Some people get confused by what’s meant by “business casual”, and wonder if you can wear a t-shirt with a work outfit. Most people would say “no way”. But I say there are exceptions. Here are what I consider to be the exceptions for t-shirts with your work clothes:
1. Silky material: If the material of the t-shirt has a slight silk-like shine to it, as many synthetic blends do, it will fit with your professional wardrobe.
2. Design details: It will work if there is some slight design detail, like the gathers and braided neckline in the t-shirt just below.
3. Patterns: A pattern or texture in the fabric of the t-shirt will make it suitable for either business casual or formal business attire, depending on what you wear it with.
4. Flowy material: Material that flows with a nice fall, makes a t-shirt or top look more dressy. (The kind of t-shirt that is not allowable has a stiff, wrinkly material.)
One might argue what should be called a “t-shirt”, and what should be called a “top”. What makes it a t-shirt is really how it is cut. The 100% cotton t-shirts you would typically wear with sweats are absolutely forbidden, no matter how nice the slacks are. And it’s even worse if it has something written on it. A plain, cheap, cotton t-shirt can’t be dressed up – not even if you iron it and wear it with pearls and a nice business suit. Cotton t-shirts that you would work out in do not belong in your professional wardrobe – ever.
Above: This t-shirt is made of a material with a silky shine, and has design details that make it dressy. It will look good in a work outfit.
Right: This t-shirt looks just like a plain t-shirt in the cut, though it is made of a thick nice silky material that has a flow to it. Worn with nice dress slacks, this will work with a comfortable work outfit.
Left: three are Armani t-shirts with prints and textured material. We could call them tops, but the cut is like a t-shirt. They would look good either with a woman’s business suit or with a casual work outfit.