How To Dress For The Office

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A few weeks ago I wrote an article entitled "How To Dress For A Job Interview". So it seems natural to follow that up with a piece about what to wear if you actually get the job. For the sake of my word count, I'm limiting this to office jobs and omitting any advice on what to wear to a building site or fish farm. Getting office wear right while not being boring isn't easy. It's not as simple as the cliché of dressing for the job you want: in reality, you pretty much have to dress for the job you have. Try to stand out too much and you might be on a slippery slope towards peacocking, which could earn you the ridicule of your colleagues or worse, your p45. Thankfully though, in 2019, many workplaces do have a more flexible attitude towards office attire and while the days of wearing a tie every day for XX number of years are dying out, you still can't afford to be too lazy or sloppy with your choices. Read on for a simple guide to nailing the office dress code.

 

Smart Work Outfits

 

While it's no longer compulsory to wear a suit in most modern offices, sometimes going the extra mile can really show that you mean business. There are few things in life more empowering than putting on a suit that looks and fits well – it can boost your confidence and make you feel infinitely more refined. For work, I'd recommend going for a grey or a navy as it gives off the professional vibe that you want in this setting. Pay attention to the tailoring, as no one looks good in an ill-fitting suit. The single-breasted suit is a wardrobe staple amongst politicians, business leaders and movie stars alike, and for good reason – it always looks good. Don't however; be afraid to dip your toe in double-breasted waters. If well tailored, a double-breasted suit will flatter your physique by simultaneously widening your torso and narrowing your waist.

 

For a lot of guys the only types of shirt they'll go for are white or blue. Maybe a pink if they're feeling brave. If you do feel like broadening your horizons then there are numerous ways of adding interest and personality through the use of colours and patterns. If going to wear a brightly coloured shirt then you're better off paring it with a simple suit. A pinstripe suit or check suit, on the other hand, should be paired with a plainer shirt and tie. Remember to keep things simple and don't veer into office peacock territory.

 

Smart Casual Outfits

 

If you're not a fan of wearing a full suit every day or you'd simply like to take a break from it then you can still make use of them by breaking them up and using them as separates. A smart suit jacket can be paired with a more casual pair of chinos and finished with a shirt. Another smart casual option is to swap the shirt for a fitted crew neck or roll neck jumper. This will dress down a suit and add an element of informality to your look while maintaining an air of professionalism.


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If your work environment is a little more relaxed, then wearing a suit could make you stand out from the crowd in the wrong way – i.e. make you stick out like a sore thumb. At the same time you can't really rock up in skinny jeans or joggers – you need to find a middle ground. It might be incorporating some smart denims or toning down a pair of formal trousers but the middle ground is there and mixing and matching smart and casual is the way to find it.

 

Yes, you read that correctly – denim. You may think that jeans aren't smart enough but the right pair, worn correctly and paired with the right things will work. A black or navy pair of slim fit jeans with a white or light blue shirt and a v-neck number is an easy smart casual look. Complete the look with Chelsea boots or brogues and you won't look out of place in the office or the dugout at the Etihad Stadium. If it's not a jeans kind of scene or you don't want to risk it then try some chinos instead and pair them with a patterned shirt and blazer or an Oxford shirt and jumper combo.

 

If you're lucky enough to work in an office where smart casual is the norm then you can have fun mixing up different styles, patterns and colours. Again, it's worth noting that too much colour and too many patterns can be overpowering and over the top, so try to pick one patterned piece and match it with neutral tones that compliment the pattern. Don't overcomplicate things – I can't stress that enough. When it comes to office smart casual, often the most effective looks are the simplest. Being able to tone down the formality while maintaining an air of class and professionalism goes a long way towards getting you noticed for all the right reasons.

What Shoes to Wear

 

It's often said that you can tell a lot about a man's character by his shoes. This is even more relevant when you're wearing a suit. There are some workplaces where a ‘black shoes only' policy applies. In which case, you don't have much scope beyond Oxfords or Brogues. Generally, though, brown is acceptable and that gives you far more scope for variation. Provided they match your suit, burgundy, oxblood and navy are surprisingly versatile and are imaginative rather than eccentric. Beware though, because a misjudgement in shoe colour can destroy the look of a suit (a black suit should always be matched with black shoes). In terms of your smart-casual workplace, keep it professional and stay away from trainers at all costs. Instead, go for a pair of smart Chelsea boots or Brogues and err on the smart side of smart casual.

Patrick McLoughney