When it comes to understanding appropriate attire for the workplace, it all depends on your company’s dress code. Traditionally, if you worked in an office you wore a boring suit with a tie to match. These days so there is so much more autonomy over office wear which means you can be far more fashion-conscious that employees once could, but also means you can get it so horribly wrong. Here we look at the various dress codes you may be expected to wear and what is appropriate for each of them.

Business attire

This is the least flexible form of office wear and is often reserved for upper management and senior executives. This is career clothing and for men, it basically means a dark, tailored well-fitted suit with tie and polished shoes. You might select a bold coloured tie but avoid patterns. Your hair should be neatly combed, and the only accessories would be a good quality watch with a metal or leather strap or a gold bracelet.

Professional attire

It sounds pretty similar but allows for a bit more leeway. You should stick with a pair of dress pants and a shirt but you may ditch the suit jacket for a sweater, cardigan or more casual jacket. Ties are optional and you’re free to have fun with color and patterns – within reason. Likewise, you can choose a more casual shirt such as check or plaid; but nothing too loud. Everything you wear should be well-fitted and, if you are going to be playful with colour or design you need to be careful not to go over the top and to make sure the different colors complement and contrast with each other but don’t clash. If in doubt, play it safe. Smart shoes are a must; no trainers or pumps.

Business casual

This is where personal style starts to get more of a look-in. Sometimes called ‘corporate casual’ it’s the choice of many modern workplaces. Suits are now completely off the menu, although you may choose to wear chinos and a blazer with either a shirt or tee – which should be tucked in unless you’re instructed otherwise. You might even choose to wear a neutral colour polo shirt, and ties are completely optional. You can be a bit less formal with your footwear here. Loafers or boat shoes will be appropriate, pumps if they go with the look, even socks are optional.

Fully casual

Now we’re getting into ‘anything goes’ territory. It can be as plain as jeans and a tee with pretty much any footwear ok so long as there’s no toe on show. The key here is to make sure your trousers and your shirt/tee are tailored so that you look like you’re at work, not on your way to a gig. No ripped jeans, no offensive (or even borderline offensive) prints on your tee. Remember, you’re looking casual but you’re still representing your business so keep it classy.

Working from home

If you’re an entrepreneur and working from home, it’s up to you what you wear. If you want to work while wearing your pyjamas in bed that’s up to you. But when you meet clients in person, you’ll need to decide which of the above is the look you want to portray. Of course, you don’t have to stick to just one and could choose to reinvent your look depending on who you’re meeting. The most important thing is that you do think about it and don’t just leave it to chance.

Work attire is often the first thing new colleagues or prospective clients notice about you so don’t leave your look to chance. Click here to find out how a professional tailor can help you perfect your look for any working environment.