How to Build a Business-Casual Wardrobe Part 1 - Foundation Layer
When a 2-piece suit is too much, and jeans and a shirt just won't cut it, there is business-casual. There are a range of looks that fit into this category, and this blog post series here at Seattle Thread Company will run through them, with more detail on each look in future posts.
The Components of a Business-Casual Look
This is the most basic look, and it takes a few important points to pull off successfully! Firstly, let's take a look at the components:
- Button-down Shirt
- Pants or Slacks
- Sport Coat or Blazer
The Foundation Layer
Let's start with the underwear. Boxer shorts are not recommended, guys. What we need is a nice pair of briefs or boxer briefs, made of natural fibers such as Pima Cotton or modal or breathable synthetics such as Tencel. With a quality pair of comfortable underwear there will be no need to worry about manty lines, bunching, or smells for a full day of doing what you do. When your quality body-hugging underwear fits properly, the pants will drape right over them, and there will be less bulk around the midsection, especially with your shirt tucked in.
Alright, next up we have the undershirt. During summer months we can forgo this part. If you are wearing a layer under your button-up shirt, do not throw on any old crew neck t-shirt you have lying around! As with the underwear we are looking for a natural fiber undershirt or a breathable synthetic. The undershirt should be a true undershirt rather than a t-shirt - real undershirts are typically made with a thinner fabric than t-shirts, are cut to hug the body, and might even have flat stitching on the seams. This is important because a well-fitting undershirt will serve the purposes of temperature regulation and of wicking moisture away from the body, keeping you from smelling. You might even find it is more comfortable to wear one in the summer than not since there will be no need to worry about sweat stains on your button-down shirt and of being cold indoors with air conditioners.
With undershirts, we have crew necks, v-necks, and deep-v necks. The most common choice is the v-neck, especially if you are not wearing a tie and have the top shirt button undone. This way, your look is intentional, planned and professional - the undershirt is not visible and we have the "V" look at your chest - more on that later. Deep-V undershirts are for guys who want to keep the top two buttons unbuttoned on their dress shirt. Deep-V is also great for summertime and hot climates since we have more skin exposed for temperature regulation.
In terms of color, your best bet is a white undershirt, however if you are wearing a dark color button-down a black undershirt will blend in better at the neckline. A black undershirt under a light color shirt might show through.
Quality socks are important! Yes, they cost more money than cheap socks, but they also last longer, stay up on your calves, and keep your feet dry and more comfortable. We are looking for thin dress socks with some combination of cotton, nylon (aka polyamide), spandex, and elastic. Mercerized cotton is a good ingredient since it is strong and long-lasting, and also has a shine to it. The other ingredients help the socks stay up, hug your feet, and help with sock longevity. We are looking for a cotton percentage of 50% - 80%. Socks that are mostly synthetic may be alright for some, and may cause sweaty feet for others.
With socks we have color and pattern to think about. Finally some fashion in this post on basics! With dress socks nowadays we have many great patterns and designs, not just solids, argyles, and stripes. The dress socks should not match and blend in with your pants and shoes in color, instead we are looking for a contrasting color or pattern that might refer back to your button-down shirt, tie, or blazer.