Are Jeans Business Casual Attire?

By Sky Ariella - Jan. 13, 2021

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After months of tirelessly searching for a job in a cramped market with lots of competition, you finally received the notification you’ve been waiting for – an invitation to come in for an interview. The excitement for the possibility of landing the position is quickly replaced with anxiety at seeing that the interview expectations is to wear business casual attire.

At this point, many job-seekers ask themselves the question of whether jeans fall under the title of business casual clothing.

What Is Business Casual Attire?

Business casual attire is a loose dress code containing clothing items that make a complete and professional-looking outfit while still being easy-going and comfortable. Environments that accept business casual attire for their employees and interviewees usually allow more freedom of expression in their wardrobe.

What makes business casual attire a confusing topic for many professionals is that it isn’t defined as one singular look. Many different styles and pieces can be considered business casual attire. This means it’s a little more difficult to decide what’s appropriate than in a formal workplace where everyone is expected to wear a suit and tie without exception.

Are Jeans Business Casual Attire?

The somewhat unsatisfying answer is: sometimes.

Since the concept of business casual clothing can mean a variety of things, many people wonder if jeans fall into this category.

A nice pair of jeans can be considered business casual attire if they meet the following requirements:

  • They’re clean, ironed, and free of any stains

  • There are no holes or tears in them

  • They are a neutral color, preferably dark

  • They don’t have any patches, additions, or images on them

In addition to being a clean and neutral pair of jeans, they also need to be paired with the right outfit to be appropriate for a work environment. Wearing any pair of jeans, no matter how nice they are, doesn’t make wearing a t-shirt to work a good idea. Put jeans with a more formal top and shoes to give it a more polished appearance.

What to Wear With Business Casual Jeans

Once you’ve found the right pair of jeans that can be incorporated well into a business casual look, you need to decide on other pieces you’ll wear to complete the outfit. Showing up in only jeans doesn’t follow the business casual dress code.

Below are some options of what men and women can wear with jeans to create a winning business casual style:

  1. A blazer. Perhaps the easiest way to enhance a pair of jeans from being unprofessional to business casual attire is to throw on a blazer.

    This works for both masculine and feminine wardrobe preferences. Usually, a dark blazer and jeans match well with a blouse or button-down that is lighter in color.

    Some examples of business casual blazers:

  2. A pair of dressy shoes. A pair of great shoes can upgrade any pair of ordinary jeans. Similar to adding a blazer, this will work for both male and female attire.

    For men, the appropriate shoes to pair business casual jeans with are loafers or oxfords. Alternatively, wearing a pair of pump heels or dressy booties works for ladies.

    Example of shoes to wear with business casual jeans:

  3. A formal button-down shirt or blouse. When you’re wearing a pair of jeans as part of a business casual outfit, the top you wear must lean more towards the professional look.

    Deciding to incorporate jeans into your work attire already fulfills the role of casualness in your outfit, and now you must pair it with a more formal piece. It ties the look together for both men and women.

    A formal button-down shirt is a perfect top to wear with business casual jeans. Try to find a lighter color button-down shirt to compliment a darker pair of jeans.

    Examples of button-down shirts to pair with business casual jeans:

Tips for Business Casual Interview Attire

  1. Avoid dressing too formally. As the name suggests, an employer who prefers business casual attire is not looking for an applicant to show up to an interview in a suit and tie. Many applicants see the “casual” portion of this dress code and take it as a suggestion, but it’s a request.

    Dressing too formally to an interview that asked for business casual attire leaves a negative impression on the interviewer that you can’t follow directions.

  2. Use a pop of color. A dress code that’s business casual, or even formal, doesn’t mean that your outfits need to be boring. One way to instill some personality in your work attire is by using a pop of color and other neutral pieces, for example, wearing a black pair of pants and a blazer with a bright orange blouse.

    Implementing a pop of color in your outfit makes it more stylish and fun.

  3. Think about shoe choice. When thinking about what outfit to wear to an interview, many people forget to consider their shoe choice. The shoes you wear to an interview say just as much about your professionalism as the clothing items. Pair your outfit with appropriate and professional shoes.

    Appropriate shoes for a job interview include:

    • Black or brown closed-toed flats

    • Short heels

    • Lace-up dress shoes

    • Oxfords

    • Loafers

  4. Wear only clean and neat clothes. This tip may sound like a given, but you’d be surprised how many interviewees show up in messy clothes. The way you dress in an interview tells the hiring manager a lot of details about how you’ll behave as an employee.

    A candidate who is willing to wear uncleaned clothes to an interview leaves the impression that they’ll dress sloppy on the job as well.

  5. Wear an accessory. Accessorizing can be another great option to make a dull outfit more interesting.

    Choose an accessory that accents your clothing positively, instead of taking away attention for being too showy. Usually, smaller pieces of jewelry or watches work best for a business casual outfit in an interview.

Examples of Business Casual Attire for Men

  1. Light-colored long-sleeve shirt with dark slacks. This is a classic business casual look that’s both comfortable, professional, and looks great in an interview. Well-fitted slacks in dark grey, black, or blue pulls together the outfit to make it cohesive, and a long-sleeve shirt is a staple in most employee’s closets.

    Examples of outfits in this category are:

  2. Nice jeans with a button-down shirt. Putting a tidy-looking pair of jeans with a more formal top makes a good fit for a strong business casual outfit choice. Similarly to the previous example, dark bottoms and a light top works best. Try pairing the clothes with a watch or blazer to upgrade your professionalism.

    Examples of outfits in this category are:

  3. A pair of khakis with a dressy button-up. This final business casual outfit choice for men is the best of both worlds when it comes to looking sharp and feeling comfortable in your clothing.

    Many men prefer to wear khakis to work because they’re a little more formal than jeans but a little more casual than suit pants. Don’t forget to think about what shoes you’ll be wearing in this ensemble.

    Examples of outfits in this category are:

Examples of Business Casual Attire for Women

  1. Knee-length pencil skirt with a long-sleeve colorful blouse. The knee-length skirt is a popular business casual look for women in the spring or summertime. A bright-colored blouse helps to add a pop of color into the outfit. Wearing a long-sleeved top makes the outfit more professional in place of layering with a jacket.

    Examples of outfits in this category are:

  2. Dark-colored fitted jeans with a blazer and light-colored button-up. Jeans can be made into a business casual outfit if they’re neat enough and are paired well with other items. A blazer is the perfect clothing piece to add to jeans to make an ideal outfit. This can be a good outfit to highlight with a piece of elegant jewelry.

    Additionally, make considerations for what shoes you’ll be wearing. A pair of short heels or booties go nicely with this casual look.

    Examples of outfits in this category are:

  3. A professional dress with professional flats or heels. Another traditional business casual look for professional women is a dress with work-appropriate size heels, usually in a neutral color. Since this outfit won’t have much layering to it, feel free to add a necklace or earrings to make it more interesting.

    Examples of outfits in this category are:

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Sky Ariella

Sky Ariella is a professional freelance writer, originally from New York. She has been featured on websites and online magazines covering topics in career, travel, and lifestyle. She received her BA in psychology from Hunter College.

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