If you work in an office, you probably know the struggle of finding business casual outfits to wear every day. Business casual or “smart casual” styles are great if you want to look professional and be comfortable all day long. But as you try to keep up with the latest styles and find plenty of options to wear, you might wonder, is a polo shirt business casual?
Polo shirts are a great example of business casual clothing, especially if paired with dress pants. They are a popular choice for everyday workwear since they fall nicely in between t-shirts and button-down shirts in how dressy they are. However, remember that what is considered business casual can vary from company to company and from dress code to dress code.
In this article, we’ll give you plenty of tips for how to decide what counts as business casual, when it is appropriate to wear polo shirts, and how to style them correctly.
- What Counts as Business Casual?
- Is a Polo Shirt Business Casual?
- Can You Wear a Polo to a Job Interview?
- When Is It Appropriate to Wear a Polo Shirt?
- Can You Wear a Polo Shirt to the Office?
- Do You Have to Tuck In Your Shirt for Business Casual?
- What Kind of Pants Go With Polo Shirts?
- Are Jeans and Polo Shirt Business Casual?
- Best Business Casual Polos
- What Kind of Shirts Are Business Casual?
What Counts as Business Casual?
I remember the first time I was told to wear a business casual outfit for work. What ultimately counted as business casual didn’t seem all that straightforward, and everyone I talked to had a different opinion. Fortunately for you, we’ve got a few concrete rules you can follow to decide what counts as business casual, whether you’re considering a polo shirt or anything else in your wardrobe.
Consult Your Dress Code
The first sure way to tell what is considered business casual is to consult your employer’s dress code. Many companies will lay out in very specific terms what they consider to be appropriate for the workplace and what you should stay away from altogether. The definition of business casual will usually vary from company to company, so you’ll want to ask at each new job you start.
If your company doesn’t have a written dress code, pay attention to the people around you. Are they wearing full suits and dressing in full business professional? Or are they more relaxed and wearing polo shirts, button-downs that are not tucked in, or other more casual stylings. This is one of the best ways to figure out what your company considers “business casual.”
Pair Casual With Dressy
If you don’t have a handy dress code to look at, don’t fret. There are a few more things you can keep in mind. For starters, business casual outfits are generally made of casual clothing matched with a dressy piece.
Your outfit probably counts as business casual if you’ve paired a casual top with more dressy bottoms. You could also do the opposite and pair a dressy top or a suit jacket with more casual bottoms, though you’ll probably want to wear dressy shoes to balance it out.
Business casual is about blending casual clothes with more formal business professional looks. Make sure your outfit has a good mix of both, and you’re much more likely to fall into the category of business casual.
Avoid Too-Casual Elements
You should be careful, however, that you don’t choose clothing that is too casual when creating your looks. Stay far away from sneakers, tennis shoes, flip-flops, and graphic t-shirts. You’ll also want to avoid distressed denim, clothes with holes, shorts, crop tops, and other similar pieces.
Is a Polo Shirt Business Casual?
After all of this discussion of what is considered business casual, you’re probably ready to talk about polo shirts. Yes, polo shirts are generally considered business casual clothes if they are styled correctly. This makes them a longtime favorite for everyday office wear.
Polos are popular because they are a good in-between shirt that isn’t quite as casual as t-shirts but are not as formal as button-downs or suit jackets. When paired with dress pants, they are considered business casual. Other bottoms like jeans, however, can be a bit too casual and many workplaces won’t consider this a business casual look.
Ultimately, whether or not your polo shirt looks like it is business casual depends on the entire outfit you wear and the care you take in picking your clothing. It’s very flexible and can lend itself either way.
Can You Wear a Polo to a Job Interview?
While nothing stops you from breaking out your favorite polo shirt for your interview, you probably shouldn’t. A good rule of thumb is that it is better to overdress for an interview than it is to underdress. You should always try to choose what to wear for an interview by selecting something slightly more formal than what you would wear on an average day in the office.
If business casual is the standard dress code for that workplace, try to wear a suit jacket or at least a button-down shirt to the interview. This will help show that you take the interview seriously and are professional enough for the job. Save the polos for everyday wear.
When Is It Appropriate to Wear a Polo Shirt?
Polo shirts are very versatile and can be worn in many different places. You can wear them casually in your daily life, especially if you pair them with shorts or jeans. Some polos are worn while playing sports, such as tennis or golf. These often are made of special fabrics to keep you cool.
But in terms of wearing a polo shirt to work, you should only do so when appropriate for your workspace. You’ll need to check your company’s dress code to make sure that polo shirts are allowed. You should also look around you and see what everyone else is wearing. Even if polo shirts are allowed at your company, you’ll stand out like a sore thumb if you’re wearing one while your co-workers all wear full suits.
You should also consider what your day will involve. If you spend a day at your desk getting a bunch of work done on your computer, a polo shirt is a bit more appropriate. If you have an important meeting with a client or a business dinner, skip the polo shirt and wear a button-down and a suit instead.
Can You Wear a Polo Shirt to the Office?
If it fits your workplace, then yes! Polo shirts are a great option for business casual if that is the type of everyday wear most people dress around your office. Polo shirts are a comfortable, breathable, and overall good choice for a day at the office.
The only times you should not wear a polo shirt to the office is if it is against the company’s dress code, nobody else is doing it, or you have a very important event to attend. A polo shirt typically won’t be appropriate in these types of situations. Beyond that, feel free to pull out that trusty polo shirt and head straight to work.
You should consider the color of the polo shirt you are wearing, however. It’s best to stick to solid-color polos or polos with minimal stripes. Avoid bold patterns, large logos and words, or polo shirts made of sporty materials. These won’t be appropriate for your office.
