leg jeans with a knit cardigan, simple gold or silver jewelry, and flat leather shoes for a comfortable yet professional look.
Jeans, a dress shirt, and loafers
Finally, the easiest way to dress up denim. Simply throw on a pressed dress shirt in a neutral color or light pattern, and a pair of loafers. Keep things interesting with a high quality leather belt and be sure the shoes are on the dressier side in a good quality leather.
Where to find business casual jeans
The best business casual jeans will combine style, quality and fit. DUER jeans do just that, made with performance stretch denim that look good, feel good, and last throughout the workday.