“Business casual” can broadly be defined as a dress code that blends traditional business wear with a more casual style. However, there is no agreed-upon definition, making it a challenging and ambiguous term to decipher in today’s work environment. This vague description leads us to the question – are jeans business casual?
Jeans can be business casual; however, it depends on each industry and workplace’s expectations and guidelines. So, consider wearing dark-wash, well-fitted jeans with a traditional style. Avoid wearing distressed jeans, including faded, ripped, acid-washed, or embellished.
Style is subjective, and so is wearing jeans for a business casual dress code. So, in this article, we’ll demystify whether jeans are acceptable for business casual dress codes and how to pair them to ensure you are professional and presentable.
Jeans Are Business Casual – When Paired Correctly
Jeans are appropriate in a business casual setting when paired correctly.
Business casual dress codes have long been popular. First entering the marketplace during the early ’90s, business casual was implemented in businesses to set a relaxed yet professional tone amongst employees in the workplace.
However, after post-pandemic work environments, the business casual fashion trend started taking its own form, rapidly breaking the “only slacks and khakis restrictions.” Now, many businesses accept a more casual attire and allow jeans as part of their dress code.
While many businesses are evolving into making every day casual Friday, “business casual” attire is not altogether flexible. Most companies with business casual dress codes still expect a level of formality. Therefore, wearing jeans to work will require clever pairings and a degree of do’s and don’ts’ to ensure you achieve a business casual look.
Continue reading to ensure you establish a happy medium between professional and casual attire.
What Is Business Casual?
Fashion in the workplace is an ever-changing landscape – the same applies to the true definition of a “business casual” dress code.
Business casual varies from occupation, company, and where you live. Many companies incorporate a business casual dress code to allow employees to express themselves while maintaining a modest and tidy appearance.
A broad definition of business is casual is the amalgam of business professional and casual wear. As a result, business casual can be seen as mixing elements of formal attire like a blazer with casual pieces like a stylish pair of jeans or leopard print flats.
Clothing pieces often considered business casual attire includes:
- Knee-Length Skirts
- Collared shirts
- Dressy Flats
Dress Up Your Jeans For Work
Every component of your outfit determines the dress code you’ll achieve. You can tip the scale from an overly casual outfit to a creative, business casual one.
The three essential elements to consider include:
- Ensure your style is befitting of your workplace and work industry.
- Despite business casual attire, strive to be professional.
- Be yourself: Dress in clothing styles and colors that display your personality and individualism.
Now, let’s discuss how to dress up your jeans to ensure you are appropriately dressed for a business casual setting.
1. Avoid Distressed Jeans
Avoid wearing distressed jeans to work.
Forms of “distressing” include:
- Fading dyes or discoloration from bleaching
- Rips, tears, and worn patches
- Gear loops
- Cargo pockets
- Large logos or labels
- Embroidery, glitter, or rhinestones
Distressed jeans are styled to offer a more comfortable, relaxed, and vintage feel as if worn in by long, steady use. As a result, distressed jeans are mostly considered too casual for work attire.
2. Opt For Darker Jeans
Instead of distressed jeans, opt for a pair of dark-wash (indigo) or black jeans for business casual outfits.
Dark-wash jeans pull double duty, serving as an office-appropriate, figure-slimming pair of pants. In addition, the darker fabric also hides fading and other signs of wear and tear that generally make a pair of jeans look too casual.
Although dark jeans are the go-to for business casual attire, medium- or light-wash jeans may be appropriate in more casual work environments. Oh, and once your black or indigo jeans start to fade – as all jeans do – demote them to your casual attire.
Then, some fashionable jean styles feature “contrast stitching” that stands out against the fabric. Although stylish, save the contrast-stitched jeans for a day off, and keep it monochrome.
3. Choose A Work-Appropriate Style
Aim to find a classic and well-fitted pair of jeans for your work attire.
Excessively tight or loose-fitting jeans are inappropriate for a business casual dress code. Instead, we recommend choosing straight-leg or boot-cut jeans with a mid-to-high-rise waistline and a hem resting at or below your ankle.
Wearing the appropriate pairings with your jeans can take you from casual to business casual with minimal effort.
Consider some of the following pairings:
- Jeans with a Sports Jacket and Neutral Shirt
- Jeans with a Blazer
- Jeans with a Suit Jacket
- Jeans with a Button-up Shirt
- Jeans with a Cardigan
Then, add a touch of bling or dressy shoes to kick the look up a notch. Here are a few items worth incorporating into your business casual outfit:
- Have fun with colored and patterned dress shirts and blouses instead of plain white.
- Add a stylish belt, necklace, or watch to tie your outfit together with a touch of professionalism.
- Wear a pair of dressy shoes with visual interest, including heels, dress shoes, wingtips, or brogues.
Can I Wear Jeans To A Business Casual Workplace?
Whether jeans are appropriate or not at work depends on the context and company dress code. If you are settling into a new workplace or upgrading your outdated office wardrobe, first find out if your company allows jeans as part of their dress code.
You can ask human resources for a copy of the company’s dress code or simply ask them for clarity regarding wearing jeans at work. In addition, pay attention to what your co-workers and managers wear. You’ll quickly spot a trend of what attire is acceptable or not.
Can I Wear Jeans To An Interview?
No matter the company or its dress code, we recommend refraining from wearing jeans.
Jeans are a grey area in business casual attire and may appear unprofessional in many settings. Instead, practice wearing formal business attire with simple jewelry.
First impressions are critical! Your appearance says a lot about your level of professionalism. In addition, your attire should complement your professional skills and experience.
Putting extra effort into your appearance and professionally presenting yourself will show employers that you value the appointment and care about making a great first impression.
While it mostly depends on how laid back and adventurous your office is, jeans have made their way into business casual attire.