Experience a reimagined approach to business casual that blends traditional elements with modern versatility.
The term “business casual” often evokes a well-worn path of blazers and khakis—reliable, but hardly inspiring. What if you could redefine that path, creating a look that is both professional and refreshingly modern?
The secret lies in strategic pairing. Imagine a crisp dress shirt; now, instead of the usual blazer, you add depth with a shawl collar cardigan. Tailored wool dress pants elevate the ensemble beyond khakis, ensuring you remain within the bounds of office appropriateness while breaking free from its limitations.
In today’s guide, we’re not merely swapping out one piece for another; we’re building an integrated look where each element amplifies the others. You’ll see how a few carefully selected items can revolutionize your understanding of what business casual can be, offering a versatility that extends beyond the 9-to-5 grind.
Shawl Collar Cardigan
The shawl collar cardigan has been my fall favorite go-to for years. From looking killer with a t-shirt or polo, to a casual button up, or as used here as an alternative to a blazer. Stick to versions without a lot of decorative knitting and you’ll help avoid the Grandpa holiday vibes. Like a leather jacket, perfect pair of jeans, or brown pair of boots, a shawl collar cardigan has maintained its place in my personal wardrobe since I got my first one in 2009.
Leaning into the business end of the spectrum, a crisp solid blue dress shirt firmly grounds the other elements which could be more casual.
Wool Dress Pants
Since we’re not wearing a blazer, we’re offsetting the more inherent casual-ness of the shawl collar by slightly upping the dress level of our slacks. Here a tan glen check pair I nabbed on the clearance rack at my local Banana Republic for $40 pairs perfectly with the charcoal shawl collar cardigan. The combination of the neutrals in the sweater and pants have a way of enhancing the baby blue shirt, keeping it from fading into the backgrond like solid shirts this color sometimes do.
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Any dressier watch will do. I actually think a rectangular face would work great with this outfit, but I didn’t find one that matched the leathers to the degree I wanted. Err on the side of metal or dressy leather versus a field watch.
I never got on board with the “crazy dress socks” thing of the early 2010s but that doesn’t mean I only wear dark, colorless options. Increasingly, we’re seeing men pair their penny loafers with fuller hued shades. Here, these solid green dress socks from Uniqlo, which are a steal at under $5 in a wide range of colors, lend a vintage vibe when paired with penny loafers.
If you haven’t noticed, over the last year or so I’ve really reconnected with penny loafers. From wearing them more dressed up as I am here to wearing them with my light wash straight leg Levi’s 501 with an OCBD, I’ve worn these loafers more in the last 12 months than the entire 10 years I’ve had them.
See how else to wear them: