How-to: Business Casual vs Smart Casual

Dearest BusiChic,

The term “Business Casual” is one of those workplace dresscodes that make me want to punch something with frustration. Back in a previous worklife, I used to organise social events for a team of almost 200 people. I’d be happily away organising an event that would bring us all together and cater to the tastes and interests of a diverse group in such a way that staff would genuinely enjoy themselves, network comfortably and feel like a part of a unified team. Then I’d have to send my plan to “Human Resources” who would look over my plan and say, “tell the staff that they are allowed to dress, Business Casual.” I dutifully would… then oh how the questions would start!

“Am I allowed to wear jeans?”

“Do I have to wear a work shirt?”

“I don’t have chinos!”

“What does that mean for girls?”

“What does that even mean!?”


In my opinion, the term “Business Casual” was coined by some folks in Human Resources in the early 90s where professional service firms were still predominantly made up of middle-aged caucasian males whose wives dressed them in Ralph Lauren on the weekend; everyone had a sports jacket and chinos. At that point the trickiest thing to decide was whether you could also wear your polo shirt to work or whether you should layer a tshirt under that or a chambray shirt that was at least more stiffly collared.

Now that the workplace is more diverse and workers want the opportunity to express their stylish/sexy/sporty selves, the term “Business Casual” is up for re-invention. BusiChics will notice that I use the category “Smart Casual” because that’s what I see people actually wearing to their workplaces. However today’s BusiChic has melded such a stylish combination of “Polished” and “Smart Casual” that I realised; Song is rocking his own version of “Business Casual”.

Song cuts a stylin’ take on Business Casual as the work week draws to a close.


It’s all in the details.

So in my opinion, “Business Casual” for both genders is a really polished version of Smart Casual; no suit but looks professional.

In case my earlier ranting now has you wondering “what to wear on a day of team-building activities”; my suggestion is to find out what activities you’ll be getting up to and dress accordingly. We got physical with an Amazing-Race-around-the-city; I noticed that the older blokes would wear a collared shirt- tee – faded jeans and gym sneakers. Younger blokes would wear a Ralph Lauren polo (!), dark designer denim streetwear sneakers. Women of all ages seemed to wear denim, (singlet) tops with varying degrees of cleavage (more on that anither time…) layered under longsleeve top and streetwear sneakers; with varying levels of accessorising to personalise their looks some. We made sure the drinks and dining part of the evening were held in a venue where our team-building-day-attire was still appropriate as I’d been annoyed the year before when we’d rocked up to a swanky joint in the casual garb we’d worn for go-karting and laser tag! Anyhow the really long story short here is that the dress ode that should have been stipulated by HR was: Smart Casual with a note: we recommend closed toe shoes fit for some light running.


Lots going on in this post; how do you define Business Casual? what do you think of Song’s take on Business Casual? Are you a bloke who wants an alternative to suits to wear to work?


  1. I think there are so many interpretation to business casual! It all depends on the team you are working in too, I’ve found even though I work for an organisation each team dresses differently, and I tailor what I wear to blend in with the culture within the team.

  2. We have casual Fridays where I work so I normally would wear jeans (dark denim and no holes) with an appropriate top (no cleavage!). For example, today I’m currently wearing dark denim skinny jeans, navy long sleeve scoop necked top by Petit Bateau with a navy Paul Smith Black jacket. Then for a pop of colour, an aqua and orange silk jersey carre from Hermes draped around my neck.

Facebook Like Box provided by technology news