Sneakers are the epitome of a casual shoe. Originally created for use in the gym or on a sports field, for many years it was considered blasphemous to wear sneakers to the office.
But offices are becoming more casual and sneakers are becoming more upscale. Can you wear sneakers in today’s business casual office environment? The answer can be yes if you choose the correct pair.
Types of Business Casual Work Attire
At some workplaces, business casual means jeans and a polo shirt. Other offices see business casual in button-up shirts and slacks. How formal your workplace dresses will play a large role in whether sneakers are appropriate footwear.
The obvious rule of thumb: The more formal the environment, the more formal the shoe. If you work in a very buttoned-up office, bluchers, loafers or monk strap shoes may be a better choice. However, casual and semi-casual offices allow a bit more flexibility.
Business Casual Sneaker Materials
Dressing up a sneaker often starts with the material that the sneaker is made from. Unlike typical gym sneakers, the ideal business casual sneaker should be made of materials typical to dress shoes, such as suede or leather. This upgrade, regardless of the actual style of the sneaker, is a major factor in making sneakers appropriate for the office.
If your workplace is more formal, choose a material in a neutral color. Blacks and browns are always a safe color choice.
If your office allows for slightly more casual dress, have a little fun with colors or additional designs such as stitching or unique laces. This showcases your personal sense of style, even through your office footwear.
Styles of Business Casual Sneakers
The typical lace-up sneaker can be a great fit for a business casual workplace. As lace-up sneakers have a more casual look than a slip-on, a neutral color and leather material will help provide a clean look suitable for the office. Besides material, you have several choices when deciding on a lace-up business casual sneaker.
For a simple and casual look, a low-top sneaker is a great choice. Low-top sneakers are the most versatile, easily pairing with everything from jeans and a t-shirt to tapered pants and a blazer. To keep them formal in the office, try a neutral color, such as gray or brown.
High-top sneakers are more fashion-forward than low-top, but still a great business casual shoe choice. High-top sneakers are perfect for the man looking to make a statement with his style, even in the office.
Slip-on sneakers are a step between a traditional sneaker and a loafer. Combining comfort and a sleek design, slip-on sneakers can provide a more formal look than a typical lace-up.
When choosing a slip-on sneaker, look for those in a dark leather and minimal stylistic accents to blend in with a formal work environment. For more casual environments, try switching out to a shoe in a non-neutral color or made with suede instead of leather.
What to Wear with Business Casual Sneakers to the Office
When choosing the attire to pair with your business casual sneakers, keep the following in mind.
Simple is Always Safe
If you’re unsure of how far to push the boundaries of office attire when wearing sneakers, start by matching your sneakers to a simple look. Try slacks and a one-color button-down shirt with neutral leather sneakers for a look that’s trendy and office appropriate.
Tailoring is Key
Business casual sneakers look best when paired with a well-tailored outfit. Baggy clothes will give an unkempt look, accentuating the more casual nature of the sneakers.
Sneakers will Dress Down Formal
Try wearing sneakers with a more formal attire, such as a well-fitting suit, to create the perfect hybrid between formal and casual. The casual nature of the sneakers combined with the formal suit provides the perfect balanced business casual look.
While gym sneakers are still better left on the court, business casual sneakers have a place in the closets of today’s office workers. When choosing a business casual sneaker, look for modern design and quality materials to create a shoe that will turn heads everywhere, whether on the street or in the break room.
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