A Crash Course in Business Attire

What is your current professional dress code?

Over the course of the last generation, business dress codes have changed dramatically. In the 1990s, business casual dress codes began to become popular to get people out of suits and ties. In the 2000s, business casual starting to become even more casual, shifting from polos or button-down shirts so t-shirts, jeans, and a nice pair of shoes.

In today’s environment, some businesses have no dress code… though they do want you to wear clothing. Flip-flops have become allowed, as have shorts, tank tops, and other extremely casual items. Many businesses have even started allowing you to take your dog or cat to work with you every day.

There are still professional offices where a business formal dress code is enforced. You may work in a business casual environment that has semi-strict rules. Or you might work in an environment where there are no dress code rules if you have clothes on and they don’t smell too bad.

Your brand-new business backpack or bag, whether it is for travel or everyday use, will need to match up with the attire requirements that your office requires or demands. This crash course in business attire will help you be able to make the right decisions on the type of pack or bag that will best meet your needs.

There Are 4 Separate Business Attire Categories to Consider

You either dress to the nines when you go to work, tone it down a little, or dress how you want. For many people, these are the categories of attire that are present in the modern workplace and it isn’t that far from the truth.

When looking at the world of business attire, there are four primary categories of focus.

  • Professional. This category is what in the past would have been called “business formal.” It often requires a suit and tie for men and either a suit combination or a dress that reaches to the knee for women. Informal-type clothing must be avoided, including leggings, with this type of dress code in place. It should look sharp, project a professional image, and still be comfortable to wear.
  • Interview. Have you heard that you should wear the same clothing to an interview that a business expects of its employees? This isn’t completely true. How you should dress for an interview depends on the industry where you wish to be employed. Even in a casual environment, getting dressed in the best clothes you own for a management or executive position is a good idea.
  • Business Casual. This type of business attire requires a collared shirt and a pair of slacks or khaki pants. Dresses and skirts are appropriate as well, along with knit shirts, some blazers, sweaters, and loafers. Sneakers should be avoided, as should jeans or cargo-style pants.
  • Casual. This dress code isn’t an “anything goes” type of environment. There are still certain expectations of appearance that must be met. Clothing should not be overly revealing. Sheer clothing is not recommended. Leggings may be allowed, but patterned leggings may not be desired.

Colors are an important consideration in each category. If you’re going to a professional environment, you’ll find that dark or neutral colors are typically recommended or required. You will also need dark shoes that match your suit or clothing preferences, a button-down shirt, and guys will usually need to wear a necktie or bowtie to complete the look. Women may wear ties as well, along with a top-button blouse which matches the color requirements.

Interview attire follows these same expectations, but with industry-related changes. One could wear a white shirt and khakis to an interview for an IT position, for example, and this would be fine. More colors are usually allowed in this business attire category, but the design, function, and look of the clothing and accessories must be the same.

Business casual attire is less formal, but still requires cohesion. You could wear more suits and in different colors, but black should always be your first color option – and make sure it is actually black and not navy blue. Look for shirts or blouses that have pastel or Earth tones to them to compliment the look. Whites, grays, and blues are typical go-to choices in this attire category.

As for casual attire, look for knit shirts that have a collar. Sweaters, cardigans, and polos are all acceptable. Solid colors for the clothing typically make a better impression that patterns. A leather belt or leather shoes make for a nice touch, even if sneakers, tennis shoes, or boat shoes may be allowed. In the casual environment, it is important to be consistent with your look and when in doubt, always err on the side of caution.

How to Choose a Business Backpack for Your Look

The trends of travel bags, packs, and sacks are cyclical. One day, you might find that briefcases are in style. Messenger bags might be the go-to item the next day. Sometimes travel bags, luggage options, or even duffel bags might be preferred.

What doesn’t change during the seasons of fashion is the usefulness of a business backpack. You’ll find professionals using them, even if everyone thinks that wearing a fanny pack is the “in” thing to do right now.

Backpacks for professionals are nowhere near the same type of pack that we all used to carry to school every day in our youth. They are stylish, trendy, and filled with modern technology. That means the modern business backpack must do more than carry your files or your computer equipment safely.

It must also match the expectations that have been set with your business attire, but still reflect your personal tastes. Here are some fashion tips to consider when shopping for the best business bag to meet your needs.

#1. Don’t try too hard. Too much of the same thing creates a look that is boring. Be interesting and don’t take your fashion too seriously. Choose something that you like and still meets your business attire expectations. Add a touch of humor if you wish. When you choose items that you like, it tends to make you look smart and interesting instead of drab and boring.

