Are Jeans Business Casual? A Style Guide

Are Jeans Business Casual? A Style Guide

    I get that sometimes you may want to cast off your work trousers and wear something different, something more comfortable when in the office. What about jeans? Many women love jeans but there is a perception that they are not appropriate for the workplace. In this guide, I want to tackle that notion and take a look at business casual attire and whether jeans fit into this category.

    What Does Business Casual Mean?

    Business casual is a type of dress code typically used in Western Society. It was created to bridge the gap between strict business attire and full casual dress with the idea of allowing a few casual elements and more comfort, and the ability to incorporate more modern garments into your workwear.

    There is no clear definition of what a women’s business casual outfit can and cannot include and this is typically decided on a workplace-by-workplace basis.

    Can Jeans be Considered Business Casual?

    Are jeans business casual? Unfortunately, you could visit 50 workplaces and each one could have a different stance on this. I consider jeans to be business casual, and there are plenty of progressive workplaces that do too, and many workplaces don’t care at all what you wear!

    As you will see below, the key factor is the type of jeans including features like fit, color, style, and additions like holes and distressing. This is more difficult than something like styling women’s button-downs or choosing a blouse as these are both items that are accepted as workplace attire.

    Styling Tips for Incorporating Jeans Into Business Casual

    Navigating the business casual landscape can be daunting so I want to try and make things easier by giving style tips for incorporating jeans into your workwear.

    Avoid holes, patches, and distressing

    This is the most obvious style tip but typically, jeans with holes, patches, and distressing are not classed as business casual but just casual. These features look amazing and they are what give jeans character, but they aren’t usually appropriate for the workplace as they clash with the more professional atmosphere.

    Instead, look at solid fabric jeans that have no additions. You can look at it a simple way and consider that you wouldn’t wear trousers with rips or holes. Jeans are essentially replacing your workplace trousers so you should try and keep some similarity.

    Consider darker colors that match trousers

    women wearing jeans posing together against a gray background

    The traditional denim color is blue but for business casual wear, you may want to consider darker-colored jeans. Colors like black, grey, navy blue, and brown can look more akin to traditional office trousers while still looking great.

    Whereas depending on the office etiquette, light blue or standard denim jeans may be seen as too casual.

    Consider the fit of the jeans

    I’m sure you would be allowed to wear loose-fitting, baggy jeans to work, but in most instances, fitted jeans have a slight edge and fit better into the business casual category.

    Bagginess and loose-fitting clothes are often associated (rightly or not) with loungewear or when you simply want to be lazy whereas fitted clothes give the impression of professionalism, activeness, and style. Fitted jeans also look fantastic with womens designer shirts and can work better with a variety of outfit options.

    Avoid too much color fade and acid-wash

    Like holes and patches, I wouldn’t typically consider jeans with overt color fade or acid wash as business casual.

    I love these features on jeans and it’s what makes them timeless and stylish, but for the workplace, color fade and acid wash can reduce the perceived professionalism of your outfit so try and stick with solid-color jeans with only a minimal fade.

    Look at the contrast of stitching

    This is something that is often overlooked but the stitching of pockets and seams on jeans drastically alter the suitability for the workplace.

    Generally, try and avoid high-contrast stitching as this reduces the neutrality of the jeans. Instead, you want stitching that blends with the jean material to create a more understated look.

    Navigating Workplace Norms and Etiquette

    Because of the lack of definition of the term business casual, the only way to find out if you can wear jeans is to check your workplace guidelines or speak to a superior. Some offices have strict workwear guidelines and could prohibit business casual outfits in which case I wouldn’t advise wearing jeans.

    However, other workplaces may have no guidelines, and in these instances, I urge you to test the water! Ensemble your business casual outfit with jeans and wear it proudly. In most instances, you shouldn’t meet any barriers and other people may even follow suit and take up your fashion trend!

    Striking the Perfect Balance for a Modern Professional Look

    So, are jeans business casual? Yes! However, you have to consider the style, color, and fit of the jeans and avoid casual garments with holes and distressing. Always comply with any workplace fashion guidelines too as some companies have stricter dress codes that prohibit wearing jeans.

    Article by:

    Gina Kuyers

    Gina Kuyers is the founder of Luxeire. The idea for Luxeire came out of founder Gina’s frustration with the discomfort and high maintenance of beautiful clothing. With a 20-year career and PhD in school psychology, Gina spent decades applying research to real-world problem solving. She brought these well-honed skills to designing and producing a line of elevated wardrobe staples.

    Gina grew up in West Michigan where she attended Calvin College graduating with a degree in education. She continued her education at Fordham where she received her PHD in school psychology. Gina and her husband, David, have four adult children and live in New Jersey—just a short ferry ride from the Luxeire studio in New York City.