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For business wear, blending in is key. This is where clothing that performs but doesn’t look technical is of upmost importance (this means no visible zippers, weird pockets, garish logos, or overly shiny fabric). For the purposes of this guide, business wear means business casual with an occasional blazer or suit.
Since business wear often needs to travel well be sure to check our Travel Guides as well.
When looking for fabrics that can look like traditional business apparel it is important to pay attention to the sheen of the fabric. If it has that technical “shine” you will be hard pressed to ever make it blend into a typical business casual outfit (except for maybe a polo shirt, as standard polyester golf shirts have become acceptable).
You won’t find better business casual pants than Outlier Futureworks. They are made with a two-way stretch nylon fabric with a DWR coating. They don’t look like technical pants but breathe and move like them. They are extremely comfortable in warm weather and don’t feel too cold in the winter. While they don’t drape quite like cotton chinos they will pass for them with no problem. When a belt is needed, the Mission Belt Leather Belt does a nice job while looking sharp. Wicking underwear will also help make you much more comfortable, my choice is anything from the ExOfficio Give-N-Go line, although I have started trying with Uniqlo AIRism (regular and mesh) boxer briefs.
My favorite button-down shirt is from Wool & Prince. Made from 100% merino wool, this shirt can go multiple days between washes. Depending on the color, these shirts look just like a cotton button-down or oxford. As far as polos, I haven’t found one I love yet (but my favorite so far is the Ministry of Supply Apollo 3 Polo). For an undershirt you can’t beat the Icebreaker Anatomica Short Sleeve V, but the Uniqlo AIRism (regular and mesh) are also good options.
As far as a blazer goes, the Wool & Prince Blazer is my go to when I need to dress up an outfit. Made from 100% merino wool and only partially lined, it performs well in most climates and resists wrinkles and odors.
I am currently wearing either Cole Haan Jefferson Grand Cap Oxford shoes or the Allen Edmonds Higgins Mill Boot. While I don’t love the leather on my Cole Haan shoes, they are comfortable and I will keep them until they wear out. The boots are very comfortable and the Chromexcel leather is great. Thanks to the ability to resole (most) Allen Edmonds shoes and boots these will be with me for a long time. Socks are important to keep your feet dry and comfortable and my favorite is the Darn Tough dress sock (merino blend).
My picks are basically the same as Steve’s. The OUTLIER Futureworks are hands down the best business casual pants I’ve found — especially true when you want a pair of pants to fly in. The two best colors are Sandstorm and Dark Navy, for blending in with normal pants. Another good option is Bluffworks’ Grammercy Pants — it has a bit of sheen, but the color variation on the fabric softens that. They are very comfortable and offer a bit of a different look with much better availability than Futureworks. I pair all my pants with a Slidebelt when needed, I prefer their top grain leather, but the vegan leather belts hold up much better while only being slightly less comfortable.
For shirting, again I agree with Steve on this. Wool & Prince has cornered the market on making mens’ button down and button up shirts out of merino wool which somehow look “right”. A huge issue with most performance shirting is that it either looks like you are about to go work out, or it is too casual for the office. Most of Outlier’s shirt offerings fall into the too casual look, but if your office is somewhere below business casual, you’ll be good to go with most of their shirts (just not the linen). Lastly, Bluffworks’ Meridian Dress Shirt is stellar. They don’t have many color options, but the shirt drapes very well, is very comfortable, and doesn’t look synthetic at all. I tend to travel with one as a backup to the Wool & Prince, and it is hands down my pick for a non-merino shirt.
If I need to throw a sport coat on to dress up a look, the Bluffworks Grammercy Blazer is my go to. In warmer climates I have a Taylor Stitch Telegraph which is made from linen — however that is a much more casual look. There’s also the Wool & Prince Blazer you could wear which is made from merino. The issue with some of these blazers is that they can be harder to pair color wise, and “performance” sport coats do not offer a ton of advantages over a most standard sport coats you buy (unless you care a lot about extra pockets).
My go to shoes are always the Clarks Desert Boots. I wear them 90% of the time I go into an office. Sometimes I will swap out to a pair of Cole Haan’s I bought a long time ago which have a rubber sole and a Nike Air system in them to keep the comfortable. Most people don’t look at your feet, so I tend to wear the desert boots and make sure they are in good shape and clean. For underwear I only wear ExOfficio Give-N-Go Boxers and wear Darn Tough dress socks for these occasions. Like Steve, if I need an undershirt I wear the Anatomica V-neck, but most of the time I forgo an undershirt in office settings.
Comfort aside, a huge bonus with wearing these clothes in an office is that they resist stains and wrinkles. At the end of the day where your coworkers’ cotton is going to be showing wrinkles in the arms and knees, and perhaps the thighs have a few dots of their lunch — your clothes will look the same as they did when you put them on. Even after 5 hour flights, it’s hard to tell that the clothes have been through that much sitting and contorting.