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Are Jeans Business Casual?

Whether or not your office allows business casual depends on them, but you can learn to style your outfits using these business casual guidelines, so you always wear the right thing to the office, including working jeans into your office wardrobe if your office allows it.

This is a woman wearing a pair of jeans in an office setting.

You can thank the nice folks living in the state of Hawaii for casual Fridays and casual business attire overall. In 1956, the Tori Richard brand founded an aloha clothing brand centered on Hawaiian shirts. The Hawaiian Fashion Guild wanted to encourage the sales of aloha clothing, so it created the aloha Friday. By encouraging businesses in the state to adopt aloha Fridays, they sold more Hawaiian shirts locally.

Of course, Hawaii is a top vacation location. Many individuals traveled to the state from the mainland US. Everyone saw the businesses letting their employees sport casual wear on Fridays and they got a little jealous. They took this awesome idea back with them from vacation, probably touting it as a morale booster. On the mainland, it became the casual Friday since Hawaiian shirts would seem silly attire in an Idaho winter.

From that humble beginning by a fashion industry guild trying to help sell shirts, you have business casual attire, an entire category of fashion wear crossed with office wear. No clear consensus exists though on whether jeans qualify as business casual. It is pretty clear that Hawaiian shirts qualify in Hawaii though. So, how do you know if you can wear jeans to your office for a business casual event or casual Friday?

What is business casual attire?

A man wearing jeans and blazer working on his laptop.

Whether or not black jeans qualify as business casual wear depends on the workplace. No clear answer exists. In one workplace, they may be perfectly acceptable on casual Friday, but in another office, casual may mean khakis instead of a suit.

So, how do you know?

You reference your workplace’s personnel manual for its business casual dress code. It provides you with the dress code acceptable in the office. If your manual skipped this, then you can ask your manager.

Once you have a firm answer, you know and can plan your attire. If they say “yes” that jeans, and black jeans, do qualify as business casual, then you can plan accordingly. This article should help guide you in planning your outfit and styling it for maximum effect.

The term business casual attire refers to clothing outside the purview of traditional business clothing that an office or business considers appropriate for day-to-day office wear or after-hours event wear. Traditional attire refers to a suit and tie for men or a business dress or skirt and a top with a blazer for women. Business casual still requires the employees to present themselves in a neat and modest manner but allows them to express their personalities more readily while wearing more comfortable clothing than traditional office attire provides.

Business casual includes khakis, blazers, slacks, polo shirts, sweaters, and sweater vests. It still favors close-toed dress shoes. Some offices include jeans in this list.

What to Wear if Your Office Allows Jeans

This is a close look at a man wearing half casual and half formal clothes.

Now is not the time to wear the distressed denim you bought with its strategic rips. A business casual jean look needs to appear in good condition. They should be clean with no tears or frayed areas. You should avoid faded jean and bright-colored jeans. Also, avoid flashy detailing such as rhinestones or rivets.

Choose a classic style of jeans in dark blue or black. You might also wear a muted color of denim such as brown, dark green, or white.

You should layer the look you wear. A pair of jeans with a t-shirt will not do. That is too casual. Wear a button-down shirt with these jeans and add a blazer.

Sneakers are not appropriate for business casual. Men can wear their close-toed dress shoes, penny loafers, or Docksiders. Women can choose from flats, heels, or boots. Many workplaces do not allow sandals. This is not due to a distaste for the fashion, but because closed-toe shoes provide a higher level of safety.

Work environments must adhere to Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulations, and these include requiring that in many work environments the shoes must have closed-toes for safety.

Limitations to Business Casual

Some offices may limit the times and events at which you can wear business casual. Some offices may delegate it to Fridays, while in others, office casual provides appropriate everyday attire. Other offices may only consider business casual an option for after-work events. Perhaps they hold a weekend mixer, and the dress code is business casual. In these cases, the invitation typically tells you whether business casual applies.

Always ascertain first whether or not jeans qualify as business casual at the new office. Ask before wearing any. It is better to hear a no and follow the rules than to get written up for a workplace violation.

If your office manual says nothing about jeans, and your manager has no clear answer, you can ask human resources. This department writes the dress code that appears in the employee handbook. They should tell you if your company lets each department add to its own code.

You can wait a few weeks and simply look at what others wear on a casual Friday. This observant behavior can save you from many problems. If more than one person wears jeans on Friday as a part of business casual attire, you can, too.

How to Wear Jeans for Work

Two men wearing jeans and button-down shirts in an office setting.

Styling these office looks with jeans does require a few rules. When you follow them, you can rest assured that your business casual outfit will wow while meeting appropriate standards.

Choose dark jeans, typically blue or black.

Make them an appropriate style. Skip the low-rise jeans. Stick with high-waisted jeans with a straight leg, boot cut, or skinny jeans. The waistline of the jeans needs to overlap with the shirt you wear.

Choose a comfortable fit in the appropriate size. Avoid oversized, baggy, or skin-tight jeans.

Wear a collared shirt under a sweater.

Accessorize tastefully. Now is not the time to wear your silver lame belt and matching purse. That’s perfect for clubbing, but not the office. Choose classic stylings such as black or brown leather belts, ties, leather shoes, and the same dressy purse or briefcase you would normally carry.

Wear a blazer. Further, dress up the look by wearing a blazer or sport coat. This should blend well with your jeans, either matching in color or using a complementary color.

Women should wear flats or heels or dress boots with their jeans, while men can wear their dress shoes or dress boots.

Men may be able to skip the tie on casual Fridays. Check the office casual definition in your personnel manual for this, too.

Your shirt should also remain tucked into your pants. When you wear a sweater, you should wear a t-shirt or collared shirt beneath it that remains tucked. Always. Your sweater may remain untucked. Consider that a compromise.

What to Skip Wearing

Avoid the funky. In a business setting, you should not wear a skinny jean, acid-washed jeans, ripped jeans, denim with holes or that is frayed, nor jeans with detailing such as glitter, rivets, embroidery, or rhinestones.

Never wear blue jeans to a job interview. Wear office business attire only.

Where to Buy Business Casual Jeans

You can find appropriate jeans for business casual attire in most department or specialty stores. Try Macy’s, Dillard’s, and Foley’s for a good starting point. You can also shop H & M online. Walmart and Target sell these items online as well as Amazon.

You can easily find dark jeans for office wear, so you can rock casual Fridays and all the business casual events that your office organizes. In fact, these stores make a one-stop shopping place for your business casual wardrobe.


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