Dress for success: How to bring style and sophistication into every office

Men’s officewear is in a state of flux, with the formal norms of yesteryear now ancient history in many workplaces. Research shows that 90% of men no longer wear a suit to work, and leading companies like Facebook actively encourage their male members of staff to ditch their formal attire for something more laid back.

The good news is that, depending on where you work, you might have an unprecedented opportunity to express your personal style during the working week. However, the drawback is the greater risk of getting it totally wrong, which makes dressing for the office something of a minefield.

But fear not, as our guide will steer you towards the right outfit, whether you work at a hip startup or a corporate firm.

The casual office

If you’ve long yearned to wear denim seven days a week, and work in a creative industry like tech or media, your time has come. Your jeans are going to get a lot more mileage, and you can easily match them with a relaxed t-shirt or polo in any color, graphic or pattern you like. However, while you can take a more liberal approach with your work attire in such a casual office, you don’t want to take things too far. After all, it’s still a professional environment, so leave your ripped jeans and sports shirts at home.

 

To sprinkle some sophistication onto your look, go for a modest, plain-colored jacket, such as a bomber or a Harrington, and lace-up shoes. You could even go for sneakers instead, provided they’re not too flashy—plain brown, white or black types from the likes of Converse or Seavees will do the trick. As far as accessories go, a backpack is fine, but it can’t be showy—think a basic rucksack or a tote backpack.

The business casual office

Perhaps the most common workplace dress code, going business casual still gives you the chance to inject some personality into your workwear. For starters, plump for a conservatively patterned shirt or sweater—perhaps avoid overly bright colors, and stick to patterns like checks or stripes. You can complement this with the kind of jacket you’d wear to a casual office, or even a tailored blazer. These types of jacket won’t look out of place, but can also be worn in more formal situations like client meetings—perfect if you’re called into one at the last minute. Don’t skimp on your blazer though, as those made from cheap materials can look unbecoming. Buying from established menswear brands like Hackett or J Crew are your best bets, with the former, London-based company renowned for “crafting high-quality garments that really ooze that luxe finish.”

 

As for the rest of your outfit, don some dressy slacks or chinos in block colors, though you could experiment with simple prints, as long as they coordinate with what you’re wearing on top. Ditch the sneakers for smarter footwear, like loafers or desert boots in neutral shades. Any accessories can be casual, though we’d suggest swapping the backpack for a messenger bag or satchel.

The professional office

For more professional office spaces, you’ll want to stop just short of a full suit and tie. So, either go for a suit but lose the tie, or ditch the blazer and wear a tie, but sport a plain jumper instead. Avoid novelty neckwear, but feel free to introduce modest colors and patterns (such as polka dots or foulard), and rock a low-key button-up shirt to dress down your suit.

 

When it comes to your footwear, you can match what you’d wear in a business casual office, though you’d it’s sensible to slip into some black or brown leather brogues for more important meetings. Silver or gold accessories like watches and cufflinks are also acceptable in this type of working environment.

The formal office

While most employers no longer require their employees to wear a full suit, there are still some that do—we’re talking law firms, financial companies, and government bodies. For you guys, it’s quite literally business as usual, but that doesn’t mean you can’t refine your look for maximum suave and style.

Try a tailored ensemble crafted by a luxury brand like Tom Ford or Oxxford, in dark colors like gray or navy. An ill-fitting, off-the-rack suit screams scruffiness, while bright colors and funky patterns are inappropriate for such a formal environment. Opt for a white, collared button-up shirt, a plain tie and closed-toe Oxford or Derby shoes in either black or brown. Any accessories like watches or cufflinks should be subtle, while a briefcase would be the most sophisticated way to carry your stuff.

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