Guide: Shirts for the Business Casual Office

Note: some of these shirts were provided at a discount or for free, please see the original reviews for more information.

Finding the right shirt, a good performance shirt, for wearing into a business casual office environment can be quite the task. This guide walks you through each of the shirts we have tested, and how we think they fit into office environments. For this guide, we assume you are washing shirts after each wear, therefore odor resistance is less of a factor.

Outlier NYCO Oxford

Our review.

The Good: The pivot sleeve on this shirt is fantastic, the material is very durable, the collar is solid, and it has a flattering cut.

The Not Good: The look trends more casual, the short body length makes it hard to tuck in, and the heavy material can make it a non-starter in warmer climates.

Overall: While this is no longer made, it is worth mentioning as it is the perfect smart casual shirt, but doesn’t blend well with business casual. The body is cut shorter making it hard to tuck in, but the pivot sleeve is worth noting alone. The best way to think about this, is that if you can get away with wearing your shirt untucked, this shirt should be near the top of your list.

Proof Performance Oxford

Our Review.

The Good: The collar stands up nicely, the stretch is very impressive, and the price is worth noting.

The Not Good: The colors are less than ideal, the buttons don’t quite contrast correctly, and the material is slightly too stiff to pass for a standard oxford.

Overall: Take a standard cotton oxford, add some DWR to resist light water and stains, and then add a ton of stretch. That’s what you get with this, and it is impressive. It doesn’t perform as well as the others in general, but it does have that cotton look to it that many do want if you can be OK with a stiffer (like starched cotton) drape. If you want to stay as stealth as you can, this is perhaps the best option, but I do wish they had a larger selection of colors as I find the offering very limited.

Wool & Prince Button Down

Our Review.

The Good: Comes in a variety of classic styles and sizes, the merino wool is thin and wrinkle resistant, and the performance of the fabric to manage your body temperature is amazing.

The Not Good: While good, the wool is still wool and not as luxurious feeling against your skin as other options, the shirts look great, but don’t quite look standard. Overall the cuts also trend towards a boxier look, which can be tough depending on your body shape. No white option.

Overall: Classic style and a classic cut, this is the most conservative of the options and the most odor resistant. It’s 100% merino, but not obviously something non-standard so it blends in quite well. It is perfect for travel and multi-day wear. It resists wrinkles well, and unlike some of the others I have yet to see it actually look dirty. It is the most performant shirt here.

Ministry of Supply Aero

Our Review.

The Good: The shirt is incredibly light, and the vented armpits really make a difference. The material looks fantastic and blends in well, a wide variety of styles and cuts. The collars are top notch and unmatched on this list. The cuts are very flattering and more modern.

The Not Good: It picks up odors faster than others on this list, and can often start smelling after an active 10 hour day, so if you commute that’s something to note.

Overall: The cuts, collar, and style options are robust and cannot be ignored. The shirt is also extremely comfortable, especially in warmer environments. The only downside with these is that they pick up smells quickly, but if you can, or are OK, with washing a shirt after each wear, these are hard to beat. They never wrinkle and the collars always look crisp as do the bodies of the shirts. Great shirts.

Bluffworks Meridian

Our Review.

The Good: There is no better fabric on this list, it feels amazing against your skin and drapes and looks perfect. There is a large offering of cuts so that you can find something that fits you well.

The Not Good: The collars tend to lay out after prolonged wear and don’t stay as perky as others on this list, and the lack of styles is a big issue.

Overall: If someone can tell by looking that this is not cotton, then they are someone worth talking to. This is a quietly performant shirt. If the collar was button down this shirt would be at or near the top, but as it is it doesn’t hold its place as well as others. The comfort of this shirt is fantastic and it won’t stink too bad after a day, but will require a quick rinse to rid the smell if you want to wear it again.

Mizzen+Main

Our Review.

The Good: Lots of size and style options, with a larger variety of louder styles and brighter colors. The stretch is awesome in these and makes the shirt quite comfortable.

The Not Good: The cuffs and collars are overly thick, and the material has a synthetic look and the shirts pick up odors very quickly — even odors from exterior smells like a BBQ place.

