Decoding the Business Dress Code: Men's Edition
Office fashion isn’t much of a talking point. That is, until you’ve been invited to a business event and the dress code is “business formal”, or you’ve landed an interview, and have been told to wear “business professional”. You want to fit in and be respected, but don’t know what the dress code means? No worries, we’ve got a guide to help you navigate the different types of business attire.
The highest level of professional dress, business formal is also the least flexible dress code. This attire is most likely found in law firms, banks and corporate headquarters.
- A plain suit in black, dark navy or charcoal grey (but see why we don’t recommend black for business)
- Clean, pressed white dress shirt
- Conservative ties - modest colours and either solid like this sophisticated navy or discreetly patterned
- Polished black or dark brown oxfords
- Plain black socks
- Conservative accessories such as cufflinks and tie bars
Though less strict than business formal, business professional is still traditional and requires you to look professionally presentable. However, you have more room to inject some personality with colours, patterns and textures.
- A suit in a conservative colour, but you can opt for subtle patterns such as chalk stripes or faint checks, or try a texture such as herringbone
- White or coloured dress shirts - pastels such as the Alistair Premium Purple Twill are the most appropriate
- Ties in colours, solids or relatively modest patterns, for example a dark blue polka dot or striped navy tie
- Brown or black dress shoes
- Socks of any colour or pattern, as long as it’s not too wild
- High-end accessories such as gold or silver watches and elegant pocket squares
Within the bounds of projecting a professional image, business casual gives you freedom to be much more creative and imaginative. You’re allowed to be more comfortable and relaxed - you don’t even have to wear a suit! This category is open to interpretation, so here’s our take:
- Dress shirts in any colour (can be open-collared), solid or with a classy pattern like our Archer Navy Gingham
- Tie optional, and can be in any colour or pattern, like this charming one - but avoid novelty ties!
- Refined, dressy shoes
- A blazer or sport jacket - here’s your chance to be bold and don, for example, a check or dark-coloured houndstooth
- Pullovers or sweaters worn over a collared shirt - think solid colours or conservative patterns
- More casual accessories such as a leather watch, or jazz it up with an attractive pocket square
Casual does not mean ‘anything goes’. Your clothing should still be neat and appropriate for the type of work you do. Your coworkers will also take you more seriously if you maintain some personal standards. If you work at a casual office, you can still dress up if that’s your preferred style.
- Polos, smart t-shirt or casual collared shirt such as our Cooper Red Oxford or Miles Navy Chambray
- Crew-neck sweaters and pullovers
- Casual pants and if jeans are permitted, dark-coloured and not ripped
- Clean shoes including sneakers
- Casual accessories
If your workplace has a dress code, stick to it. However, unless it’s the most strictest of offices, there’s always room to express your individuality. If you’re lucky and there isn’t any dress code, look at what highly respected people in your organization are wearing, and emulate them.
The most important style principle to follow, regardless of the environment you’re in, is proper fit - especially if you want to stand out while fitting in. A well-tailored, clean look will elevate your professionalism and shows that you’re dressed for success.