Are Jeans Business Casual in 2021? If You Pick Them Wisely

Woman holding laptop wearing jeans


Your Money Geek
Your Money Geek
May 18, 2024 at 4:48AM UTC
Casual dress codes are on the rise. But when only half of workplaces have an official dress code, it can be hard for new employees to know Are Jeans Business Casual?
Fifty years ago, everyone wore a suit no matter their job title. Even as early as a decade ago, most of us were going to work in business formal attire. Now, you'll be hard-pressed to see someone wearing a tie or a suit at work.
Ditching the expensive suits not only helps your finances (allowing you to be better with money) but it helps you do your job better. Studies show that 61% of people are more productive when their employer has a casual dress code. 
Today, business casual is more of the norm for every day, not just Friday's. So as you're navigating your new workplace, you may be thinking, Are Jeans Business Casual?

What is Business Casual Attire?

Before we answer are jeans business casual, let's look at today's idea of business casual attire.  Although a broad term, business casual is typically seen as any style of clothing that is less formal than your traditional suit but is still intended to give a professional and businesslike impression.
To give you an idea, these types of clothing are typically considered to be part of the business casual dress code:
  • Khakis
  • Knee-Length Skirts
  • Blouses
  • Blazers
  • Slacks
  • Collared shirts
  • Polos
  • Vests
  • Sweaters
  • Heels and Dressy Flats

Well, Are Jeans Business Casual Then?

The short answer is yes, most classic jeans are considered business casual attire, but not all styles are appropriate for the workplace. Jeans come in many styles and fashions. But, unfortunately, many are not suitable for work. First off, I know jeans are worn for comfort but don’t pull out your super worn, incredibly comfy pair of jeans for the office. On the flip side, very tight skinny jeans are not appropriate either.
Jeans worn in the office need to look clean, no matter the style. They should also not have any tears, rips, frays, or fading elements. If you want to be trendy, you can still wear a classic-looking pair of jeans with a trendy top or accessories.

Which Jeans are Best?

Typically, classic or “timeless” styles are best for your work attire. Darker jeans with a traditional style or cut are generally seen as appropriate for a business casual workplace. Jean trends such as skinny jeans, acid-wash, ripped jeans, faded jeans(real or fake distress marks), or jeans with glitter or rhinestones should not be worn to the office.
Generally,  you’re around co-workers, business clients, and other professionals, so the point is to look professional and be comfortable. So save those other jeans for a bar. 

Are Jeans Business Casual? The Answer Lies in Understanding Your Company

As much as jeans have been accepted into the workplace, that doesn’t mean that your company is okay with them in all scenarios. For example, there could be times a company would want their employees to dress up a bit more, and others they are okay with jeans being a part of the attire every day. If you are unsure if jeans would be acceptable to wear, you have four ways to figure it out at your workplace.

1. Ask Around

Depending on the size of your company, the human resources department should be your first stop. Some companies will have more detailed dress code policies in their employee handbook, giving you a better idea of proper attire. The level of detail will likely vary, but this will give you some insight into what the company expects. 
Or you could ask your manager or co-workers that have been around longer. They'll know are jeans business casual at your company. 

2. Look Around

When determining if jeans are appropriate for your workplace, simply take a look around. Are others wearing jeans? If so, what styles? Are they only being worn on “casual Fridays,” or are they worn all days of the week? Pay extra attention to managers and people in management positions. If they are wearing jeans to work, then it’s certainly okay for you to do so as well. 

3. Dress for the Occasion

Jeans might not be appropriate for all occasions as work. It might be okay to wear jeans in less formal settings, time team-building activities, a company happy hour, or for workers that don’t deal with clients. However, if you are more client-facing or spend time with senior management, everyday jeans may not be appropriate. 

4. When in Doubt Over Dress (But Just a Tad)

Even with asking others or looking around, you might not know are jeans business casual at your company. When in doubt, overdress, but just a touch. You don’t necessarily need to wear a suit, but stick with khakis until you understand your company's dress code.  The worst possible case is you’re the best-dressed person there!

Business Casual Doesn’t Have to Be Boring

Dressing in a business casual fashion doesn’t mean you can’t still look your best. Yes, your jeans might need to be a bit on the less fashionable side, but there is still plenty of accessorizing you can do to spice up your look.
Adding accessories to an outfit can make you look more fashionable and professional when done right. Choose some more formal accessories to balance out a more casual pair of jeans. For the ladies, wearing jewelry, a scarf, stylish shoes, belts, or a handbag can add a bit of flair while remaining professional. Belts, bowties, cufflinks, socks, and briefcases can all add to your personal style while dressing professionally for men.
If you really want to add more to your look, adding a blazer or sports coat is a great way to add professionalism to a casual jeans outfit. Not only are they a great look, but you can quickly take them off and on to fit any occasion.

One Caveat: Don’t Wear Jeans to An Interview

There are many occasions when jeans are perfectly acceptable in the workplace, but an interview is never one of them. No matter the business's dress code, you should always aim to look formal and as professional as possible for your interview unless specifically told otherwise. Even then, overdressing just a touch is a good idea.
You only get one first impression, and you’ll need to make the best one possible, so proper interview attire is crucial.  When going on a job interview, it’s always best to err on the side of looking too formal. Instead, have a casual go-to interview outfit outside of your suit that you know will give potential employers the right impression of you. That way you won't spend a lot of money unnecessarily at the last moment. 
This article originally appeared on Your Money Geek.

About the Author:

Jeff Cooper is a fan of all things finance. When he's not out there changing the world with his blog, you can find him on a run, a Mets game, or just playing around with his kids.

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