Overall: Looks crisp, but also doesn’t look like cotton. The collars and cuffs are thick and a turn off for many. While the shirt stretches well, there are better options out there.

Outlier S140 One Pocket

Our Review.

The Good: Luxurious feeling merino wool, smart cut, and pivot sleeve.

The Not Good: Expensive, limited color options, and a very causal look.

Overall: The cut and styling is perfect for the office, as are the color options. However the fabric is soft and has a heavy drape which makes it look more like a pajama shirt than a crisp office shirt. While I like the fabric and the fit of the shirt, it is almost athleisure levels of casual.

Outlier Albini Hidden Placket

Our Review.

The Good: The material is amazing, and odor/wrinkle resistant. The cut and fit is fantastic.

The Not Good: The price is very high, and the style of the shirt overall lends itself to a more casual untucked environment.

Overall: The fabric is amazing, but the style pulls it more towards casual and an untucked approach which doesn’t work well in offices. The shirt is very thin, and silky smooth, so it is worth considering if your office is more jeans and t-shirt levels of casual.

Bonobos Tech Stretch

Product.

The Good: It’s cotton, so you can get it in crisp white, and there is also stretch so it is slightly better than a standard cotton shirt.

The Not Good: There is a general lack of wrinkle resistance despite it claiming otherwise, and it can be more difficult to get the shirt to press flat.

Overall: If you are scared by everything else, this is a cotton shirt with stretch and a more comfortable option, but not worth the up charge over a standard cotton oxford.

My Pick

My pick is the Ministry of Supply Aero without a doubt. The cut and wide variety of options while keeping the price in check makes these shirts a good bargain for any office worker. They offer both button down, and poplin styles which increases the versatility of the shirt. While they are designed more to keep you cool than warm, they still layer quite well.

Bluffworks would give the Aero a run for its money if they offered a wider selection of patterns, and perhaps added a button down collar option. Likewise, Wool & Prince would be hard to beat if they offered trimmer cuts to their shirts.

When I want to look sharp in the office, I grab an Aero dress shirt and pair it with my Futureworks.

Some Other Options Not Reviewed

  • Ministry of Supply Composite Merino: Not tested, but looks rather casual. If this is the same fabric as the Composite Polo, it is definitely too casual for a business casual environment.
  • Ministry of Supply Apollo 3: I previously had one, and found the drape to make the shirt look too casual. However, the fabric is stellar from a performance and comfort perspective.

Getting Started: What to Buy

I would recommend starting with three shirts, with this base you should have no problem handling a full work week and could even get away with only washing a load of laundry once in the week. Here’s what I would buy:

  1. Bluffworks Meridian in Highland Gray Check: this is one of my most worn shirts. The coloring will stand out a bit but it goes with everything and hides any potential stains/dirt well. It can be dressed up a touch for business or dressed down easily for evenings.
  2. Ministry of Supply Aero in White: The thing about this shirt is that it rocks in the heat and dries insanely fast. You could have just this shirt and wash it every night and hang it to dry and wear it the next day. That’s the bonus of a white shirt, everyone assumes it is a different one because they assume you own a few. I linked to the polyester not the nylon version, as I have yet to try the nylon.
  3. Wool&Prince Button Down in Light Gray: versatile color which will work well for the evenings and the day. This shirt can be worn 3+ times in a week without washing and still smell and look fresh. My only complaint is that I bought a patterned color when solid would have been a smarter choice.

Those are the shirts and colors I would start with to build a wardrobe for business casual — they will serve you well.

Guide: Shirts for the Business Casual Office

Nomad Pants

Proof is owned by Huckberry, and they have been making the Nomad pant for quite sometime. For most of that time, it was a fabric very similar to Olivers Passage Pant, or Outlier’s OG Fabric. That is to say, it was very technical, stretchy, and had a hard time passing for business casual. And then, quietly, Proof updated the pants and it caught my eye as something I should get right away to test.

So, here we are…the new Nomad Pant.

Material

Proof now makes the Nomad Pant out of Toray Polyester Stretch Twill which is 100% polyester — when first released Proof simply noted these were a Japanese Twill, so I am glad to see the refined explanation for what they are. Now, you likely think 100% polyester, no thanks, but you should look past that because the fabric content tells a lie about the material performance.