Do You Have to Tuck In Your Shirt for Business Casual?
Whether or not to tuck in your shirts when dressing in business casual is a bit of a debate. Many say you should always have your shirt tucked in, no matter what. Others say that an untucked shirt is just fine and that this is perfectly acceptable for a business casual look.
What it comes down to is what kind of shirt you’re considering. If the shirt is normally a formal piece of clothing, like a button-down, leaving it untucked can give it a bit more of a casual feel. However, for more casual shirts like polos, tucking them in helps them make them a bit more business-appropriate.
In short, leaving dressy shirts untucked is usually okay. More casual shirts may need to be tucked in. However, this rule isn’t very firm. You can certainly wear a polo shirt untucked and still look like you’re wearing business casual – as long as the rest of your outfit is somewhat dressier.
What Kind of Pants Go With Polo Shirts?
Polo shirts are a very versatile piece of clothing in your closet, and they can go with all sorts of bottoms. The most common choices are dress pants and denim jeans, though other bottoms like track pants and skirts are found from time to time.
Dress pants are a perfect pairing with polo shirts, especially if you tuck in the shirt and wear a belt. This is a classic business casual pairing and you’ll blend right in at the office. If you buy mostly solid color polo shirts and have several neutral colors of dress pants available, you can mix and match your pieces to create endless looks.
If you like wearing dress pants with patterns on them, just be careful to avoid polo shirts with any kind of pattern in them. The opposite is true if you choose a polo shirt with some kind of design, like stripes. You want one of the pieces to be a solid color so that it can accent the pattern of the other piece.
Denim jeans are another classic pairing with polo shirts, though whether or not they are considered business casual is another thing entirely. In an office setting, a polo shirt and jeans are often an excellent choice for casual Fridays if your employer offers them. If you work in a very casual environment, jeans and polo shirts can be everyday appropriate, especially if you pair them with dressy loafers.
You will want to be careful that your denim jeans are clean and not distressed, however. Dingy and fraying jeans will never look business casual. They’ll probably make you look a bit sloppy. Stick to wearing your best pair of dark-wash jeans if you plan to pair them with a polo for work.
Dress pants and jeans aren’t the only natural pairings for polo shirts. It is common to see coaches and athletes pair their polo shirts with athletic pants or joggers for somewhat of a business-athletic look.
You’ll also commonly see polo shirts being worn by women, often paired with a skirt. A polo shirt and skirt could be considered business casual. You will also see this pairing worn by female athletes, such as golfers or tennis players.
If you’re hoping to stick to a business casual look, however, your safest bet is a classic pair of dress pants. It’s hard to go wrong if you do.
Are Jeans and Polo Shirt Business Casual?
Whether or not jeans and a polo shirt worn together are business casual is a bit unclear if you ask most people. Overall, this pairing is not appropriate for most office settings you might work in. The two pieces together are very casual and stray pretty far from true business wear.
However, we live in a world where more and more employers are relaxing their dress code rules. If you work in a progressive workspace where jeans are okay to wear daily, then jeans and a polo shirt could be business casual. Many tech or social media companies are known for this casual office wear.
We generally recommend that you avoid jeans and polo shirts together in your workplace unless casual Fridays are offered by your employers. It’s easy to look too casual in this outfit, which may give off the wrong impression and make you look unprofessional. When in doubt, it’s better to overdress than to underdress.
Best Business Casual Polos
Not all polo shirts are created equal, and wearing the wrong one to your office can make you look sloppy and unprofessional. We’ve scoured the internet to bring you our top picks for the best business casual polos on the market. You’re sure to make a great impression wearing one of these.
Calvin Klein Liquid Touch PoloThe Liquid Touch Polo from Calvin Klein comes in 19 classic colors that give you the chance to wear one of these iconic polo shirts every day of the week. These shirts are incredibly soft, thanks to their ultra-fine cotton yarns that give the shirt subtle stretch and a cool-to-the-touch feel.
Even better, the designers at Calvin Klein have made this polo shirt ultra-comfortable for all-day wear. You’ll look refined and business-ready while wearing this polo, no matter what the business day might throw at you.
Nautica Slim Fit PoloThe Nautica Slim Fit Polo from the trusted Nautica brand is the perfect choice for everyday office wear. With 28 colors to choose from, you can create a full wardrobe of these shirts.
This shirt earns our pick for one of the best business casual polos because of its almost tailored, slim-fitting look and soft cotton feel. It has a somewhat sporty feel while maintaining its business casual look. You can’t go wrong with a classic polo like this.
What Kind of Shirts Are Business Casual?
You’d be surprised how many shirts are considered business casual if they are styled correctly. As we discussed in the beginning, business casual outfits are usually made by pairing a casual piece of clothing with a dressier one. Because of this, both dress and casual shirts can appear to be business casual if they are paired with the right bottoms.
Solid color polo shirts or t-shirts, for example, can be business casual if they are paired with a pair of dress pants. Tucking them in and adding a belt or even loafers can help to further create a business casual look. However, this only works with dressier bottoms since these casual shirts paired with casual pants like jeans will miss the mark.
On the other hand, a dress shirt like a button-down or a suit jacket can appear a bit more casual depending on the pants they are paired with. If you pair them with jeans, these shirts will look much more casual. If you choose to pair a dress shirt with dress pants, untucking the shirt can help give it more of a relaxed feel.
Polo shirts are a great choice if you’re looking for business casual shirts, especially when paired with dress pants. By now, we hope you feel confident enough to style all sorts of business casual outfits with the information we’ve given you here. Keep this guide handy as you decide on your outfits this week to give you all the help you need!