Business Casual VS Smart Casual: What's the Difference?

"There's nothing to wear!" It's the same old tale: you have a closet full of clothes, but nothing suitable for your big interview tomorrow or your first day of work. And it is not that the company didn't give you any guidance. They gave you a dress code, "business casual". You've heard of "casual" or "business formal". But what is "business casual"? How is it different from "smart casual"?

Let's find out!

Business Casual

"A style of clothing that is less formal than traditional business wear, but is still intended to give a professional and businesslike impression." - Oxford Dicitionary

A rule of thumb is to think of this as a toned-down version of your traditional "business formal". Unlike the latter, which tends to be more rigid and conservative with colours, business casual allows you to showcase your personality by accessorising or adding a hint of vibrant colour.

Business casual is suitable for business luncheons, meetings. It is often seen at tech companies, as well as marketing or PR department.

For Men:

Business Casual Ideas - Men

  • Tie is optional

  • You may substitute a blazer with a cardigan or sweater

  • You may incorporate colours that are less than formal, such as brown, navy, light blue, etc.

For Women:

Business Casual Ideas - Women

  • Try pairing a pair of ballet flats with a simple one-piece

  • Finish the look with a light-coloured blazer

  • You may also try wearing a coloured-blouse with a pair of fitted dress pants

- How Successful CEOs Dress?

Smart Casual

It's neat and professional — but still informal - Business Insider

You can view smart causal as a polished version of casual wear. It offers more flexibility than business casual. However, as this is still a work-related occasion, avoid wearing shorts or mini skirts! If you are interviewing at an IT company, or for a position in advertising or design, smart casual is often the way to go.

For Men:

Smart Casual Ideas - Men

  • Jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers are acceptable

  • Remember to avoid wearing shorts!

For Women:

Smart Casual Ideas - Women

  • Try pairing a pair of fitted jeans with a t-shirt, and flats or sneakers

  • Avoid sandals and mini skirt

An overview:

Dresscode Chart - Men (Casual, Smart Casual, Business Casual, Business)

Dresscode Chart - Women (Casual, Smart Casual, Business Casual, Business)

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Sophia Wong

Brand and Marketing Strategist in Hong Kong, writes about career, job hunting and interview tips.

2 min read

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