If your office operates a business casual dress code, getting the right balance between formal clothing and more casual options can be confusing. Being able to leave the formal suit and tie at home is great, but you don’t want to become too casual.
Polo shirts are a great medium between formal and casual, but are they suitable for a business casual look? In this article, we will take a close look at polo shirts and their suitability.
What Is Business Casual?
Before we can decide if polo shirts are business casual, it is important to understand what we mean by the phrase ‘business casual.’
This is impossible to pin down and give a definitive answer to as it can differ from person to person and business to business, but there are some general guidelines.
Business casual is a style of clothing that is intended to be less formal than the traditional suits and ties that are usually worn in an office, while still remaining professional and business-like.
When you adhere to a business casual dress code, your clothes should still be neat, tidy, and well pressed. They should fit you correctly without being too baggy or too tight. Business casual clothes should take into account the location, season, and business, too.
It’s easy to define what isn’t business casual. Formal suits with jackets and ties aren’t business casual and neither are t-shirts and sweatpants. It’s clothing in between those two extremes, such as polo shirts, that become more difficult to pin down as being business casual or not.
Are Polos Business Casual?
This is going to depend on the formality level of your business and office. For the majority of offices, a polo shirt will hit the right mix of formal but casual style that a business casual look requires.
If your office doesn’t expect its employees to wear button-down shirts on business casual days, then a polo shirt will definitely be suitable.
How To Wear a Polo Shirt For a Business Casual Style
Polo shirts are a great addition to any wardrobe because of their versatility. There are many ways that you can wear them and many other types of clothing that they can be paired with.
When wearing a polo shirt as part of a business casual look though, you should ensure that it is always tucked into your pants. Don’t let your polo shirt hang loose around your thighs as this looks too unprofessional and scruffy for a business setting.
Tuck it into your pants and leave it a little loose around your waistband so it isn’t tight against your body and gives you enough room to move around.
Polo shirts typically have a few buttons at the neck and it’s your choice whether you keep these fastened or open them. On especially hot days opening the buttons to leave your neck bare can be a great relief.
Most polo shirts don’t open low enough to be unprofessional but you should be careful if your polo shirt has more than two to three buttons.
The Best Types of Polo Shirt For The Office
Typically, the best polo shirts for a business casual look are plain in design. Opt for shirts that have solid colors or stripes in complementary colors and avoid the wilder designs and colors that are available.
Polo shirts made from double-weave cotton, known as pique material, are heavier and a better choice for cooler days. You can team these with an undershirt and casual blazer to keep you warm.
During hotter days, shirts made from polyester will keep you cooler due to their wicking properties that draw moisture away from the body.
What To Wear With A Polo Shirt
The best clothes to pair with a polo shirt are going to depend on your individual style and your business’s interpretation of business casual. Let’s run through some of the most common options.
Polo shirts look great tucked into slacks and accessorized with a nice belt. You can never go wrong with dark-colored slacks, such as black, dark gray, or navy, but don’t be afraid to go for lighter shades of gray or neutral colors, either.
Chinos are less formal than slacks but are usually still acceptable with the majority of business casual dress codes. They’re made from lightweight cotton fabric making them an ideal choice for warmer weather.
The cut of chinos flatters most body types and gives them a more formal look than many other types of casual pants such as khakis and jeans. Like slacks, chinos look great with a tucked-in polo shirt and a stylish belt.
If your office puts more emphasis on the casual side of business casual, you may be able to wear jeans with your polo shirt. In many circumstances jeans will not be acceptable, however, so it’s best to wait and see if any of your colleagues wear jeans first before taking the plunge.
If jeans are acceptable, then make sure that they are clean and neatly pressed. Avoid the most casual of styles, such as skinny jeans and baggy jeans, and don’t wear any jeans that are ripped.
Some jeans can be practically indistinguishable at a distance from chinos and slacks, especially black jeans, and this type of jeans will be accepted by some business casual dress codes.
Although you don’t need to wear your most formal dress shoes with a business casual look, shoes that have a similar style are the best options. We would recommend pairing your polo shirt with either loafers or boat shoes.
Some offices may allow tennis shoes, but if so these need to be clean and tidy. Don’t wear any tennis shoes that you’ve worn to the gym or when exercising.
Polo shirts can be business casual and make a great addition to your wardrobe. If you’re unsure if a polo shirt is suitable for your circumstances, take note of what your colleagues wear and follow their lead.