These pants are the stretchiest pants I own, and par with Outlier’s beloved OG Fabric. They are also very smooth both in looks and hand feel with a subtle twill texture to them. The only part that belies the polyester nature is the slight sheen the pants have. Fortunately there are no sounds associated with wearing them.

Fit and Style

The style of these pants is very chino in nature, and the slant pockets make for a dressed up look that is easily worn in business casual environments. The fit, even for the straight variant I ordered is slim, so if you are looking for a very slim pant the slim version of these is likely to be your cup of tea.

From a style and fit perspective I love these. They would be near perfect if they had a matte finish, but it is hard to find fault with them. The drape is also aided by the thickness of the pants, and gives a very nice look.

Performance

Performance wise, these are among the most comfortable pants I own. Even the waistband has a lot of stretch, and they never feel restricting. Which is why they are now my go to pant to wear on a plane, as they are easily the most comfortable pant I have worn for travel.

Beyond the stretch, the fabric is rather thick, though they breathe decently you won’t be finding me wearing these much about 80 degrees F. They repel and shed water and other spills admirably, and stay looking clean basically at all times. The caveat to that, is that they are prone to picking up lint at times — especially from tissues.

One great thing about the fabric weight is that they hide what is in your pockets better than many other slim fitting pants. There is also a hidden pocket in the right pocket which is very well done and luckily not at all visible.

I do have two gripes about this pair of pants:

  1. The zipper tab for the hidden pocket gets in my way more than I would like. I think if they reversed the direction of the zipper this would be much better (pull up to unzip instead of down), which should also make it even more hidden.
  2. The back pockets are secured shut with a snap button in the center. I hate this. It means you cannot put your phone in your back pocket as that pocket has metal in it, which is beyond annoying.

One last thing to mention: these dry faster than any pants I own. Which is quite impressive.

Overall

Here’s the last thing you need to know about these pants: they are $98 at the time of writing. So even with the small issues I have with the pockets, for that price these pants are very hard to beat. As long as you don’t need pants for really hot weather, I don’t see how you can go wrong with these. They dress up well, as can be dressed down equally well — just like chinos. I snagged the navy colorway, and am very happy with that.

They won’t replace Futureworks for me, but if I didn’t already have two pairs of Futureworks, I would have two pairs of these Nomads — they are very good and very inexpensive.

Nomad Pants

Western Rise StrongCore Merino Tee

This shirt was provided by Western Rise for review purposes.

Western Rise is one of the many new-ish entries to the technical clothing market, introducing many of their products through Kickstarter. We have reviewed their The Evolution Pant (our review), and they recently sent us their StrongCore Merino Tee. It should be noted that this is the second version of this shirt (the first version had a pocket), made in their new LA factory.

We had inquired about the DryWeight Merino Tee, as we were looking for more tees for hot weather (to compare with the Outlier Dreamweight and Ramielust). However, they informed us that they were discontinuing that shirt.

Fabric

The fabric of this shirt is 89% 17.5 micron merino/11% nylon. The finer merino used here makes the fabric very soft and never scratchy, however, it is not the softest on the market (that title goes to the Outlier tees).

Coming in at 170 gsm, the weight of the fabric gives it a nice drape. The only indication that if isn’t brand new after numerous wears and a few washes is that light “fuzzing” most merino exhibits. This is a good sign for the long term durability of the shirt.

Fit

I was on the borderline between L and XL in the Western Rise size chart. I chose an XL and am glad I did. The shirt shrunk a little when I washed it the first time (cold, air dry) and it fits me well, but would probably have been a little tighter than I like after a wash if I had picked L.

Overall, the fit seems on-par with other merino tees I own, and I would probably compare it most closely to the Outlier XL cut.

Comfort and Performance

I’ve been wearing this shirt for a few weeks now and it performs as expected for a core spun merino blend shirt. It has all the odor resistance of a 100% merino shirt with the extra durability of nylon.

The weight of the fabric makes it a good all-around tee, but it is probably not the best pick for the warmest weather, as midweight merino tends to soak up sweat and get heavy (this is where ultralight merino or synthetics shine).

