Dress Up or Dress Down: How to Master Business Casual Style

A man sitting in a navy suit, and white sneakers, with a patterned green shirt underneath.


Dressing your looks up or down is a skill that all men must master. Everyone strives to look professional, but it’s even more appealing to look professional and feel comfortable. Navigating that line between class and casual can be difficult, but once you unlock the potential of your business casual wardrobe, you’ll be able to go from work to weekend to date night without skipping a beat. 


Quick Tips & Tricks

  • When in doubt, reference fashion’s golden 70/30 rule. For the perfect business casual look, 70% should consist of items typically regarded with that style, while the 30% should serve to balance. For example, wear a suit and button-down and even it out with a pair of sneakers. 

  • Bypass any hassle by incorporating staple pieces of the opposite style. Cut through a formal look with a t-shirt or elevate your casual look with a blazer.

Style with confidence. In today’s age, there is no article of clothing that can not be appropriated into a casual or business look. Do not doubt your picks. Embrace your personal style to don your looks with confidence.



Most have a blazer or a formal two-piece set laying around somewhere, and if you don’t, you should. Though at the extreme end of professional clothing, a blazer is actually the ideal item that binds business and casual wear. Rather than layering a sleek sports coat over a traditional dress shirt, pair it with a basic white tee to create a cohesive and trendy business casual look. This combination could seamlessly carry you from work to dinner to a night out. If wearing a set, replace your suit pants with a pair of jeans to achieve a similar effect. Choose the wash based on the occasion—black or dark wash lean business, while light or gray sway casual. Relying on layers is the solution to any struggle. On a lazy day, throw a luxurious coat over the pairing of simple jeans and a graphic shirt to achieve a stylish look that’s in vogue. On the other hand, layer something casual, like a bomber jacket, over a dress shirt and slacks combo to compile an outfit appropriate for a night out. If the weather doesn’t permit outerwear layering, opt for a lightweight sweater to achieve a similar effect.


Get this entire look here.




Make the most of the potential of your shoes through their addition to unlikely looks. We all have that pair of shoes we bought for a specific occasion but are now gathering dust in the closet. Revitalize this pair by embracing the idea that you can incorporate them into any outfit if you style it right. Though pairing a traditional pair of dress shoes with a starkly casual look might look awkward, there is a balance. Wear them with a sharp pair of light-washed jeans and a button-down or luxe polo to effectively relax them. Otherwise, a hybrid dress shoe, a slip-on, or a loafer perfectly dresses up a casual outfit. Pairing a casual shoe with a business look, although intimidating to many, is an option you don’t want to dismiss. By adding white sneakers to a suit, not only do you attain the modern trend of white shoes, but you also mediate the balance between business and casual looks.



Color & Print

A useful note that could help you dress your looks up or down is that color and prints can serve as the bridge to your intended look. Formal wear is often confined to neutral tones, so it can be contrasted by the introduction of bright colors. For example, a blazer over a vibrant shirt allows you to take the look from a casual Friday to a night out. Alternatively, offset the serious nature of a business look with a pattern or bold colored pants. Pair a slick pair of dress pants or chinos with a graphic shirt for a modern casual look. 



Shirts & Silhouette

Let’s cut back to the basics. Button-downs are often regarded as solely business appropriate, but they shouldn’t be. Incorporate a button-down into your casual look, either as a layer to throw over a crew neck or as the staple of the look. Where most derail the potential of a buttoned shirt is when they miss the opportunity to play with the silhouette. The perfect way to reappropriate your fancier clothing is by doing just that, tweaking its traditional form. Roll up the sleeves of your button-up, unbutton ¾ down, or untuck the shirt, then watch how you instantly transition into a casual get-up. 

Get this entire look here.






Elliot Russ
Stately stylist, writer, and designer based in Los Angeles, CA