Sneakers are one of the few footwear options that can be both stylish and comfortable. They are worn by basically everyone, either every day or for some special, athleisure activities. But, this implies a question we have to ask ourselves: are sneakers business casual?
Many workplaces have a strict dress code, like business formal or business professional, while others don’t have a dress code at all. For some, sneakers are a big no-no, while for others they are more than welcomed.
Even though sneakers come in a variety of styles and designs, and there’s something for everyone’s taste, it’s natural that some people are hesitant to wear them to the office.
“Is it appropriate? How will the boss react? Will it go with the rest of the outfit?!”
Not to spoil the ending for you, but there’s definitely a way you can incorporate your sneakers into your everyday business casual attire. “How?”, you may ask. Just keep reading to find out!
Are sneakers business casual?
For many years, it has been considered almost disrespectful and unprofessional to wear sneakers to work, since they were designed for gym or sports use. However, today’s sneakers can be found in not-so-sporty designs.
Nowadays, they are plenty of sneaker models that in a way resemble the appearance of dress shoes. They don’t have that well-known athletic appeal, so they are fairly easy to style with some more professional-looking clothing pieces.
So, are sneakers business casual?
How do you know you can wear them to work?
There’s actually no simple answer to this question. You have to take into consideration three important factors in order to conclude whether you can wear sneakers to work or not.
Firstly, you have to think about your work environment and your company’s dress code. If your company prefers you wear the classic suit and tie combo, the chances are that sneakers are not allowed in that case.
However, if the dress code of your company is business casual, then the right pair of sneakers will probably be allowed. I say the right pair because business casual rules may differ depending on the company. Maybe some companies will allow any kind of sneakers, while others will prefer more dressy ones.
Consequently, you also have to consider your company culture. Some companies might be generally more casual, while others might not. If you’re working for an internet media and entertainment company, everyone will probably be very laid-back and lenient.
However, if you’re working for a law firm, for example, they’ll be generally a tad bit more strict when it comes to the dress code.
Finally, consider your role in the company you work for. The higher your position, the more formally and professionally you will be expected to dress.
For example, Michael Scott from the TV documentary The Office is everyone’s boss, so he’s usually seen wearing a suit and tie and dress shoes, like Oxfords. But Pam is a receptionist there, she wears her trusty white sneakers most of the time.
What to look for when choosing sneakers for the work environment?
If you are trying to determine whether the sneakers you own are appropriate to wear for work, you have to take into consideration a few key features.
And if you are planning on buying business casual sneakers for work, take these features below as a guideline for what to look for when purchasing.
Again, the same rules don’t apply to every company, but there are certain elements you can cover in order not to ruffle any feathers. By doing so, you’ll surely find sneakers that are sort of a middle ground that satisfies many people’s preferences.
1. Simplicity is the key!
Make sure that the sneakers you opt for don’t have any loud colors, patterns, or designs. Go for something neutral in colors, like black, white, beige, brown, tan, or navy blue and olive green. Steer away from neon or overly in-your-face colors since they can look a tad bit too casual, and not professional.
If you are not sure how to style your sneakers with the rest of your outfit, just make sure everything you choose to wear falls into the simple domain. A nice pair of navy slacks with a white button-down shirt and a pair of leather brown sneakers is a great way to start.
For example, Cole Haan Men’s Grand Crosscourt II Sneakers can be a perfect choice for you. They come in 7 neutral colors, but my personal favorite is the Tan Leather Burnsh. They are made out of 1005 leather and feature a pretty sleek and simple design.
However, if the company you work for is not too strict, you can always experiment with colors or details like laces and socks. Just make sure you don’t go overly crazy.
2. Material is crucial
Whether sneakers are business casual or not depends greatly on the material they are made out of. Unlike many gym and athletic sneakers which are usually made out of light and synthetic mesh, your office sneakers should be made out of material usually used to make dress shoes.
Those materials are for the most part leather and suede. When you opt for these materials, you are not steering too far from your regular Oxfords or Brogues, but you are still making a huge difference and not going for your old running sneakers.
For some work environments, even cloth, canvas, or knit sneakers will do. This again depends on what kind of company culture is and what they tolerate or not.
For example, these SeaVees Men’s Hermosa Classic Sneakers can be a great option for you. They are a perfect pair of business casual sneakers for those companies that allow more laid-back but still professional pieces of clothing.
3. The style of the sneakers matters
The style of sneakers you go for is also important. Depending on how formal you want to appear to others, you can choose either classic lace-up sneakers or slip-ons.
Slip-ons are a tad bit more professional looking. Their appearance resembles traditional loafers, and they are great when you want to look stylish and comfortable all at once.
When you are looking for the right pair of slip-on business casual sneakers, look for those made out of leather, preferably dark-colored and with little to no stylistic accents, so they could be easily paired with the rest of your outfit.
And for those occasions when you are allowed to let yourself loose at the office, you can opt for suede slip-ons in lighter neutral colors. The rest of your outfit should align, too.
For example, these Cole Haan Men’s Nantucket 2.0 Slip-on Sneakers are great because they are both comfortable and professional-looking. They come in 6 different and neutral colors and 3 kinds of materials, leather, suede, and nubuck, all appropriate for the work environment.
For our lovely ladies, we suggest they replace their heels with a comfortable pair of Ibiza Classic Leather Sneakers. These shoes come in 3 neutral colors, white, bisque, and platinum. They feature a simple style and design and will without a doubt work well with many trendy business casual pieces.
When it comes to lace-up sneakers, they are a bit more casual than slip-ons, but they still can be properly styled to give off a professional look.
Again, always go for neutral colors and work-appropriate materials. By doing so, you’ll ensure you have a clean look, suitable for your workplace, without your sneakers sticking out too much.
Depending on your personal preferences, you can either go for low-top or high-top sneakers. Low-top ones are very versatile and can be paired with pretty much anything. They are simple, yet fashionable and can easily be dressed up.
High-top sneakers, on the other hand, are a bit more special. They are not that easy to style but are perfect statement shoes. So, if you’re brave enough, you can try and play with these ones next time you find yourself in front of your closet, trying to figure out what to wear to work.
4. Your sneakers should be properly cleaned
There’s no question about it. The sneakers you are planning on wearing for work as a part of your business casual attire should be spotless!
There’s nothing worse than putting on an amazing, freshly washed, and ironed outfit, only to ruin it with dirty shoes. It really paints a bad picture of you, making you come across as careless, sloppy, and unprofessional.
To avoid that, always make sure your work shoes are properly cleaned. You should get some useful shoe-cleaning supplies, like shoe cream, polish, or a shoe mitt. It’s a small investment to make but will definitely be worth it in the long run.
Just be careful with how you clean your work sneakers. Leather ones can be treated with creams and polishes, while canvas sneakers shouldn’t. They can be washed with your regular laundry detergent. And for suede sneakers, you can use a bit of rubbing alcohol or a suede-cleaning solution.
If you love wearing white business sneakers, you know they can get those annoying yellow stains due to overexposure to sunlight. But, there’s a way to make them bright and white again, and ready to be worn to the office.
Related post: Are Hey Dudes Business Casual? What’s The Tea?