The v-cuts at the bottom on both sides of the hem are supposed add some performance by breaking the “fabric tube”, but I didn’t find any benefit other than adding a little different look to the shirt. Maybe if you wear your tees more snugly across the waist/hips, this would make a difference.

Overall

Overall, the Western Rise StrongCore Merino Tee is a worthy contender, but with the sheer number of good merino tees out there now, I don’t think it rises to the top.

At a lower price point, this tee might rank better, but for $96, it wouldn’t be my top pick. To me, the Outdoor Voices Merino T-Shirt (our review), which can be had for $55, and is a merino blend with a great balance of price and performance. I’d also throw the Wool & Prince Crew Neck ($68) and the Outlier Runweight ($88) in this price range as competition.

The merino t-shirt market certainly is putting out some tough competition right now. If the v-cuts on this tee make a difference for you, this is definitely a shirt to check out.

Western Rise StrongCore Merino Tee

What We’re Wearing: May 2019

Ben and I have been talking about our packing lists, and realize they’ve become quite repetitive. In order to remedy that, we’ve come up with a new idea to replace both our packing lists and guides. We plan to publish this “What We’re Wearing” series about every quarter, to give you an idea of what we are wearing and what we are excited to be trying out for the next couple of months.

Steve

With the crazy weather swings we’ve been having so far this spring, I’ve been moving back and forth between my winter and spring gear. I’m looking forward to getting outside more and here’s what I’ve been wearing.

Business Casual

The Outlier Futureworks (our review) are still my favorite pants for business casual dress, however, the recent price increase to $148 moves them up market some. I’ve recently been finding the Western Rise The Evolution Pant (our review) to suit some of my business casual needs where a 5-pocket style is appropriate. This is especially true as the weather warms as they are the lightest pants I own.

For an even more classic chino look, I’ve just started testing the Wool & Prince Slim Chino (provided for review by Wool & Prince) and no one would ever know they were made from a wool/nylon blend. I’m quite impressed so far, and am interested to see how they perform as the weather continues to warm since the fabric is fairly heavy.

The Mack Weldon SILVERKNIT Polo (our review) is the polo I was searching for last year. The cotton content keeps it looking jut like a traditional polo, and the silver anti-odor treatment gives me multiple wears. For long sleeves, I still go to my Wool & Prince Button-Downs (our review) for their odor-resistance. If I want something less fussy (but only one wear) I go for my Bluffworks Meridian 2.0 Dress Shirt (our review).

Shoe wise, my Allen Edmonds Higgins Mill boots are holding up well and still are my go to, always with Darn Tough socks.

Casual

For casual wear, I’ve been testing a bunch of new T-shirts so I haven’t been wearing just one or two recently. My Pistol Lake One-Bag Henley (our review) is still going strong and works well for spring wear.

I’ve found the Western Rise pants to also work well for my casual wear, and wear those or my Outlier Slim Dungarees (our review). For shorts, my Outlier New Way Longs (our review) are always my favorite (although they haven’t gotten much wear yet this year).

I am still looking for a nicer pair of casual sneakers/shoes that look good with shorts, but I’ve been wearing my Merrell Trail Gloves (our review) and Bedrock Cairn 3D Adventure sandals.

Exercise

I’m still wearing and loving my Y Athletics SilverAir Merino T-shirt (our review) and Long Sleeve for all my exercise needs. They have been holding up well (with minimal abrasion from my GORUCK bags) and give me more wears than I care to take between washes.

My go to shorts are the Myles Apparel Momentum Short 2.0 (our review) and sweats the Momentum Pant (our review). For hiking I’ve been wearing the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pant.

Shoe wise, I’m also wearing my Trail Gloves (gym) or Altra Lone Peak 4 (rucking/hiking).

Outerwear

Going into the spring, I picked up a The North Face Ventrix Jacket as a light and breathable insulated soft shell. I had been eying the Arc’teryx Proton LT all winter, but it never went on sale. I figured the sale price of the Ventrix jacket made it much easier on the wallet than the Proton LT and it seems to be reviewed favorably. I plan to be writing a review once I give it a good try.

