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Business Casual Tips

Demystifying Business Casual:
6 Categories of Casual or Informal Dress

Active Casual
(page 12, Casual Power, for detailed photos)

You meet friends for cappuccino after working out in the gym, running, rollerblading, biking, playing tennis, racquetball, golf  any sport of your choice. The appropriate clothing for these activities clearly indicates that you have been physically active. This type of casual wear is called Active Casual.  Jogging suits, warm-ups, wind suits, running shorts, tennis skirts, biking shorts, leggings, leotards, snow-ski garb, etc. exemplify this classification. With the exception of some golf clothing, Active Casual has NO business in the workplace.

Rugged Casual
(page 13, Casual Power, for detailed photos)

It's Saturday and brrr, it’s cold! You are helping friends move some antique furniture from storage, and you will have lunch together while you are out. You have chosen to wear your heavy socks and a hiking-type boot, a flannel shirt with jeans or heavy khakis, a camouflage shirt, or a sweater  topped with an insulated parka. You are dressed in Rugged Casual attire.  The Rugged Casual category draws garments from the typical apparel of the more outdoorsy sports, like hunting, fishing, backpacking, rock climbing, etc. Unless your job is related to these types of industries, this apparel does not mean business in the workplace. 

Sporty Casual
page 14-15, Casual Power, for detailed photos

It's your day off. You are running errands, going for a massage, just generally hanging out.  Let's say you are wearing cotton pants, shorts, or jeans, a heavyweight T- or sweat shirt, a button-down or polo-style shirt, a belt, and tennis shoes. This type of casual is called Sporty Casual. 

Anytime you are wearing a sneaker-type shoe with jeans, khakis, walking shorts, skirts, etc., and you are not participating in a sport, you are dressed in the Sporty Casual category. Notice, it is sporty. Most sports have particular items of clothing that support participants in performing well in that game. This category is not about playing a sport, but more about the relaxed look of a spectator. Sportswear has been synonymous with casual separates in the fashion world for years. Since that term was coined over fifty years ago, the world has changed dramatically. Today, the sportswear section of a store includes everything except suits, dresses, and formal wear.

Smart Casual
(page 16, Casual Power, for illustrations & photos)

You are going to an informal dinner with friends in an upscale restaurant. If male, you are wearing dress trousers (or even crisp jeans*), a long-sleeve shirt, maybe a tie, leather loafers or dressy slip-on's, patterned socks or solid-colored dress socks, a tipped belt, and you may or may not wear a sport coat. You are dressed in the Smart Casual category.

If female, you are wearing slacks, crisp jeans, or a skirt (long or short), a blouse or turtleneck, a fashionable belt, a jacket, a vest, or a sweater coordinated to your outfit, hosiery or socks with boots, flats (leather, suede, or fabric) or mid-heel shoes. You are also wearing jewelry, such as earrings that complement your overall outfit, at least. You are dressed in the Smart Casual category. Again, if you are wearing jeans, wearing a jacket upgrades you to Smart Casual.  This category demands a pulled-together, harmonious, complete look with colors, fabrics, shoes, and accessories, for both men and women.

*If you are wearing crisp jeans, you must wear a sport coat for Smart Casual.

Dressy Casual
(page 17, Casual Power, for illustrations & photos)

You are going to an art gallery exhibit on opening night, and then to dinner with friends. The invitation suggested “Casual Attire.” Due to the nature and the time of the event, the host means Dressy Casual (Casual Elegance), which is similar to Smart Casual, with no jeans. 

For male or female, the shoes take on a dressier tone, and the fabrics are richer, dressier.

For women, this level of casual implies a pant suit, a dress, or coordinated separates in semi-dressy fabrics. Dressy Casual demands that the outfit be well-coordinated and accessorized.  

For men, this category indicates dress trousers, a turtleneck or mock-turtle version, a dress shirt or a silk sport shirt (long-sleeved), a tie (optional), and a jacket or sport coat.

Casual weddings call for this type of attire, as well. Out of respect for the ceremonial nature of a wedding, a dressy dressed-down look is required, regardless of location, when casual attire is requested.

Business Casual
( page 18-19, Casual Power, for detailed illustrations & photos)

As mentioned earlier, Business Casual  is only one category of business attire. Business dress has three primary categories: Power Business, General Business, and Business Casual. While Business Casual attire is a recent addition to traditional business dress, it is no longer considered to be a trend. Human resources experts claim that it is here to stay as a permanent fixture in corporate America. 

A simple definition of Business Casual is “A comfortably relaxed version of classic business attire, with no sacrifice of professionalism or personal power.”

Business Casual draws from the aforementioned Smart Casual and Dressy Casual categories, with many distinctions. True Business Casual attire incorporates the more tailored garments from those two classifications. 

Active and Rugged Casual clothing is clearly not businesslike, unless you work as a tennis pro or a personal trainer, or in the outdoors like a professional fly-fisherman.  The apparel of Sporty Casual falls short of embodying professional attitudes. Intended for other use, Sporty Casual attire fails to command enough power and respect for a full-tilt Business Casual look in a public meeting.

Empowering Business Casual apparel is shown in detail in Chapters V and VI of Casual Power.  If you want to fully understand this classification of business dress, don't skip a single page in this book. Abundant rewards await you, professionally and personally.


No need to obsess over the clothing pieces listed with these classifications. The above examples were used just to help you begin making basic observations and distinctions about the differing degrees of casual dress. This is an essential step in grasping the important nuances of Business Casual. You can then consciously select casual garments for your business wardrobe that are multipurpose and fill other wardrobe needs, and garments that work hard for you on the job. 

Your image is a powerful business tool!
Whatever your task, the right tool makes it faster and easier. A food processor dices onions in seconds, but this simple action takes mega-minutes with the usual kitchen knife. A power lawn mower reduces grass cutting time by half or more over using a push mower to blade the identical lawn. A blender can whirl ice into tasty margaritas or smoothies in seconds, but ice melts before it can be shaved by hand.

Dentists, surgeons, chefs, architects, and plumbers all require distinct tools to do their jobs well and efficiently. Whatever your profession, your business image is one of your fundamental tools. Just as potent as your PC, empowering clothing can catapult you to the fast track.

Are you consciously using your clothing and grooming,  especially when dressed down,  as valuable business assets and high-powered tools to propel you toward greater success?

Success Tips

Defining Your Business Presence
  Today’s Business Attire
Demystifying Business Casual
Power Colors
Pants in the Workplace
Jeans in the Workplace
Professional Demeanor
Inspiring Trust
Success FAQ's

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Available Now:
Casual Power, The definitive guidebook on how to project a positive image when dressed up or down for business.

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