There are many definitions of the business casual look. To make things even worse, every company has a different interpretation of the style itself.
So, what might be perfectly acceptable in Company A might be a big no-no in Company B.
However, the business casual style has been a part of the mainstream business culture since the 1990s.
And, by the looks of it, it’s here to stay as many companies adopt a more laid-back management style. That’s especially true of small- and medium-sized companies, as well as startups.
All of which brings us to the central question of this article. Are Polos Business Casual? Keep reading to find out.
Are Polos Business Casual or Not?
In short, yes, polo shirts are business casual — at least, an overwhelming majority of companies consider them business casual.
Polo shirts are sophisticated enough to give you that professional look without sacrificing an ounce of comfort. That’s why more and more companies are adopting them.
Polo shirts are casual enough for cashiers, retail staff, front desk personnel, and other customer-facing positions.
Also, many IT and internet-oriented companies that want to escape strict corporate dress codes adopt polo shirts as the perfect middle ground solution. With the right combination, you can also wear a polo shirt to some semi-formal events.
It’s important to note that cotton is your best bet when it comes to materials. A polo shirt made of 100% cotton will look far more flattering on you than a polyester shirt.
Plus, you’ll be more comfortable in the hot summer months, as cotton provides excellent ventilation and moisture-wicking. Finally, cotton will keep you warm during the winter.
Finally, you should keep in mind that some companies don’t accept polo shirts, despite having a “business casual” dress code. If that’s the case, you might want to try some less formal button-down shirts. Be sure to play around with different colors and patterns.
Polo Shirt Combinations Throughout the Year
One of the best things about polo shirts is that you can wear them all-year-round. The key, of course, is to match them well with the rest of your attire. Here’s more about polos through the seasons and how to incorporate them into your outfits.
When spring comes around, you should have your polos at the ready. The weather is clearing up and getting warmer, and nature is waking up.
To stay in sync, you want to aim for lighter colors. Beige, white, light-blue, and even yellow are good options. Of course, green is always a good idea in spring.
If you find plain-colored polos boring, you can always go for patterned ones. As with colors, you should go light and discrete here.
Subtle patterns are the way forward in spring.
Depending on where you live, spring can be unpredictable. One day, the temperature might get into the 60s or 70s, and the next day it might drop to the thirties, accompanied by rain and hail. Therefore, you should always have a sweater or a cardigan handy.
Make sure that the colors and patterns match or at least that they don’t clash.
As for the pants, you should decide based on the weather. If you’re expecting lower temperatures, go for some thicker pants.
If your company is OK with it, you can even go for some dark-colored jeans. If it’s a warm day ahead, you might want to opt for some chinos. Again, conservative colors are your best allies. That means white, black, khaki, dark-blue, and similar.
Back in 1965, Hawaiian authorities introduced the original “Casual Friday,” though it was called “Aloha Friday”. State company employees were allowed to wear Hawaiian shirts (they’re called Aloha shirts in Hawaii) to work on Fridays during the summer months.
Five years later, Aloha shirts were acceptable on any day of the week. The trend quickly spread to California, and the Business Casual trend was born. Soon, polo shirts were added to the mix.
So, are polos business casual during summer? Of course, they are. What’s more, it’s their prime season. The weather is too hot for suits and neckties in most states, anyway.
So, make sure you have a sufficient stock of polo shirts for the year’s warmest months.
As opposed to the light and subtle colors recommended for spring, you can adopt bolder colors in summer.
After all, nature is in full bloom, flaunting all of its colors. However, you should remain within the boundaries of what’s acceptable in the workplace. If your company has summer uniforms with company polos, it’s best not to bend the rules.
Chino pants are the best match for a polo shirt during the summer months. You’ll be comfy and look classy and professional at the same time. The key here is to go with light materials with excellent moisture-wicking properties.
Light footwear is also recommended for the warmer weather. Since sandals, flip-flops, and crocs are unacceptable, you can go for some stylish loafers.
You can also pick a pair of fashion sneakers if your company allows that. But avoid running shoes and flashy colors.
Come September, the temperatures will start to drop in most states. Nights will become cooler, and days won’t be as hot as in July and August.
If you think that that’s the time to put your polos away, you might want to think again. Why? Because polo shirts are an excellent choice for the changing autumn weather.
Regarding colors, you might want to go for something more conservative in autumn. Darker colors should be your top choices here. If you’re a pattern kind of guy, you might want to go for something discrete.
Autumn can be unpredictable, so it’s a good idea to have a sweater or a cardigan on hand most of the time. You can always tie it around your waist if the weather’s too warm to put it on. For example, you can go for a neutral, light polo and a dark sweater.
Regarding pants, you might want to swap your chinos for something thicker and warmer. If jeans are acceptable in your company, a dark and straight-cut pair is a great choice.
Finally, you should also go for some warmer shoes to complete the look. A pair of Chukka boots or derbies would fit nicely with a sweater and polo combo. Brogues might be a bit too much, though.
You can wear polos, even in winter. But to pull that off you’ll need to nail your layer matching game.
For example, you might go for a gray or beige polo and a navy or black blazer on top. Polos, as mentioned above, also go well with pullover sweaters and cardigans. The key here is to get the colors and patterns right.
Thick pants are pretty much a must during the winter in most states. Therefore, you should have a selection of slacks and casual trousers ready come November.
Again, neutral and darker tones are the way to go. They’re more in sync with the season, and they look more professional.
Warm shoes are also a must, and you might even opt for some elegant boots. Leather or faux leather, it’s up to you to decide. Black and dark brown tones are your best bets here.
General Tips on Business Casual Attire
In this section, we’ll go over some general tips and unwritten rules of the business casual style. Note that you do have more wiggle room than with the business formal and business professional styles, but that doesn’t mean that anything goes.
For starters, business casual doesn’t equal sloppy. The clothes should fit you and be flattering to your figure.
Proper grooming is also a must. Messy hair, dirt under your fingernails, or an unkempt beard can easily ruin the effect of even the best business casual attire. Also, you need to know how to match colors to make the most out of this style.
Second, avoid sneakers as much as possible. Yes, sneakers can pass if you’re in a pinch. However, sneaker days should be an exception, not a rule.
Most of the business casual companies don’t consider them acceptable. But if you do opt for sneakers, go with a pair of fashion sneakers.
Third, take good care of your clothes. There’s no way around this one. Your shoes should be clean and polished at all times.
Also, holes and stains on your clothes are unacceptable. Even if others can’t see them, you shouldn’t wear dirty or torn clothes to work.
Finally, when in doubt, pick the more formal combination. In the business environment, it’s always better to dress too formally than too casually.
If you’re too casual, your boss or clients might not take you seriously. And that could harm your career and your company down the road. If you’re just starting at a new company, you don’t want your too casual appearance to shut doors for you.
Approach Your Business Casual Look Strategically
Are polos business casual? Of course they are. However, a polo shirt is just the beginning of your business casual attire. Make sure to match it with other elements.
For the most versatility, you should go for plain colors and simple patterns.
Also, adjust your attire to the time of the year. In spring and autumn, you should have a sweater or cardigan on hand.
Be sure to coordinate pants and footwear to the weather. In summer, bolder colors are OK, but you should use them in moderation. In winter, polos can be your base layer.