When you work in an office setting or another professional realm, it can be hard to tell where the line between business casual and too casual lies. After all, every office and company has its own definition of “business casual.” Most companies have their own dress code and rules around what employees can wear on certain occasions like “Casual Friday” or holidays.
Some places view jeans and a t-shirt as business casual, while other places see a two-pice suit as business casual. Although it’s always best to check with your employer before wearing something that borders on overly casual for work, there are some guidelines you can usually follow to stay professionally dressed.
During the cool or particularly muddy months especially, you may want to wear boots to work. After all, boots are comfortable, versatile, durable, and usually insulated against the elements. If you’re wondering whether your favorite pair of boots counts as “business casual,” you’re not alone.
I’ve worn my favorite trusty pair of ankle boots to interviews and meetings, so I’d like to think I’m a bit of an expert on how to style them for a business setting. Below, we’ll discuss whether boots count as business casual, along with a few tips for elevating even the most casual pair of boots to a professional look.
In short, most styles of boots can be business casual. However, some more casual styles of boots may need some extra help reaching the business side of business casual.
What does business casual mean?
As we mentioned above, the term “business casual” has many different meanings for different companies. Still, there are some basic elements to a business casual dress code. According to indeed.com, “Business casual attire is broadly defined as a code of dress that blends traditional business wear with a more relaxed style that’s still professional and appropriate for an office environment.”
In other words, a business casual outfit will look and feel comfortable while also conveying the message that you are a proper professional. If a business casual look is too laidback, clients might worry that you don’t take your role or your company’s reputation seriously. On the other hand, if a business casual look is too formal, it may make you seem unapproachable and make you stand out from coworkers on a Casual Friday in an unflattering way.
A good rule of thumb for business casual looks is dressing up the most casual part of the outfit and dressing down the most formal part of the outfit. This way, you strike the perfect balance between letting loose and keeping up professional appearances.
Are boots business casual?
For the most part, boots could be considered business casual. From plain leather ankle boots to under-the-knee riding boots to lace-up boots, you can usually rock your favorite pair of boots safely in a business-casual workplace. Some boots such as Eskimo boots or slipper boots are probably best left at home or saved for a super casual pajama-themed work party.
As tacticsforwinners.com says, “Boots vary widely in style and gracefulness — depending on the type of boot, it can be appropriate to wear them to a job interview or with a suit to an important event.” The key to making boots count as business casual is considering how they look in relation to other elements of an outfit.
For example, combat boots might look very casual when you pair them with skinny jeans and a plain t-shirt and blouse. Combat boots will look more professional if you slip them under a pair of wide-legged slacks or corduroys with a nice sweater or blouse and blazer. This way, combat boots will blend into the rest of the outfit instead of making an edgy statement.
If you pair black combat boots with black pants, coworkers may not even notice your punk rock footwear. Riding boots might look casual if you pair them with leggings and a basic cotton shirt. But if you let riding boots be the sturdy foundation for an outfit with black tapered slacks, a long statement blouse, and a cardigan, you’ll find that they look as professional as any other style of shoe.
Booties can also look business casual and provide cute comfort to your feet all day long. Booties are usually easy to style for business casual looks because they hide well under slacks and wide pant legs. They’ll look like a regular shoe, like an oxford flat or loafer, while giving your feet some extra support and coverage.
Opt for booties in neutral tones such as black, tan, gray, or navy to avoid looking too flashy. A soft pastel tone or plain shade of cream can also look tasteful and elegant. If you really want to make a statement, metallics can serve as bold neutrals without taking attention away from the important things at work.
Save fancy colors like neon or bright red for the night out after a long day at the office. When dressing in business casual, try wearing boots with a low or nonexistent heel. Stilettos and other high, skinny heels will be loud and distracting as you walk down the hall.
They also may look unprofessional and gaudy in certain traditional settings. A chunky heel may fare better and offer arch support in certain settings. For workers who have to be on their feet all day, a chunky heel might save their arches from aching at the end of the day.
Still, it’s always best to consult with a supervisor and take a look at the dress code before wearing high-heeled boots to work. Some places forbid heels higher than an inch or two because they present a safety risk. For other places, the appearance that high heels give goes against their definition of business casual.
You can wear your high-heeled boots to the club or downtown during happy hour, but they might not be appropriate for your time on the clock. Overall, if your boots are high-heeled, it’s best to consider whether they might be comfortable to wear for a whole shift and whether they are appropriate for your employer. If you are sitting behind a desk all day, you might not even feel like you’ve worn high-heeled boots all day.
If, on the other hand, you spend most of your day walking, it may be best to opt for a low-heeled boot with cushioned support. Boots can especially be stiff and uncomfortable to wear at first. Since the whole point of business casual is looking professional while feeling comfortable in your clothes, take advantage of a business casual workplace or dress-down event while you can.
Wear comfortable boots that show your sense of style while still maintaining an air of professionalism. To answer our initial question, boots are usually business casual. It all depends on your workplace’s specific policies and the kind of boots you’re wearing.
Typically, a casual pair of boots can be dressed up to meet a dress code’s standards. A dressy pair of boots can also be dressed down. That’s what makes this style of footwear so great to wear on and off the clock.