When was the last time you actually felt stylish at the office? Some gents spend forty-plus hours a week wearing a suit that suppresses who they really are: a boxy business suit, cheap shoes and a novelty polyester tie-and-shirt combo that they got on sale three-years ago.
Considering dress-codes, we understand that some are bound to elements of the traditional business suit – day in, day out. But office wear can be fashionable, with some simple planning and preparation to iron the sartorial creases out.
Here are five office alternatives to the boring business suit – whether you’re the number crunching financial guy or the creative agency chap.
Navy, Grey & Brown Suits
The sharp and sleek caters to the sartorial confinements of inner city working. Staying in line with traditional business attire, tailoring is key. Swap a plastic-y poly suit for a two-piece wool or cotton/silk blend suit, offering a contemporary look for the office.
Play around with office-ready navy, grey or brown – instead of standard black – ensuring the fit of the neutral suit fits like a glove, with an inclination for tapered trousers and a pressed leg crease at the front of the pant.
Crisp cotton shirting (in business blue or white) takes style cues from an incredible fit and a chic cutaway collar. Paired with a woven silk tie and matching pocket square, play around with texture and micro-patterns – if your dress code allows. Then, add this season’s shoe – the double-strap monk – as an alternative to the classic Derby.
It’s never been cooler to dress like our style forefathers. Channelling the office class of Steve McQueen in the ‘Thomas Crown Affair’, a three-piece suit (minus the pocket watch and chain) is a dapper way to dress this season.
For a contemporary twist, look to mid-to-light grey if you’re more neutral-inclined or a fine square window-pane check (out-dated in recent decades the plaid experiencing a renaissance this season). And look to double-breast silhouettes for a stately jacket over tapered pants.
Going check? Keep the shirt plain and simple white streamline black tie and black brogues. Three-pieces should be experimented with a bit – a fine striped shirt and polka dot tie break away from the stuffiness.
As we move down the ranks, the office suit becomes less formal. This is where colour blocking separates, come into the workplace – a great look for casual Fridays or the not so serious firms.
A double-breasted jacket in an earthy tone sits well over a muted cotton trouser – teal, marsala and mustard big colours this season with the return of Seventies hues.
Shirts – again – drop their formalities – adopting coloured cottons with a straight point collar or this season’s club variety. An indigo, denim look shirt cool look under a light jacket underpinned by a navy woven tie and picnic check pocket – creeping slyly from the coat.
Creative Casual Suits
Jeans to work? Yes, though the blazer-denim combination leans toward the agency type – those working in media, the arts or Google-esque start-ups. Letting those creative juices flow, start with your blazer; selecting a weightier herringbone or textural tweed in winter and a cotton or linen blend in summer. Single-breast is best with denim – the double-breasted jacket looking a touch nautical over jeans for work.
The shirt deserves experimentation too. Go for wide check or vertical stripe for a classic print or an on trend retro design, keeping the repetitive motifs (sail boats, palm trees or hibiscus flowers) tasteful in size and colour.
The jeans should be slim, never skinny or boot cut – but trouser-shaped in fit and cloth weight. Finally, shoes look sharp in suede – as a loafer or brogue – but keep the socks on for the office.
Suits With Sneakers
Channelling the active wear influence on men’s fashion and tailoring, look to luxury sneakers for a sport-inspired business look.
Before you start throwing things, we understand that sneakers are totally uncouth at certain workplaces, so keep the kicks for casual Fridays or if you’re part of a more innovative workplace – in regards to dress-code.
The suit needs to be lightweight (think cotton/linen, summer wool or an active jersey fabric) with heavy tweeds and herringbones typically too formal and hefty with sneakers.
Socks add a smartness to the suit – especially with a tie, pocket square and waistcoat – or if you’re wanting more active accents, supplement the button down shirt for a tee – and loose the socks for urban freshness inspired by the weekend.
The sneakers must be minimal, slim in silhouette and kept clean – cared for meticulously just as you would a dress shoe.
Final Word On Business Suits
The key to stylish office dressing is balancing creativity with courtesy. Adhere to the rules of the workplace (your boss does determine the likelihood of a promotion) so don’t offend with eccentric suit colours, neon shirts, peacock pocket squares.
But don’t fall prey to dull tailoring either – letting your choice of suit, shirt and shoes show upper management (and colleagues) exactly why you’re the man for the job. And your dream job, hereafter.