A Man’s Guide to Putting Together a Wardrobe for Work

mens workwear

They say that clothes don’t make the man, but what you wear to work can influence how others perceive you. The following wardrobe principles can help you take control of your narrative and leave a positive, lasting impression on those for whom it matters:

1. Determine your dress code.

A man’s work wardrobe is usually informed by the type of work that he does or the industry that he’s in. The good news is that most organizations that want their employees to project a certain look or image will enforce a traditional or smart casual dress code in the workplace, simplifying the process considerably.

However, there is a growing number of office-based professions where the style rules are much more fluid. The dreaded “business casual” dress code is where most guys get tripped up, as many are unsure of which side of the spectrum they’re meant to lean towards. Our advice? Look around at what your colleagues and bosses are wearing and take your style cues from them. Additionally, whether your workplace swings more towards the business or casual side, it still means no t-shirts, no denim jeans, and no sneakers.

If your workplace does not enforce a dress code, what they really mean is that you can wear casual attire to work. In this case, think “casual restaurant” when putting together your outfit for the day. You’ll want to wear something that’s presentable enough for polite company. Try not to wear ripped jeans, dirty shoes, or anything that has holes or tears.

2. Wear the right socks.

Most men tend to take their socks for granted as sights unseen. Given that these accessories are mostly kept out of view, guys don’t usually see the point in making an effort with them.

What they don’t realize is that wearing the right socks doesn’t just elevate your look, but it can contribute to your comfort as well. Squeezing a pair of thick cotton gym socks into the narrow profile of a formal shoe looks laughable and is bound to feel a little tight. Instead, you can buy Burlix standing over-the-calf socks. These pairs encourage graduated compression to relieve pressure on the legs while still being thin enough to fit comfortably into your favorite office dress shoes.

3. Do away with distressed clothes.

There’s a time and place for distressed clothes, but the workplace isn’t it. After a certain age, wearing clothes that are stained, ripped, or torn—on purpose or not—is just tacky, even if you work in a creative field where such pieces could be par for the course.

Most modern offices allow men to freely express themselves through their style, and you should absolutely take advantage of that privilege. However, you don’t want to lean so hard into it that the overall effect is sloppy or unkempt. Get your clothes mended or repaired when necessary, and know to let them go when they’re past that point. Wearing neat, clean clothes is the easiest way to convey professionalism.

4. Invest in the basics.

Basic essentials form the core of your wardrobe. These are the clothes that will make up the uniform of sorts that you’ll be wearing day in and day out, so it’s worth putting some money towards quality pieces that are both well-made and durable.

What you consider your outerwear basics will differ according to your workplace’s dress code. Underwear and socks that both fit well and are comfortable also count towards basics, though. Make sure they stay tucked in and don’t ride up or droop under your clothes.

5. Keep to a neutral palette.

Color is yet another aspect of workplace fashion where men typically suffer. A lot of guys don’t consider themselves particularly well-versed in color matching. Fortunately, you don’t have to master color theory in order to dress well. Sticking to neutral shades can make it easier to put together outfits in the morning, because these colors always go well with each other and never clash with any other color you might want to wear.

Examples of neutral colors include white, black, gray, and navy blue. Earthy shades of dark green and brown, as well as khaki and sand-colored shades, are also considered neutral. From here, all you need to do is employ contrast to maintain the balance of the look. It’s simple: light versus dark, solids versus prints. Don’t wear too much of any one thing, and you shouldn’t go wrong.

6. Pay attention to your footwear.

As stated above, just being neat and clean can create a world of difference in your appearance. This means making sure that your shoes—whether you’re wearing leather oxfords, suede boots, or sneakers to work—are as spotless and stain-free as you can make them. Don’t presume that no one will notice just because they go on your feet; you’d be surprised at just how many will.

Dressing appropriately for work doesn’t have to be a struggle. In a lot of ways, it’s simply about elevating your personal style to create the right impression. These tips should help you overthink less so that you can focus more on being a boss!

Disclosure: This article was written by a guest author.

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