Men at work: 7 tips to nail tricky office dress codes
For those trying to abandon the safety of a suit, dressing casually can be a minefield
Men at work: Scott Kennedy, Terry Allen, David Alford, Darragh Collins and Niall Woods
Business attire is changing and the old formal wear codes for men no longer apply in certain work environments. According to a recent survey, only one in 10 workers in the UK now wear a suit to the office. “Classic suits being worn on a daily basis are dying out and only worn for client meetings,” says Louis Copeland, long-standing authority on male dress. Silicon Valley tech industry style may be less formal, but for those trying to abandon the safety of a suit, nailing the casual vibe can be a minefield.
Terry Allen, for example, director of a logistics company in his 50s, is struggling with dressing more casually after years of wearing formal suits to work. “Are jeans okay? Are slacks still acceptable? Do you wear sweaters or always wear a jacket?” he queries.
Darragh Collins, on the other hand, is in his 20s working for a communications company. “It depends on the sector in which you work – my colleagues working in corporate communications, public affairs and healthcare need to be suited and booted. But for me in sports sponsorship I can wear different types of clothes, but most of us need to keep a jacket in the office. Our dress code is ‘use your common sense’.”
David Alford who works in a legal firm no longer has to wear full suits or a jacket and tie; his company has introduced casual Fridays. “But there are still guidelines – no jeans, T-shirts, shorts. The lines are quite blurred when it comes to knowing what people exactly mean by business casual,” he says.
For Scott Kennedy, working for a software company, everyday wear is a shirt, jeans and shoes, “but when I am client facing I find I struggle”.
Certain clients are more corporate and adopt more formal dress and while I want to match their appearance, I also want to maintain the integrity of our company’s ethos,” he says, a point echoed by Niall Woods in sports management
So the confusion, in a period of transition when dressing for business is evolving, is all too obvious. Even more interesting is the new trend particularly in tech industries of Formal Fridays where there is a licence to dress up and the full business suit is worn to work. Many guys, however, facing relaxed rules in the workplace just don’t know how to dress “informally” or “business casual”, so here are some guidelines from the experts on how to look “well put together” and confident.
Seven tips on how to nail business casual
Research dress code in your place of employment; ask someone senior if uncertain.
The fit of your clothing is the most important thing.
A tailored navy blazer can be used with a number of different looks.
Purchase multi-functional pieces that can be mixed and matched for outfit options like grey flannels with a crisp white or blue shirt. Try collarless shirts with jackets.
A well-tailored pair of jeans – avoid throwaway denim without a professional fit.
Fine knitwear can be used stylishly in both winter and summer.
Superlight functional travel coats, fully waterproof, lightweight and breathable.
Photographs by Daniel Holfeld, styling by Emmet Carroll, hair and make-up by Kate O Reilly