So What Exactly is Business Dress Code? 10 Pieces to Get You Started
Feeling poised, powerful and ready to seal some deals? Such an occasion calls for a dress code of its own, and that dress code is most likely to be “business attire.”
In our last edition of Dress Code Decoding 101, we learned the ins and outs of “smart casual.” Luckily, the sartorial philosophy behind business attire is more straightforward and easier to nail. For starters, it’s probably what you’re picturing: a good suit, a conservative tie and a leather briefcase. It’s the pop culture depiction of any high-powered dude killing it in the boardroom or on the trading floor. Don Draper and his fellow Mad Men, Michael Douglas in Wall Street or even Al Pacino in The Godfather (though we do hope you have a slightly different profession) capture it.
There’s a reason those references seem a little old school. These days, most office spaces have embraced a more casual approach to dressing. But even in the most relaxed corporate environment, business attire is needed for client meetings, notable events and the interview to get a job in the first place. And if your company requires a business ensemble every day, you’re going to need some options.
Scroll down to start building your professional wardrobe.
Business Dress Code: The Suit
Here is the star item of your look: the suit. When it comes to business attire, classic and understated is your best bet, so you’ll want to stick to dark colors like black, blue and charcoal gray. You can, however, show off some of your personality with the material, pattern and silhouette. And don’t forget to finish it off with a pocket square, folded neatly.
1. Lazio Mid Grey Stripe Suit
While a three-piece suit (jacket, trousers and waistcoat) isn’t necessary, it sure does look good. This pick from Suitsupply is a great example. The Lazio is made from pure S110's wool, features a sharp-looking vest (aka waistcoat) and boasts an understated pinstripe pattern. Pair it with a strong handshake, and you’re good to go.
2. Regent Fit Plaid Suit
Brooks Brothers, $768
Brooks Brothers’ Regent Fit Plaid 1818 Suit offers a slightly more modern silhouette. A rich—but not overpowering—navy blue, this option is actually a plaid, but it’s so discreet you’ll have to look closely to notice it. Perfect, because big and bold is not business attire.
Business Dress Code: The Tie
There are so many fun and funky ties out there, but save those for a party. A more professional business setting calls for a conservative tie in a solid color or understated pattern. That’s not all. Consider the tie width when you’re really looking to impress. The safe zone is anywhere between 2.25 inches and 3.25 inches; however, your body type (wider ties for broader guys) and suit lapel width should also help guide you.
3. Burgundy Silk Plain Grenadine Tie
Charles Tyrwhitt, $69
If you appreciate excellent craftsmanship, opt for this silk grenadine tie from Charles Tyrwhitt. The intricate style of fabric weave is handmade on the shores of Lake Como, Italy, and anyone you’re meeting is sure to be impressed. Go for the navy blue, dark navy or burgundy option.
4. Pin Dot Silk Jacquard Tie
Mr. Porter, $260
For a bit of professional personality, we love this silk-jacquard tie by Tom Ford in storm blue. The delicate pin-dot pattern and so-dark-it’s-almost-black color make it versatile and easy to pair with any suit.
Business Dress Code: The Shirt
Next, you’re going to need a shirt to wear under your suit and tie. A white, long-sleeved dress shirt is always a safe bet, but allow your outfit to help dictate your choice. A light color that complements your suit is, well, suitable. If your outer layer is patterned, choose a solid shirt. Solid suits, however, give you some leeway with your shirt choice—you can do pinstripes or a thin check.
5. Slim Fit Shirt
Hugo Boss, $148
You’re going to get a lot of miles out of a classic white shirt, so it’s best to opt for excellent quality. This Hugo Boss slim-fit button-up is super soft Austrian cotton, which—bonus points—is easy to iron.
6. Light Blue Stripe Shirt
Light blue is a smart alternative to white, especially when paired with navy. To add some dimension to a solid suit, subtle pinstripes—like the pattern on this Egyptian cotton Suitsupply piece—are perfect.
Business Dress Code: The Shoes
Remember when we said you could get away with solid, high-end sneakers in a smart casual setting? No such luck here, guys. Now, we’re aiming for fancy footwear.
7. Park Avenue Cap Toe Oxfords
Allen Edmonds, $395
You can never go wrong with black leather oxfords. From the office to a wedding, they’re the ultimate go-to for every dressed-up occasion. Don’t feel bad about spending a few hundred dollars on a quality pair—you’re going to wear them a lot. These handcrafted cap-toe leather oxfords by Allen Edmonds are simple, sleek and sure to bring plenty of bang for your buck.
8. Warren Cap Toe Derbys
Brown leather dress shoes look great with blue suits (but never pair them with a black ensemble), and you can bring them out for more casual affairs where black leather would be a little too formal. Since the seams and details are visible, stick to clean lines. These Cole Haan cap-toe Derbys feature a polished fine-grain finish that provides an extra dapper look without being overpowering.
Business Dress Code: The Briefcase
Have you ever seen a businessman without a briefcase? Unless we’re talking about some eccentric billionaire who takes meetings while skydiving (or walking around Soho barefoot), the answer is no.
9. Computer Brief Navigator in Leather
The briefcase has evolved to fit the needs of a modern man, but leather is always a good look. Case in point: Shinola’s computer brief in rugged navigator leather with gunmetal hardware. It fits your laptop and important documents and has a removable carry strap for comfortable commuting.
10. Paolo3 Classic Leather Briefcase
Maxwell Scott, $728
Maxwell Scott’s Paolo3 incorporates some old school details, like a front flap and lock, while meeting up-to-date expectations. This handsome Italian leather piece boasts three sections for easy organizing and comes in three business-appropriate colors. For an extra $15, you can even personalize it with your initials. #Classy.
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