Beginner’s Guide to Business Wear
Whether you’re just starting out in a business career, building as an entrepreneur, or have been in a formal business setting for a while, look at this as a heads-up. The road to business style can be a bumpy one, so watch your head. What you wear affects how others perceive you. People will treat you differently, show you more respect, and address you in kind if you’re sharp-dressed and confident. Forego the whole “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”, because that is not how the world works, unfortunately. People judge you, and you judge people, just as I judge people. It is purely human nature, and there is no changing it. I want to make sure people see you in a better light. So, for the sole purpose of helping you and others like you, I decided to share what knowledge I have. Let us begin.
Style Starts at the Feet
- Shoes are where most people look to get a good grasp of who you are. A great pair of footwear will set you apart, earn you compliments and the attention of possible mates, if you know what I mean. Dress shoes can range anywhere from $50 to $5000. Decide what your circumstances are and what you can afford. Typically, the higher the price, the more custom they get. Fifty bucks won’t get you an amazing pair, and they won’t last long, but… you got to start somewhere, and there is nothing wrong with that. Upgrade and invest when you get a chance to do so. Treat them with care and make sure to clean, condition, and protect them, and they will last you a lifetime.
- Color – The most versatile colors you can have for shoes are dark brown, black, and oxblood. If your wardrobe is mostly black, grey, and navy, grab yourself a pair of black dress shoes. Start with a plain-toe or cap-toe black oxford shoe. Super simple and goes with most any occasion. If your closet is full of grey, navy, tan, brown, or green, go with a brown plain-toe or cap-toe oxford. As for the oxblood…you can pair them with grey, navy, and black, and look stunning doing it. Oxblood is slightly less common and really helps you stand out. A deep burgundy or rich red can really add a bit of pizzazz to what you wear!
- Brogue – as defined, it’s an ornamentation of shoes employing heavy perforations and pinking. Therefore, it stands to reason that a shoe, any shoe, with perforations is a brogue – no matter if it is a Derby or Oxford. As an example, a wingtip shoe as decorative perforations along leather seams, giving it a stylized look. The more broguing a shoe has, the less formal it becomes in most cases.
- Lacing – To give a shoe a more professional appearance, try a bar pattern in the laces. Steer away from the usually crisscross patterns on casual shoes.
Suits and How to Wear Them
- Your suit is your armor in the business world. It is what we wear into battle–the Office Wars–skirting off the paper airplane memos and the dark gaze of that unforgiving manager who has yet to learn to lead from the front. Don’t get caught in a t-shirt and jeans on the job…unless your dress code is super lax. I’ll talk about casual wear in a later article.
- Lapels – The lapel is that collar that stretches from the buttons on the front, up and around your neck, and back down. Common styles of Lapels are the Notch, Peak, and Shawl. One of the most common is the notch. The notch lapel, you’ll find, exists everywhere in the business world and is the go-to style. Notch is seen as a bit conservative. If you are getting your first suit, I’d recommend it. Peak lapels are more traditional and can be seen as formal. Personally, I love a peak lapel. It’s masculine and gives off a feeling of being outgoing. Always a good match to the double breasted suits. The shawl lapel, however, isn’t common and most likely you’ll see them on tuxedos. I would leave this one to that category specifically.
- Color – If you have yet to buy a suit, the two colors you should focus on are charcoal grey and navy. These two colors are the most versatile and can be used in almost any occasion.
- Buttons – NEVER button the bottom button. It’s taboo and most suits aren’t cut for it to be buttoned anyways. Old rules die hard. Buttons range from plastic to horn to mother-of-pearl. Plastic is cheap and breaks easy. Go for horn, unless you want to be super fancy. Metal buttons are reserved for blazers or military.
- Fit – For a suit to look good on you, it should fit well. Shoulders on the suit shouldn’t be too wide and jet off, armholes should be high to allow for better movement, and the waist should be tapered giving your chest a more masculine feel. Make sure they get your chest, sleeve, and pant measurement correct before buying. Always get it tailored if it doesn’t fit well.
Shirts & Accessories
- I’ll try to keep this short since we can go on for days on this topic. From shirts, to ties, to watches and beyond, it’s an endless discussion I’ll break down into other posts after I get the basics in writing. Accessories are a great way to improve your personal style.
- Shirts – Basic business starter colors are white (obvious right?), light blue, light grey, mauve (real men wear pink), and maybe a lavender (depending on your skin tone). Make sure you own an iron and know how to work it. Keep that collar crisp. Always have your shirts tailored unless they fit you great off the rack. You don’t want your shirts to make you look bigger than what you are. It’s not flattering to have a billowy shirt.
- Ties and their knots – First off, if you have a wide cut collar, go with a bigger knot – like the Full Windsor, slimmer collar opening – slimmer knot. As for patterns, personally I dislike stripes as they typically refer to school colors and we aren’t in school, we are at work…unless you’re at school, then it’s fine. Go with a decent geometric pattern or texture. As far as color goes, it can be anything. Warm colors are considered eye-catching and attention-grabbing.
- Pocket Squares – There are several ways to fold a pocket square, or handkerchief. Some of the time they are super flamboyant and crazy, such as the puff, cameo, or regalia. Keep it tidy with the simple presidential fold or the poof. Don’t match it to the tie, try to compliment it. To do that, use similar colors, just not the same pattern. It’s best to have it match one color from your tie and one color from your shirt to compliment the whole outfit. A white pocket square is often professional.
- Watches – one of the craziest categories with some of the most extensive options. Let’s keep this simple. Roman numerals, simple face, and a band that matches your shoes and belt to start off with, while keeping it classy. Thousands of styles and brands exist in the world. DO YOUR RESEARCH. Do not get stuck with a loud watch that doesn’t keep time correctly, as some professionals will notice. Always look for reviews, or stick to the brands that have been around a lifetime.
- Shirt Stays (Shirt Garters) – Definitely an accessory that holds a special place in my heart. While they usually aren’t seen, unless you get a lucky lady/gent home, they are key for those that tend to move quite a bit. Shirt stays attach to the bottoms of your shirts and stretch to your socks. They are there to keep your socks up, and your shirt tucked in. You could literally do jumping jacks in your suit and it’d stay tucked in. That or you could just constantly tuck your shirt in, to the point where it becomes habit where eventually you’re doing it in front of people and not realizing it. Talk about embarrassing.
- Cuff Links – Flashy jewelry for your shirt cuffs. They come in all shapes and sizes, and the prices are from cheap to expensive. You can have them match your wardrobe, match your metals, or match your personality! If you’re a watchmaker or a steampunk lover, you can get gears. Gold, silver, diamonds, bullet casings, you name it, it mostly likely exists.
- Tie Clips/Tie Bars – Very handy piece of metal that clips your tie to your shirt. Keeps your appearance professional. If you’re OCD like me, it keeps your tie from moving out of place. Avoid wearing with a vest as it loses it’s purpose.
There is so much more I could be adding in each of these categories, but I’m going to keep this semi-short. Not trying to make you read a novel when all you need is the basics. All in all, I hope you all find this helpful and educational. Thank you for letting me lead you through your personal style journey. Would love to hear from you! Leave a comment or get in direct contact with me.