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Men’s Business Casual Shirts: Dress Shirts, Polos, Button Downs

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Shirts form a core component of your business casual wardrobe and attire. But not all shirts are created equal. Some are perfectly fine for business casual attire while others are too casual to be worn in office settings. Here is a guide on men’s business casual shirts.

What shirts are business casual?

Dress shirts, button down collar shirts, and polo shirts are all appropriate with business casual attire. You can wear these shirts with dress pants, chinos, khakis and even jeans for a business casual outfit. To dress them up even more, pair dress shirts, button down shirts and polo shirts with a blazer or sport coat.

Button Down Collar Shirts

Button down collar shirts look exactly like a traditional dress shirt but with added buttons around the collar which help to keep it in place. Because of the added buttons, a button down shirt is slightly less formal than a traditional dress shirt.

Button down collar shirt , blue stripe button down collar shirt

Are all button down shirts the same? Not really…

Button down collar shirts can either be casual or dressy depending on the fit and the color/pattern.

The biggest giveaway to figure out if a button down is casual is to look at the length. A casual button down will have a shorter length which will allow it to be worn untucked.

untucked button down collar shirt , men's business casual shirts

Whereas a dressy button down shirt meant to be worn with business casual attire will have a longer length similar to a dress shirt allowing you to tuck the shirt. 

dressy button down shirt for business casual attire

As for colors, it’s pretty straightforward. Button down shirts that have a classic neutral color like white and light blue are more formal than those in black, yellow, red, green et cetera.

light blue button down shirt

Moreover, the pattern plays an important role as well. A stripe or gingham button down shirt will be more formal than a bold flannel check or a western shirt.

flannel button down  shirt

Lastly, simply look at the design of the shirt. Does it have a clean and simple design similar to a classic dress shirt? Or does it have shoulder epaulets, double chest pockets, elbow patches et cetera?

denim shirt ,

The simpler the design, the more formal the shirt. Simply put, a formal button down collar shirt will be exactly like a traditional dress shirt but with added buttons around the collar.

Buy Button Down Dress Shirts

Amazon Buttoned Down Collar Dress Shirts (multiple fits/colors/sizes)

Buy Men’s Patterned Button Down Dress Shirt

Buy Men’s Solid Button Down Dress Shirt

Dress Shirts

When it comes to business casual attire, dress shirts are the most formal shirts you can wear. A traditional dress shirt has a button up front, buttoned sleeves and a traditional collar. Unlike a button down collar shirt, a dress shirt collar does not have visible buttons holding the collar down. Instead, most dress shirts rely on a stiffer collar material which can be ironed to hold its place as well as collar stays.

dress shirt , men's business casual attire

Colors

Since dress shirts are more formal than button down shirts and polo shirts, you will typically see most dress shirts in a conservative color and pattern. White and light blue are the most common colors and also the most formal.

white dress shirt

You will also see patterns like stripes and ginghams which are perfectly fine but do make the dress shirt less formal but still perfectly fine for business casual offices.

Fit

Dress shirts should fit very similar to button down shirts with the exception that dress shirts tend to have a longer length. The longer length is there so that you can tuck the shirt in without having it coming undone throughout the day. Other than that, the fit criteria are the same.

Guide: How Men’s Dress Shirts Should Fit 

Buy Men’s Solid Dress Shirt

Buy Men’s Patterned Dress Shirt

Polo Shirts

When it comes to business casual attire, not all polo shirts are created equal. Read our full guide on The Business Casual Polo for more details.

To summarize, a business casual polo can be either short sleeve or full sleeve but should be in a neutral color and be made in a finer material.

Athletic polos and polos with a rougher texture are not appropriate for business casual attire.

red polo shirt

Short sleeve polo shirts are great for the summer/spring months or if you run slightly hot in the office.

short sleeve polo shirts , men's business casual

Buy Lands’ End Short Sleeve Polo

Buy Calvin Klein Short Sleeve Polo

Long sleeve polo shirts are a great option for the fall/winter months or if you feel cold in the office.

long sleeve polo shirt for winter, men's business casual

Buy Lacoste Long Sleeve Polo

Buy Lands’ End Long Sleeve Polo

Material

Business casual polo shirts should be a made in a fine pima cotton, cotton-silk blend or merino wool.

Pima cotton and cotton silk blend polos are great for every day wear to the office while merino wool polo shirts (usually long sleeved versions) are great in the colder months and look great on their own or underneath a blazer/sport coat.

Colors

When it comes to colors, keep it simple and go with netural like navy, black, olive, burgundy and dark gray. These look the best with business casual attire.

Fit

A business casual polo shirt should be worn tucked it, so make sure it is long enough. Overall, the polo shirt should fit your body well without being too tight or too loose.

Read ‘How a Polo Shirt Should Fit’.

Is a short sleeve shirt business casual?

Short sleeves shirts are more casual than long sleeve shirts and in most business casual workplaces, they are not appropriate. The exception is a polo shirt which can be either short or long sleeve, but can still be worn with business casual attire.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this guide on men’s business casual shirts. We covered traditional dress shirts, button down shirts as well as polo shirts and provided advice on the fit, color and material.

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