Are Polos Business Casual? Ending the Debate Once and For All

February 17, 2023

Get a shortcut to polished CEO Style

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering, “Are polos business casual?” don’t worry. You’re not alone.

Business casual is one of those notoriously tricky dress codes. What’s appropriate varies from office to office. But there are a few simple rules to ensure your work looks are always on point.

Read on for Next Level Wardrobe’s tips on wearing polos professionally, along with advice on khakis as well.

(Yeah, we know you were wondering about that one too.)

Are Polos Business Casual?

There’s the big question: are polos business casual?

Yes, polos are a must for men’s business casual outfits.

We recommend polos to male clients because they’re a step up from a T-shirt and a step down from a formal button-up. AKA, it’s put together without trying too hard.

They’re a staple for any CEO or executive in a more creative or casual industry. Additionally, polo shirts are a lifesaver for summer business casual ensembles or hot climates like Texas or Florida.

Reiss Duchie Short Sleeve Open Collar Merino Polo Business Casual Shirt

Product by Reiss, shop here.

When shopping for polos, seek out refined fabrics. Think merino wool (like this open collar option from Reiss pictured above) or Pima cotton.


For one, these textiles are high quality. They don’t break down after a couple of washes (or dry cleanings) and they hold their shape, texture, and knit. This leads to a put-together, more office-appropriate vibe than you’d get with the typical golf polo.

Another reason these natural fabrics reign supreme in our book is their breathability. No more worrying about pit stains or overheating.

Michael Kors Long Sleeve Interlock Business Casual Polo Shirt

Product by Michael Kors, shop here.

If you’re new to adding these collared shirts to your closet, invest in core colors. Black, navy, grey, and white are the foundation tones of any wardrobe. They easily mix and match with anything else in your closet.

Take this black long sleeve polo by Michael Kors for example. You can pair it back to chinos or jeans without thinking twice. Plus, the long sleeve makes this the perfect way to wear a polo in cooler months.

If Polos are Business Casual, What do I Wear With Them?

Finally, you can stop asking yourself, “Are polos business casual?” and get into building successful outfits with this popular tee. Here are two sophisticated and effortless ways to wear polos.

Want to take your polo from business casual to power casual? Try something like this monochrome moment from Bonobos.

Blue and blue go together. But what keeps this sophisticated and effortless instead of bland, is the different textures.

Notice the almost heathered effect we get from the woven pants? This creates visual interest next to the classic knit of the polo.

Another detail that ties this whole look together is the belt. That touch of brown breaks up the outfit so it doesn’t all run together.

Here’s a slightly more casual way to wear a polo:

Polos and summer go hand in hand. So let’s lean into that aesthetic by wearing your shirt with classic chinos. This pairing masters casual without feeling sloppy. How?

For one, the fit. Wearing too-tight or too-loose clothes is a surefire way to seem like you don’t care about your appearance. Both the polo and pants in this photo are in a straight/slim fit, just skimming the model’s frame.

Secondly, check out the modern color story. Chinos and a polo could read as stuffy or old-school. But it works here because of the neutral shades selected.

Now that we’ve solved the “are polos business casual” conundrum, let’s tackle another dress code dilemma: khakis.

Are Khakis Business Casual?

Yes, Khakis are business casual.

A lot of our clients ask, “Are Khakis business casual?” because they’re thinking of old, outdated, baggy styles. They’re picturing the super light wash khakis from work and school uniforms made of heavy-duty polyester. Like khakis from the show, The Office.

*cough* Dickies *cough*

So let’s get one thing straight. Just like what we said with polos, Khakis can work at the office. All it takes is selecting the right colors, fabrics, and fits.

NNO7 Marco Slim Fit Chino Pants Khakis For Men's Business Casual Wardrobe

Product by NNO7, shop here.

Take this olive option from NNO7. The darker tone looks more modern and polished than the typical “khaki” color.

Plus, take a peak at the fit. No 90’s style front-pleats here or baggy hems. Just a sleek, slim-straight fit.

Business Casual Khakis For Men Rag And Bone Fit 2 Lightweight Loopback Chino Pants

Product by rag & bone, shop here.

Or try a darker brown tone as you see with these pants from rag & bone.

Many guys stick to the same old color palette when it comes to khakis. But playing with other shades like navy, olive, and brown shows off your style skills.

If Khakis are Business Casual, What do I wear with them?

Like we did in the “are polos business casual section, we’re going to show you how to wear khakis. The right way.

Our founder, Cassandra Sethi, recently gave her Dad a style makeover after a major weight change. One of her major focuses was to update his wardrobe with well-fitting outfits that felt stylish yet age-appropriate. (He’s 70!)

Take a peek below to see how she created one of his favorite looks with a pair of khakis.

The foundation of this outfit may seem basic: khakis and a polo.

But one of the things that elevate it, is the color. We’re not going for that stereotypical frat bot pastel palette. Instead, we’re starting with a core-colored polo in black.

Next, the khakis are olive. This adds contrast to the dark polo without going too stark. They’re still in the same “mood”.

What else upgrades this ensemble? Accessories and layers. Skater-style flat tops in black and white that tie back to the polo, and a trend-aware plaid shacket.

Combining traditional go-to’s with contemporary touches is how you do power casual at any age.

Here’s another example of using layering and colors to style khakis:

If you paired those Todd Snyder pants with washed-out pink polo and sneakers, you’d be back in dated, preppy territory.

But with a moody mahogany polo, matching loafers, and a vintage-inspired jacket, you’re in business.

Say it with us: Are polos business casual?

Are khakis business casual?

Class dismissed.

Need help putting together the perfect business casual wardrobe? Apply for our men’s personal styling services. NLW’s team of experts will answer all your burning fashion questions, transform your closet, and elevate your brand through style.

About the Author - Cassandra Sethi
About the Author - Cassandra Sethi

Personal Stylist & Image Consultant

Cassandra Sethi is a Personal Stylist and Founder of Next Level Wardrobe, a luxury Personal Styling and Shopping Service that helps successful professionals of all ages and sizes. After working in the fashion industry for over 25 years, she used her expert knowledge to create a proprietary styling system called ‘The Next Level Wardrobe Style System' which guarantees clients more outfits with less items in their closet. NLW has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Tamron Hall Show, NY Mag, Huffington Post and more.

*Disclosure: Next Level Wardrobe only recommends products that we’d suggest to our clients or personally wear ourselves. All opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, Next Level Wardrobe may earn a small commission. Read the full privacy policy here.

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Cassandra Sethi

is a NYC Personal Stylist and Image Consultant. She is the Founder of Next Level Wardrobe and 'The NLW Style System' that guarantees clients more outfits with less items.

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