As far as rain wear, I find myself going for my Outdoor Research Helium II (our review) when I want a hood or packability and my Myles Apparel Elements Jacket (our review) when I want something nicer looking or just need something to break the wind. I’m debating if I should also try and pick up a light and thin windbreaker for when I don’t need something waterproof.

Travel

I’ve been wearing and packing the above when traveling. Of course, still carrying my trusty GORUCK GR1 26L backpack. The Trail Gloves pack down nicely if I want to bring a pair of exercise shoes.

Formal

I recently was in a wedding and bought a Indochino suit for it. Since I don’t live near a store, I did my initial measurements at a store when I was traveling, but had to do the remake measurements myself at home (the first jacket and pants fit horribly). The suit turned out better than off the rack, but if I were to buy another suit from them, I’d definitely take the one I have into the store to have my measurements further dialed in before ordering. Overall, the process went pretty well and I’m happy with the quality of the suit.

Ben

While the weather has been steadily warming here, I have also been flying back and forth to Houston on a very regular basis. So I have been wearing cool weather clothes, and hot and humid clothes off and on. As it keeps warming everywhere and I prepare to move to Houston, here’s what I have going on:

Business Casual

All of my wardrobe for business casual is happening in Houston where it is substantially warmer than where I live. I have been wearing both Futureworks and Proof Nomad pants to the office — both are pretty great but I still lean towards the Futureworks as I think they look better. As I mentioned I pair them with the Thursday Boots I recently wrote about and a pair of Darn Tough socks as always. I have been using my Slidebelt, but I am starting to think I need to switch to something else as that belt can’t make it through the metal detector at the airport every time.

On the shirt side of things I have been torn between wearing the Bluffworks Meridian, and the Ministry of Supply Aero shirts. I usually wear both, but they both have replaced the Wool & Prince shirts when I am in the office. I prefer wearing them to the wool dress shirts. No one was more surprised by this than me, but the non-wool shirts wear cooler and have more flattering cuts for me.

Casual

At home, whether I am working or hanging out — or for family vacations — I have been testing all sorts of new stuff. My bottoms have remained pretty much the same, with Slim Dungarees most days, Strong Dungarees on cold days and mixing in New Ways if it is hot, or the Bluffworks Departure Jeans when I want to go relax on the Washington coast. All of them are killer and I will mix in the Olivers Passage Pants when the weather warms up more. If I had to pick one pair of these pants, it would be the Strong Dungarees, they are killer.

My tops are where they has been a lot of shuffling recently. I still wear a lot of my merino tees, and the Wool & Prince polo, but I have also been testing the Outlier Ramilust T-Shirt, the Northern Ramie Pivot, a few linen shirts, and a hemp shirt as well. All of them provide all sorts of unique benefits, so there will be a lot to write about there.

Work Out

Nothing much has changed here, where I wear GORUCK Simple Pants, MACV-1s, TAC Hat, and either a Tough T, or my Y Athletics SilverAir Merino shirts. I love them all, and they have been holding up great.

Travel

I have found one area that holds very true, because if you see me in an airport I am most likely wearing Proof Nomad pants and a Wool & Prince button down (you cant beat never stinking with this shirt, no matter the travel delays). For travel, I greatly prefer this setup. The Nomad pants are extremely stretchy, and look sharp while resisting anything which could make them dirty. And the merino wool button down makes sure that I don’t stink, even when the AC stops working on a 4 hour flight as it recently did.

Outerwear

Surprisingly I have only been wearing a few layers:

  • GORUCK Simple Windbreaker: this is great for travel and for shrugging off a light breeze or some light rain. I could make a case for this being the only jacket I need.
  • One other surprise for me is how much I wear the GORUCK Full Zip Hoodie in the light fabric they sell. It is a near perfect weight for cool, but not cold, weather.
  • Triple Aught Design Rogue RS: this is too heavy to travel with, but it is my go to for this warming spring weather, and will be for cool nights as well.

Looking to Get and Test

I am looking to get a couple more polo shirts, as soon as Steve decides which one is the best to get. And I am also eyeing the new Ministry of Supply Labs Dot Air Blazer which is made for warm weather — it looks killer.

What We’re Wearing: May 2019