Traditionally, jeans have always been a definitive business casual “don’t”. However, we’ve already witnessed the advent of sneakers as an office-appropriate wardrobe staple, so will we be welcoming denim into the fold soon?
It’s very likely jeans are business casual. In a few short decades, we’ve traded stilettos for sneakers and ties for open collars. Fashion and individuality is becoming more and more important in all aspects of life, not just the office. Obviously, all businesses have different approaches to office attire, but we are certainly noticing a trend towards comfort over formality.
We are now living in the golden age of jeans, making ripped, low-rise 90s denim is a thing of the past, and tailored denim in a variety of shades the chic new normal. Not only that, but it seems that jeans are finding themselves in our definition of the new business casual.
What is business casual?
It’s hard to pin down business casual to a firm definition: there are different versions of what’s acceptable, not to mention how it can vary between men and women. However, if the dress code is set as business casual, your mind might leap to an image of slacks, knee skirts, or suit trousers.
These are all safe bets: there’s little chance of you feeling like the office pariah if you stick with what you know. But office appropriate doesn’t have to mean boring. Wearing jeans to work sounds like the grown-up version of ditching your school uniform, but it’s actually just giving the professional aesthetic a much-needed 21st century reboot.
The raison d’être of business casual is to present a dignified image without the drama. In the past, denim being what it was, the very suggestion of jeans in the workplace would get you laughed out of the office faster than you could say “bootcut”. But now? There’s a jean for that.
This may sound like an elusive creature, the Loch Ness monster of your closet, but the truth is that it isn’t. In fact, there are potentially hundreds of iterations of the perfect jean for the office, depending on where you work and your own sense of style.
Traditionalists amongst you might want to opt for something that resembles jeans as little as possible: something dark and tailored, a pair of jeans in disguise. An option like this ASOS offering, a unisex number, might be the perfect jean for you. Smart enough to fool your coworkers into thinking they’re suit trousers, but cool enough to see you all the way through to those after work drinks.
If you want to embrace jeans warmly in the bosom of your office apparel, stick with a pair like these from Topshop, offering a smart mid-dark wash and a slim, straight leg. If you know that denim falls under your workplace’s idea of business casual, don’t be afraid to play with silhouettes and colours.
How to wear jeans at the office
As with all workplace garments, you have to pay attention to where the line is drawn between business casual, and just plain casual. Avoid ripped or frayed denim in the office as a general rule, as well as exaggerated detailing like oversized pockets or cuffs. Having said that, let colour be your best friend. White jeans look especially smart when paired with a button down shirt for a summer look in the office, whilst checked or boldly coloured denim can trick even your eagle-eyed manager into thinking you’ve just found the coolest pair of chinos around.
So, yes, jeans can be considered business casual in the right office environment, and armed with the right pair. If you’re looking to spice up your work wardrobe, a structured pair of black denim jeans, or straight-legged, ankle-grazing white jeans, could see you happily from meetings with the team to your date night dinner, without feeling out of place in either scenario. They might never live up to the beauty of that pair you’ve owned for 10 years, but they are out there, and they deserve a spot in your weekday outfit.