Five Neat Ways To Dress For Work
Shake up your office attire with one of these key looks
What you wear to work depends largely on where you work. In a law firm or an investment bank, you’ll be expected to wear a formal suit, probably with a tie. At a multinational, the dress code will likely be the corporate default of chinos and a button-down shirt. At a creative agency or one of those trendy coworking spaces that seem to be popping up everywhere now that so many people are apparently flexi-time freelancers, you can get away with T-shirt and jeans. Working from your kitchen table? Well, you may not bother getting dressed at all.
Whatever the office dress code, there’s a lot to be said for making an effort. Whether consciously or subconsciously, colleagues will respect it, clients will appreciate it. It also affects personal attitude and self-confidence: psychology studies prove that if you look sharp, you feel sharp and thus perform better. Even workers who have to wear a uniform can customise it. (For example, Dr Mikhail Varshavski – the Instagram medic with two million followers better known as Dr Mike – recently told us he has his standard-issue scrubs subtly monogrammed and tailored for a better fit and soon noticed how some other colleagues began to follow suit.)
After an August of automated OOO email responses, September heralds a Go-Go-Go! back-to-work mentality. To help you smarten up your act, our style editors have assembled five looks for different sorts of office dress codes, which collectively demonstrate some universally useful dressing tips. You won’t notice any outré fashion statements here – the idea is to make subtle improvements to your workday attire that will help you elevate your game without drawing too much attention.
When you’re expected to wear a suit and tie…
In a sea of formal grey and navy single-breasted suits, get a bit adventurous and it’s all too easy to stand out for all the wrong reasons. You could even impede your progress up the professional ladder. Instead, do the same, but better. A fitted double-breasted suit such as this one from Kingsman helps you look that bit smarter, for it should always be buttoned up when standing. The “V” formed by the jacket perfectly frames the shirt and tie. Have the trousers altered so that they fit around the waist without the need for a belt (no tailored suit should require one) with the hem sitting on polished leather Derby shoes. The jacket should flatter your torso and the sleeves should show just an inch or so of shirt cuff. You can read a great deal into a man’s choice of watch. Go for something understated and classic – ideally mechanical and Swiss-made such as this Zenith El Primero Chronomaster. A real stickler for detail will ensure his accessories agree: in this case, a black watch strap with black shoes, silver cufflinks with silver tie clip.
When everyone else is in chinos and a button-down…
This standard democratic uniform for men in offices across the world can have the homogenising effect of making the wearer look like a corporate drone, stuck in a sartorial rut. All the more reason to be the one to change it up. The raw materials can stay more or less the same, just add some interesting variations on the well-worn theme: a gingham button-down rather than an Oxford, for example, and cords in place of chinos. The most important factor, as ever, is fit. The shirt should not billow with excess fabric; nor should it strain uncomfortably at the buttons. Choose straight-leg trousers and make sure they finish on or just above your shoes rather than puddle over them. Wearing socks and shoes in a similar colour to the trousers will help to lengthen your legs. Add a knitted tie and a soft-shouldered, unstructured blazer in a tonal colour palette to dress the look up. You can easily remove one or both if you feel too formal. But as a general rule, it’s always better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed. Turn Casual Friday into Smart-Casual Friday.
When you’re pitching for business…
As relaxed attire becomes the norm in a growing number of work places, the symbolic power of a suit is accentuated. When trying to win business, it pays to look like you mean it. People will take you more seriously. Note how the narrow jacket lapel, shirt collar and tie width are all in harmonious proportion. And you should never do up the bottom button on a two- or three-button jacket. If you’re in and out of the office at client-facing meetings, don’t underestimate the effect of strong outerwear. In this instance, the rich deep burgundy of this Ermenegildo Zegna overcoat is echoed in the dark plum of the John Lobb Oxford shoes, which also works well with the chocolate brown strap of the Junghans watch and the burnished leather of the Berluti portfolio. When it comes to presenting a strong business case, you can’t beat Berluti.
When you are on a company away-day…
This “business-casual” dress code is a tricky one to get right. You don’t want to seem stiff (suit jacket and business shirt with the top button undone). Nor do you want to go to the other extreme and dress down too much (hello, dad jeans). Remember, people still need to see you as leadership material. But there is a way to make it both well-dressed and dressed-down. Weekend attire is fine so long as you stick to a monochrome colour scheme. Jeans should be straight leg, dark blue or black with minimal wash or fading, and no distressing. They should be worn with a dark leather belt. Try some suede Chelsea boots or desert boots rather than sneakers. On the top half, stick to a fitted collared shirt worn tucked into the jeans, with a casual sweater and unstructured jacket or overcoat. No sportswear, nothing with a logo bigger than a Polo Ralph Lauren horse or a Lacoste crocodile. Leave the hoodie and T-shirt cliche to the techies.
When there is little distinction between your work life and social life…
In today’s fluid business environment, working and socialising often happen at the same time – or they can certainly segue from one to the other. Networking, schmoozing and entertaining clients outside traditional office hours requires a versatile wardrobe that can go from desk till dawn. An office suit might jar in a nice bar. Indeed, in certain establishments like Soho House’s properties, it is frowned upon. Instead, wear tailored separates. And rather than a shirt and tie, try a fine-gauge knit or rollneck that will fit comfortably under your jacket – though make sure it’s light enough and soft enough that it doesn’t feel itchy around your neck. Look for textures that combine well together such as wools and knits and cashmere blends. Darker colours work better for evening events, but you can break the look up with a lighter piece for daytime. And invest in a good quality coat. A camel overcoat is a mainstay of any stylish man’s wardrobe and will last decades because it never dates. Plus it looks as good with a suit as it does with jeans and everything in between.