Definition of Business Attire for Men

by Barbie Carpenter

Men's business attire falls into two categories: business professional and business casual. While the former is a conservative look calling for a dark suit, the latter gives men more flexibility in what they wear to work. Choosing work-appropriate attire requires evaluating the office dress code and mixing and matching the right pieces for a suitable look.

Business Professional Basics

Business professional attire calls for a dark suit in neutral hues of black, gray, brown or navy. Choose a solid-colored suit or one with subtle pinstripes -- avoid busy patterns.

Your pants should match your suit and be an appropriate length, touching the front of your shoe but falling above the heel in the back.

Wear a conservative, pressed button-down shirt. Stick with safe colors, such as white or light blue. Pair that shirt with an equally conservative tie. Patterns are acceptable, but opt for classic patterns, such as stripes, herringbone or plaid, rather than bold ones.

Business Casual Tips

A business casual setting allows you to replace the suit with more casual clothing combinations.

  • Pants: Choose khaki, cotton or gabardine pants that are free of wrinkles. Colors can go beyond the classic black and gray -- light gray, light tan and other brighter neutrals are acceptable.
  • Shirts: Collared shirts are appropriate -- choose either long-sleeved button-down shirts or short-sleeved golf shirts. Brighter colors, such as red, royal blue or orange, and bolder patterns, such as gingham, are welcomed in business casual environments.
  • Blazers: While ties aren't required business casual wear, you can opt to wear a blazer with an open-collared shirt. Blazers in neutral shades -- black, navy, gray and brown -- pair well with the shirts in your closet.
  • Sweaters: For an added layer, wear a sweater in any hue over a button-down shirt. If you pair a sweater with a patterned shirt, wear a neutral sweater, such as taupe or gray, or pull a color out of the pattern and wear a coordinating sweater.

Appropriate Accessories

Both business professional and business casual attire calls for some basic accessories:

  • Belt: Choose a leather belt that matches your shoes.
  • Shoes: Brown or black leather shoes work well for both styles of dress. A black lace-up patent leather oxford works well with suits. Slip-on leather loafers are appropriately business casual. Leather shoes should be well polished and free of scuffs.
  • Socks: Choose solid-colored socks in dark hues that coordinate with your outfit.
  • Jewelry: Go simple on the jewelry when you're headed to the office. A sentimental ring, such as a wedding ring or a college ring, and a conservative watch are all you need.

Business Wear FAQs

Determine whether your attire is appropriate for your office dress code.

  • Jeans: Some offices accept jeans as business casual; others do not. Once you confirm that jeans are appropriate, make sure your jeans are dark wash and free of rips, tears or wear.
  • Suit jacket: Choose a single-breasted suit rather than a double-breasted suit. Button the jacket when standing, and unbutton it when sitting.
  • Tattoos and piercings: To align with your conservative professional attire, cover up tattoos and piercings until you assess the culture of your office.

Photo Credits

  • Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Getty Images

About the Author

Barbie Carpenter worked as a technical writer and editor in the defense industry for six years. She also served as a newspaper feature page editor and nationally syndicated columnist for the Hearst Corp. Carpenter holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Florida and a graduate certificate in professional writing from the University of Central Florida.