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Difference Between Formal and Business Casual For Men

author image Chance Henson
Chance Henson earned a B.A. in English literature and a writing minor from Lamar University. While interning at the "University Press" newspaper and "UP Beat" magazine he received an award for news feature writing from the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association. Henson went on to serve as content editor for "CUSH Magazine," eventually leaving to pursue the development of an online secular humanist educational publication.
Difference Between Formal and Business Casual For Men
Business-formal attire is most appropriate for professional environments. Photo Credit Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images

Knowing when formal or business-casual attire is appropriate can sometimes prove difficult -- especially if casual clothes make up the majority of your everyday wardrobe. You can avoid the awkwardness of wearing the wrong ensemble at the wrong time by acquainting yourself with the basics of men’s dress etiquette.


The most formal men’s attire includes white tie, black tie and black-tie optional. Such formal apparel is usually reserved for weddings, balls, galas and similar occasions. Emily Post explains men’s black tie and black-tie optional typically includes a traditional tuxedo, formal white shirt, tie or cummerbund, and tuxedo shoes or formal pumps -- you may exchange your tuxedo jacket for a white dinner jacket in the summer and on cruises. White tie includes a black tailcoat with matching trousers, gloves, patent leather formal shoes, white vest, white bow tie and a white pique wing-collared shirt.

Business Formal

Business formal is perhaps the most common form of men’s professional attire. Although it is not as formal as black tie, it is nonetheless essential to building a well-rounded wardrobe. Emily Post states men’s business-formal attire includes a dark business suit, broadcloth dress shirt, subdued ties (no cartoon or gag prints), leather dress shoes (GQ recommends black-patent leather lace-ups), belt or suspenders, and an optional vest. Off-the-rack suits do not always fit well; have your suit tailored to ensure it flatters your physique and creates a sleek, professional look.

Business Casual

Men’s business casual is a more comfortable alternative for professionals than business formal. Business-casual attire does not require a tailored suit or even a tie, but it is essential your attire be well maintained and unwrinkled. Men’s business-casual attire includes dark slacks, khakis, chinos and dark-wash jeans; casual button-down, dress, polo and open-collar shirts; a blazer or sports coat; casual dress shoes or loafers; and an optional tie. Your clothes should create a relaxed yet discernibly professional appearance.


Understanding when business formal or business-casual attires are appropriate is as important as knowing what they include. Men’s business formal is suitable for professional office environments, job interviews, semi-formal occasions such as funerals and business meetings, or dinners. Your business-casual attire is most appropriate for relaxed professional atmospheres, company socials or parties, and informal business luncheons and meetings. Do not hesitate to ask beforehand if you are unsure what attire is appropriate for an interview or new job.

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