Dress Codes for the Modern Man

A guide to current OFFICE dress codes for the stylish gent

Words by Billy George

 Frederik Lentz Andersen in Paris. Photo by Adam Katz Sinding

Frederik Lentz Andersen in Paris. Photo by Adam Katz Sinding

 Photo via Men in this Town

Photo via Men in this Town

Fashion moves in leaps and bounds. Keeping up with every trend is almost a full time job, let alone applying these trends to your daily style. Yet, how do you apply these to your workplace dress codes without going over board or getting in trouble?

If you're here, then I thank you for having a bit of self-respect to want to improve or learn from trends and bringing into your own sense of style. 

One time or another, we've all been there. Fresh out of the shower with the towel wrapped around your waist staring and the mountain of shirts, slacks, blazers and knits that could all be layered together to form that perfect work outfit. I know it quite well. It's not easy bringing a different flare each and every day. 

We're no longer stuck behind our partitioned desks like some slaver monkeys. The world of social media has made us much more social in our work place. Brands are constantly seeking engaging content, so we're on the prowl for new experiences to share. 

Our busy modern world demands versatility. You MUST be able to go from the 'all business' look to 'lets play' outfit by shifting a few bits n' bobs around. Going from work to a function or a meeting requires a bit of thought to trigger your charm. 

These days, there are a lot of terms floating around for dress codes, but I'm only going to cover a couple of the main ones and break them right down. I mean, after all, what the hell is 'Beach Formal'.  

 Photo courtesy of MJ Bale

Photo courtesy of MJ Bale


Business first. This will bring your inner sartorial god out to play, and it's not your usual all-work-no-play thought pattern. Gents, when we say business, it's a suit, tie and shirt combo that will bust out your inner flair. 

Feel free to play around with different colours, materials and patterns that you wouldn't normally consider. Just don't go too overboard with it as you'll stand a fair bit further out in the office than you might think. In a sea of black and navy suits, you'll shine! 

There is one rule! Go see a tailor. You're not a calendar model who can get away with suits off the rack. Your blazer may be ok, but get your bottoms hemmed up and brought in where required. Get the suit to fit you, not the other way round. 

Business Casual

Now, business casual is a bit of a mix between Business and Smart Casual (which we'll run through next up). This is about taking on the Business mindset, and creating a playful image.

Do away with the tie, mix and match blazer and trouser into combinations that give off an air of ease and comfort. Fellas, this doesn't mean you can wear jeans! Though, you can sub trousers for chinos and a well fitted tee or sweater. What about footwear? Hmm. No sneakers but definitely anything from loafers right through to wing tips. This is your kind of 'casual Friday' look when requirements for all other days is pure business. 

Smart Casual

This is my favourite kind of dress code, where you get to have fun and experiment! This is a mix of Business Casual, yet provides the ability to a crisp pair of jeans or a clean-cut sneaker.

 Photo courtesy of @nami_man

Photo courtesy of @nami_man

Now now, don't read between the lines with this one. Please don't wear anything you would walk to the corner store in with your dog that you don't mind stepping into mud with - it has to be a clean sneaker you'd get from your more upper-class stores (forget anything you'd see at Foot Locker!

I tend to mix it up depending on what I'm feeling on the day. A crisp pair of blue jeans or slim trouser with a light knit (or tee on warmer days) and a nice blazer/bomber/coat. Add in a scarf (or bandana) if you want to add a bit more to the outfit. Accessories are the name of the game in this style of outfit so don't be scared to wear a ring (or 4 in my case), some bracelets and a nice watch. 

 Photo courtesy of @nami_man

Photo courtesy of @nami_man


If you're rarely customer-facing, some workplaces may allow you to get comfy. This can be a bit tricky because you don't want to look like a modern sk8ter boi. If I were you, I'd stick to some crispy denim and simple tee. Paired with some nice shoes (refer to Smart Casual), you'll be more than ok. 

 Andrew Garfield. Photo via Mr Porter

Andrew Garfield. Photo via Mr Porter

Black Tie / Cocktail

There may be the rare occasion that you're required to attend a specialty function. I don't mean meetings or Christmas functions, but your award nights, charity dinners and so forth. 

Trust me, you'll know you've got to dress up for these events - you'll have either been told or it'll be on an invitation. 

As you'll be representing yourself and the company you work for, this requires a bit more than just looking in your cupboard for a suit. Gents, I'm sorry but you'll either need to see reputable suit shop - don't worry, if you can't afford a new black-tie suit, there are ample rental suit shops out there so do a bit of research and get it sorted as soon as you can. Don't leave it for last minute!


Let's lay some ground rules beyond what we've already discussed. 

  1. Keep it classy.

  2. Dress your age. You're not a kid anymore, look the part!
  3. No shorts. Shorts aren't part of corporate wear. 
  4. No joggers/runners. Wear classy simple sneakers but stick away from anything you'd normally wear going for a run
  5. Think before you leave. Having a full length mirror in your room saves you trips to the bathroom. 
  6. Get a haircut! Keep yourself in line, it's your workplace after all! College ended a while ago!

Good luck!