How to Dress for Success: Men's Business Attire

Understanding Men's Business Attire

Business attire is a classic genre that sometimes gets a bad rep. When you hear (or read) “business attire for men” your mind automatically goes to tight shirts that don’t breathe, stiff pants, and uncomfortable “pre-sweats and hoodies on the couch” moments. Well, business attire did have some pretty uncomfortable starts, but today’s business attire for men can be comfortable, versatile, and performance driven.

Like most things in life, the key to nailing men’s business attire is to understand what business wear is and isn’t. Once you’ve got the basics down, becoming a man that dresses for success is easy…and sometimes even fun. Sometimes.

Common Ground: Essential Tips for Men's Business Attire

Dressing for success isn’t just a catchphrase, it’s a movement. When you look good you feel good, and when you feel good you’re much more likely to kill it in the office and out. In fact, Forbes released a study showing that men that dress for success tend to have better self-esteem and are received better by people in their personal and professional networks. In short, what you wear matters. 

While men’s business attire has many components, things get easier when you break them down into their 

  • A solid button down. Button down shirts are the quarterbacks of the men’s business attire game. Button downs can thrive in any situation, from overly formal Board Meetings and client trips to casual Fridays and everything in between. 

The key to selecting the right button down is all about fit and color. Go for colors that work well with everything (white, grey, light blue) and avoid loud patterns. When it comes to fit, go for something that has a relatively snug fit without being too tight (this isn’t the gym) or too constricting (you want room for all of the hand talking and hand shaking that you do throughout your day). 

  • Slacks that go the extra mile. Any good “dress for success men’s wardrobe” will feature some great pairs of pants. When choosing your business pants, you want slim-fit styles that are fitted without being too tight or too baggy. Think straight-leg, slim-fit, or tapered…stay away from skinny fit and leave those for after-work drinks. Since business pants tend to stay on our bodies for the majority of the work-week, look for options that have a stretch built in. This stretch will make things a lot more comfortable and will give you needed versatility and range of motion. Color-wise, we love khaki, black, gray, and navy blue since these colors go with almost anything and work in a diverse range of business environments. 
  • Find a Good Jacket. From blazers and suit coats to tech vests and sweaters, finding the perfect jacket to throw over your button down shirt is a solid men’s dress for success move. Whether you’re trying to stay warm during cooler weather–or freezing AC during warmer weather–or meeting clients at a club or restaurant that requires a jacket, having a go-to blazer or suit jacket is a great move. Like the rest of your wardrobe, look for options in colors that play well with others (gray, black, navy) and go for a fit that’s snug without being too tight. Anything baggy or oversized risks coming off as too casual, or too dated, for true men’s business attire. Stretch-friendly materials are a plus as they will give you more utility and comfort throughout the day. 

Adapting to Industry-Specific Dress Codes

Different sectors have different “vibes” when it comes to what constitutes men’s business attire. While this guide is not meant to cover any and all sectors, here’s a brief guide to dress codes by industry: 

  • Finance, Medical, and Other Traditional White Collar Roles: Traditional sectors tend to follow more traditional rules when it comes to men’s business attire. In these settings, you’re going to want to stick to long-sleeved button down shirts, slacks, and sometimes a blazer or suit jacket. In these settings you want to avoid loud colors and patterns, however subtle patterns like thin pin-stripes are usually allowed.
  • Tech, Start-Ups, Creative: You know how every television show about a tech start-up or ad agency post-1985 features men dressed in polo’s, hoodies, and vests? Well, there’s a reason for that. These sectors tend to be more casual and allow for more creativity and flexibility in what you wear to the office. With these sectors, feel free to experiment more with color and patterns and, usually, polos, short sleeved shirts, hoodies and fleece vests, and non-traditional button downs are considered acceptable office wear.
  • Sales and Customer Service Roles: If you’re going to be dealing with customers, more often than not, you're expected to dress more formally. In these settings, button downs and slacks reign supreme, and depending on your sales sector, sometimes suits or blazers are also required. 

Dressing for Success Beyond Clothing

Accessories matter, especially when it comes to men who dress for success. The following accessories will help finalize any men’s business attire collection: 

  • Belts: A solid belt will get you through anything. Men’s business attire tends to favor leather, and look for a standard black or brown belt because they will often go with anything. When it comes to patterns, avoid anything too noticeable as it makes things a bit more casual and will limit your new belt’s utility. 
  • Shoes: When it comes to shoes, it really all depends on the industry. In more casual industries like tech and startups, a clean pair of sneakers will usually work in the office. When it comes to finance, sales, and more formal sectors, you’re going to want a classic dress shoe or boot. When thinking about color, stick with the classics (Black, brown, gray) and don’t experiment with patterns too heavily or you risk making things more casual. 
  • Ties: When is a tie not just a tie? When you’re trying to figure out if it’s formal or casual. The general rule is that regular and knit ties are more formal and that thin ties and non-traditional ties are more casual. Basically, if you’re in a more formal sector, stick with a classic tie. When it comes to color, burgundy, navy, emerald…dark hues are usually a safe bet. Of course, if you’re in a more relaxed business environment, feel free to play around with pattern, material, and color.

Swet Tailor: Personalizing Your Professional Style

At Swet Tailor, we want you to make your men’s business attire your own. Everything we design is made to be comfortable, versatile, and performance ready. Think button-down shirts that have enough stretch and movement to carry you through a day at the office and then hold its own during post-work drinks with friends. Work pants that can also be weekend pants, dinner with the in-laws pants, or “whatever you want them to be pants”. Our theory is simple: clothes should move with your life. We strive for a world where no change of clothes is required and where you can move throughout your day pit-stop free.

Business ready has never felt so good.