A Guide to Business Attire for Men (With Tips)
Updated 26 June 2023
The different attire codes refer to a standard of employee appearance to help maintain a professional work environment. Business attire includes various dress codes that professional businesses use to reflect their company attitude and culture or appeal to clients and partners. Reading this guide to business attire for men can help men plan their work uniform to look smart and fit their company culture.
In this article, we discuss the types of business attire for men, explain business attire at various events and provide tips to help you establish a professional work outfit.
Types of business attire for men
Business attire can come in a range of specific dress codes, from casual, smart casual, business professional and formal business attire. It can be important to identify the dress code in your workplace to understand the accepted dress standard and then learn about the specifics to help you select your work clothing.
Below you can find a list of different types of business attire for men:
Business casual for men
Business casual refers to less formal clothing than traditional dress standards but still appears smart and professional. The exact specifications of business casual may vary from one industry or company to another, and you might want to learn your company's rules on what is acceptable to wear.
For example, a sales role in the medical industry may require the person to appear highly professional as they may meet clients and negotiate rates to purchase high-quality equipment. Business casual in this role may require a formal jacket and the typical business casual attire. Alternatively, tech startups are likely to have a more relaxed attitude towards business casual, and you could trade fitted trousers for jeans or a business jacket for a jumper.
Appropriate business casual staples
Business casual attire typically looks sharp while still being comfortable. You can cultivate this appearance with different tailored pants, chinos or khakis with a belt and a button-down shirt tucked into the trousers. Add some black shoes to create a business casual ensemble. Jeans may be suitable for business casual attire if they are dark or denim coloured.
Other items that comprise a business casual look include:
full-length pants, khakis and chinos
button-down patterned or plain long-sleeved shirts or polo shirts
plain jumpers and windcheaters
suit jackets (suitable for a more formal appearance)
closed-toed leather shoes, boat shoes or boots
Smart casual business attire for men
Smart casual is slightly more formal than business casual but not as formal as traditional business attire. Smart casual attire aims to make you feel comfortable and sociable while remaining presentable and professional to engage in your work. This can mean selecting clothes similar to business casual and adding a formal piece of clothing, like a blazer or tie or it can mean aiming for something more formal altogether depending on your organisation.
Appropriate smart casual business staples
Smart casual work environments typically interact with clients and customers in their daily activities. You can achieve a smart and professional appearance by adding a tie or blazer to your button-down shirt and swapping the khakis for suit trousers or chinos.
Some smart casual business attire staples can include:
button-down long-sleeved shirts in plain colours or patterns
thin ties (suitable for more formal work environments)
smart business jackets or suit jackets
suit pants or chinos in various dark and light colours that don't have to match the jacket
black or brown belts
black leather shoes or oxfords.
Business professional attire for men
Business professional is one of the most formal dress codes for a work environment. Those working in highly professional services, such as law and banking firms, wear business professional attire. In this environment, professionalism and intelligent appearances are typically a part of the work culture, where employees communicate their work standards through their dress code.
Business professional attire usually refers to a suit and tie combination. Suits can either have matching jackets and trousers or non-matching, depending on the level of formality at your particular workplace. Some workplaces may expect a tie to accompany the suit, while others are more lenient about your clothing choices. Therefore, it can be critical to know what is acceptable and expected at your office or workplace to help guide your business professional work outfit.
Appropriate business professional staples
Business professional attire might include a dark-coloured business suit and tie, with a plain long-sleeved shirt. Suit jackets and trousers typically match in colours, and neckties are usually simple and plain without bright colours and patterns. A black or brown belt and smart closed-toe shoes are excellent items to complete this attire.
Some business professional attire staples can include:
plain or pinstripe suits in dark or neutral colours – a matching suit is often considered more formal than non-matching
plain collared long-sleeved shirts, typically in light colours
simple and plain ties
cufflinks for a more formal appearance
black or brown leather belts
dress shoes with plain, dark socks.
Business formal attire for men
Business formal attire isn't typically seen in offices or workplaces but is usually reserved for formal professional events, such as award ceremonies, dinners or other important events. Business formal is for conservative and professional settings and requires attire similar to a 'black tie' dress code. Men might wear an outfit similar to business professional attire but with stricter guidelines and smart accessories.
Appropriate business formal staples
Dark-coloured matching suits and ties are a common standard for business formal attire, and black suits reserved for the most traditional settings are suitable. Many men dressing for business formal wear dark suits with a white or light-coloured long-sleeve shirt, cufflinks, black leather shoes and leather belts.
Some business formal attire staples can include:
navy, grey or black matching suits
plain white, light pinstripes or textured shirts
blue, grey or black neckties without patterns
light pocket squares, typically matching the shirt colour
black or brown leather shoes
leather belts, matching the colour of the shoes
trouser socks that match the colour of the pant legs, or black socks.
Business attire at specific events
Specific events may require slightly different dress codes than your standard everyday outfit. Knowing which events to dress more formally or casually for can help you succeed in various phases of your career. Below you can find some ideas to consider when deciding on attire for specific situations:
When you're going to a job interview, you might not be familiar with the company culture and professional dress code, so you can research the company to learn what to expect beforehand. They could have a projects or services section that might include images of their teams at work, where you can understand their dress code. Once you have an idea of which attire they prefer, try to dress slightly more formally than they do. This can help communicate your professionalism and dedication to the role and could improve your chances of success.
Networking events are usually a congregation of business professionals with different attire. You can opt for business casual or business professional, depending on the formality of your industry. Choose an outfit that you're comfortable in to help you socialise and network with a range of different professionals.
Starting a new job
You may have more flexibility with your attire when you start a new job as employers allow you to settle in and understand the dress code. Take note of how your interviewers dressed when you interviewed and aim to match their dress code. Once you start working, you can learn what your colleagues wear and adapt to their standards.
Business attire tips
Here are some tips to help assist you in finding the right style and dress code at your workplace:
If you work close to people, like in an office, it's a great idea to pay attention to what other people wear. Look for what people on a similar seniority level to you wear and use their outfits as a guide.
If you're going to an external business meeting or meeting with clients, you might have to dress more formally. Ask your colleagues or manager for dress code advice before the meeting to appear respectful and professional.
In a professional setting, simplicity and plain colours are typically suitable. If you're considering adding accessories or opting for bright colours, you might want to choose the more simple version of an outfit.
Different professional settings can evoke different business attire standards. Dressing appropriately for meeting new clients, attending events, functions or dinners can show that you are serious about your professional career.
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