#2. Stay neat. Keeping clean lines helps to present a professional appearance, no matter what type of business attire is required for the workplace. If you have billowing clothing on the top or the bottom, then tuck-in the top to show off the waist or keep the pants skinny to show off your torso. Use a messenger bag or top-loader business bag to accompany this style to prevent looking too messy.

#3. Attire is for a purpose. There are leggings that are flattering. There are sweatpants that are not. Compression attire and climate-cool technologies can help to keep your look tight and comfortable. Clothes, however, are created for a purpose. Wearing workout clothes to work provides the same result as trying to wear your suit and tie as you pace a couple of miles on an elliptical. It can be done, but you’re going to be uncomfortable and make everyone around you uncomfortable as well.

#4. Quality matters. Even if you’re trying to buy a new wardrobe and need a new business bag, it is necessary to purchase the best-quality items that your budget can afford. Things that you plan to use every day must be of the highest possible quality to stand up to the increased wear and tear that you’ll be putting on it. Cheap business bags can get the job done now, but a high-quality business bag can support your professional needs for years to come.

#5. More will never be enough. Be intelligent about the added features and accessories which push up the costs of your business attire, packs, and bags. You’re not going to make a big statement by having a solid-gold letter on your backpack that represents your last name. Look for things that are big and bold and this will help you to express yourself in the right way.

One note: being big and bold is good for commuting, but is not always the best way to stay safe while traveling. 

#6. Business bags are not handbags. In most professional environments, you can do big and bold with a handbag and fetch compliments every day. If you do the same with a business bag, your co-workers might question your sanity. Luxury in the business bag departments means looking for excellent stitching, high-quality leather, comfortable straps, and lots of security features.

What Is the Best Style for a Business Backpack?

The most important aspect of a business backpack is that it should never be larger than you need it to be. This type of pack isn’t going to serve multiple purposes for you. It’s not built for climbing a mountain trail, being a carry-on suitcase, or holding supplies for an afternoon picnic with the family.

The best business backpacks will serve your ordinary needs on an ordinary day.

Of course, if your ordinary day requires you to travel extensively and go from a flight to a meeting, and then back again, a carry-on business bag makes sense.

For the average commuter, however, most professionals will not need anything larger than 25 liters in backpack capacity.

Minimalism is a point of emphasis in the four categories of business attire today as well. That’s why you’ll find most business backpacks come in muted colors, don’t have any crazy patterns, and will maintain clean lines. This also means you won’t find much in the way of extra features with the average backpack.
Fashion in this category looks at understatement and functionality more than flashiness and innovation.

For the backpacks that do come in a print, there are three key thoughts that must be fully considered before jumping in to purchase that new business backpack.

  • How young will it make you look? Flashy backpacks and cute prints tend to make people look younger than those using solid colors or muted looks. You might like an awesome print, but it might make you appear younger than you wish. Try to find a balance here if you can.
  • Does it meet expectations? When a formal dress code is in place, the attire requirements can extend to the backpacks, bags, and other packs you might bring into the office. Make sure that your company isn’t going to ask you to keep your new backpack at home because it violates their policies in some way.
  • Can it meet the needs of your budget? You should purchase the best business backpack that you can afford, but that doesn’t mean you need to go into debt to do it. If you can’t pay off the charge of a new business backpack within 60 days, then look for a more affordable option.

Final Thoughts About Business Attire and Backpacks 

Leather is an excellent option to consider for a business backpack, but it requires more maintenance and adds weight to what you’re carrying. They are beautiful, but tend to be a little uncomfortable.

If you work in a casual environment, you can stay casual with your backpack. You might find that a daypack has the right features to meet your needs. Just remember that if you purchase a daypack as your professional gear, don’t try to convert it into a recreational product when you’re home on the weekend.

Many designs are throwbacks to previous generations today and that offers numerous options for professionals young and old alike.

Once you choose the best business backpack for your needs, make sure to review how to care for it properly so you can maximize the product lifespan of your purchase.

Certain features of the modern business backpack can help to make your commute or travel responsibilities easier as well.

Business attire might not be the most exciting subject to think about, but matching your look and fashion to the expectations of the professional environment where you wish to be can be a tremendous asset in your favor. Some may see it as conforming, but there are still ways to express your personality. Find that balance and you’ll create the perfect, smart look for yourself.

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