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If there’s one office dress code working overtime, it’s men’s business casual.
This style of professional attire can get you through just about anything. From business calls to an upscale lunch date on the weekends, it’s got you covered.
That’s why it’s important to have the right shoes to round out your outfit. Not sure where to start?
Next Level Wardrobe has you covered. As a styling and executive image consultant company, we know how to master any dress code with clean, classic clothing.
We’ve got a list of our favorite business casual shoes for men to add to your closet ASAP. Read on for our top tips.
Defining Business Casual
Before we get into our 5 fave business casual shoes, let’s tackle the elephant in the room:
What is business casual?
It’s all in the name. It’s the midpoint between true business formal and casual dress. It mixes the smart components of business wear but with a slightly relaxed attitude. Similar to men’s power casual, it’s the perfect option when you’re not sure what to wear to the office or an event.
Here’s an example:
A suit and tie are business formal. A pair of well-fitted slacks with a tucked-in polo or button-down is business casual.
Why does one work and not the other?
Structure. Structure = formal. Blazers, tailored items typically have more structure than say, a soft-knit polo. The more structure, the more formal an outfit will look and feel.
Business casual is the go-to clothing policy for most workplaces. Because of its popularity, it’s important to have the right shoes at the ready.
Your shoes should strike that same balance between buttoned-up and laid-back. In short, you want to look put together without going over the top.
No one wants to feel like the most overdressed person in the room.
Our 5 Favorite Men’s Business Casual Shoes
Now that we’ve got that definition out of the way, let’s get into our 5 favorite men’s business casual shoes:
We selected these 5 types of footwear because of their timelessness, wearability, and sophistication. We’ll dive deeper into what makes each of these shoes the smart choice for you along with some outfit inspiration.
1. Business Casual Shoes for Men: Chukkas
First on our list of the best business casual shoes for men is the chukka boot. The NLW team loves this shoe because it’s smart casual personified. With their classic silhouette, these look perfect paired with chinos, slacks, or trousers.
Thanks to their ankle height, chukkas are also a go-to for fall and winter. They’ll keep you warm without the bulkiness of full-on boots.
For the office, we recommend opting for muted, neutral tones. Think black, brown, or grey. Like the suede light-brown pair from Nisolo Men’s pictured above. These colors easily partner with everything in your closet and don’t distract from the rest of your outfit.
2. Oxfords: A Men’s Business Casual Shoe Go-To
For those wanting to go the more traditional route, you can’t go wrong with oxfords. These or brogues (which we’ll get to later) are the closest options to a true dress shoe.
In fact, if you’re in the market for footwear that functions for formal and business casual occasions, this is it.
Oxfords tend to come in leather or leather-like fabrications with a lace-up top and low heel. If you do opt for these shoes, we recommend going more casual elsewhere in your outfit.
For example, pair the coffee-colored Bally oxfords pictured above with navy trousers and a grey sweater. You can tie the look together with a coordinating belt for extra finish.
3. Sneakers (Yes, You Can Wear Them to Work)
Listen, we’re living in the age of the tech CEO sneaker.
Once relegated to workouts and weekends, sneakers are now business casual shoes.
The secret to pulling off this look?
Number one, choose a low-profile shoe in a subtle color. You’re not some start-up exec on Silicon Valley. Walk past the chunky dad-shoe styles and vibrant hype-beast colors. Those options are overly trendy and hard to take seriously.
You’re better off with a white low-top like the set pictured above from Vince. You can wear these with chinos, trousers, or jeans (if your office allows it) without skipping a beat.
The second key to wearing sneakers to work is to opt for luxe, non-athletic materials.
We can’t stress this enough: you should not wear these shoes to the gym. These sneakers and your workout sneakers are very different.
Last but not least, keep your sneakers clean. Nothing says “unprofessional” faster than showing up to work with scuffed-up grass-stained trainers. Keep a clean rag by the door to give your shoes a once-over before you step out for the day.
4. Business Casual Shoes for Men: Level-Up in Loafers
Let’s say you’re all about comfort and ease but you’re not ready to take the plunge on sneakers. Loafers are the shoes for you.
The slip-on designs make these shoes a breeze to get on. Plus, the low heel, fabrication, and toe all read as business-savvy.
There are three types of loafers that work as business casual shoes:
– Penny loafers
– Bit loafers
– Tassel loafers
Penny loafers (like the ones from BOSS seen above) are the most wearable option. If your office is no-nonsense or you prefer a no-frills approach to fashion, these are your best bet.
However, bit loafers (loafers with a buckle) or tassel loafers are great for adding flare to their personal brand.
Whichever version you choose, keep your colors simple. Black or brown will do the trick.
5. Brogues: A Men’s Business Casual Shoe Staple
In the final spot on our list of the best business casual shoes for men, are brogues.
If you’re not familiar with the term, brogues are a variation of oxfords. The difference? The perforations (or broguing) across the top and sides of the uppers.
Those perforations add a subtly stylish detail to your footwear.
To style brogues, purchase a pair in a neutral color, like these mahogany brown ones from Paul Smith. Then, add chinos or trousers.
In the summertime, complete this outfit with a tucked-in polo. In winter or fall, go for a quarter-zip sweater up top.
Now that you know what shoes to shop for, need help putting together the rest of your business casual ensemble?
Apply for our men’s personal styling services. Our Next Level Wardrobe team will get to know you, your style, and your goals. Then we’ll put together the perfect closet to upgrade your lifestyle.
Cassandra Sethi is a NYC Personal Stylist and Image Consultant. After working over 15 years in the Fashion Industry, most recently as a Senior Buyer for Equinox, she created her business, Next Level Wardrobe – a luxury personal shopping service for successful professionals.
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