A “business” or “business dress” code means one thing for men: matched suits.
If an invitation has specifically requested business attire, it’s best to err on the side of
formality and wear a dark, solid colored or pinstriped suit.
Pair it with a white dress shirt, a conservative tie, and black leather oxfords, and you’re — no
pun intended — in business.
There is a certain amount of leeway at social events, particularly daytime ones, so if you
prefer a lighter gray suit or a dark brown one, those are acceptable. For the most part, though,
“business dress” means the more formal end of men’s suits.
If, on the other hand, the invitation simply says “suits and ties for men” or something along
those lines, “social suits” with lighter colors or more vivid patterns are acceptable.
This isn’t strictly speaking a dress code, but it is a request you will see from time to time
on invitations, particularly to dressed-up but light-hearted affairs like brunches and church
Business Casual or Dress Casual
There are a number of variations on this phrase, all of which mean basically the same thing.
For men, jackets are still preferred, but not required, and not as part of a matched suit.
The most conventional dress casual outfit for a man is a navy blue blazer with light to
medium gray slacks or khakis. (This is such a common dressed-down alternative to full
business attire that it’s sometimes called “the California suit.”)
Once the word “casual” is on the invitation, however, a fair amount of flexibility is permitted.
Blazers or sports jackets are the dressiest look within the code, while sweaters or dress shirts
without a top layer are more dressed-down.
In general, you’re better off showing up with a jacket and tie, and then stripping one or both
off if you find yourself too overdressed. It’s easy to dress a blazer or sports jacket and slacks
down, but hard to dress a plain shirt up.
At the bare minimum, a “business casual” invitation still requires slacks or khakis (not jeans)
and a collared shirt, as well as leather dress shoes and socks to match the trousers.
Sartorial tips >