Dressing formally on a regular basis requires a number of menswear staples, including a good quality wool suit in navy or charcoal, a selection of cotton shirts, seven to ten silk ties and a couple of pairs of good leather shoes. Read on for my list of dos and don’ts when it comes to formal business dressing.
DO choose the correct style. A one-button jacket suits short men, a double-breasted suit is ideal for slim men, broad gents look good in a two-button jacket and tall, heavy built men look best in a three-button suit.
DON’T wear your suit with a button-down shirt. This shirt is a casual style and therefore works against the neatness of the suit.
DON’T ignore button etiquette. If you’re wearing a one-button jacket fasten the button, if you’re wearing a two-button jacket fasten the top button and if you’re wearing a three-button jacket fasten the middle button.
DO think about your trousers. Flat-fronted trousers are more contemporary but trousers with pleats can be more forgiving on expanding waistlines.
DON’T overdo the dry cleaning. A good suit is made of wool, a natural fibre, and too much dry cleaning can play havoc with the material. Most of the time a simple brush and press is all that is required.
DO tuck your shirt in. The exception to the rule is when it’s a casual shirt with a straight cut bottom hem that hangs above the hip bone.
DON’T clash your patterns. A general rule of thumb is to keep your shirt and tie patterns different scales. The pattern on your tie should never be more noticeable than the one on your shirt.
DO know your shoe styles. The classic business fail-safes are brogues or Oxfords. The Derby and the monk shoe are smart-casual. The loafer and boot are the most casual.
DO invest in quality. Choose calf leather because it’s soft, flexible and durable. With periodic maintenance (resoling and reheeling) a good pair of shoes will be a companion for life.
DON’T underestimate brown shoes. Black may be de rigueur for formal occasions but brown shoes are a stylish and more contemporary choice for the office. Wear with navy or charcoal suits.
DO polish shoes regularly but briefly. Use shoe polish or wax if you have it. If you run out, find a clean cloth and make do with a quick spit and polish.
DON’T wear the same pair of shoes for two days running; allow time for them to rest for a day. Place wooden shoe trees inside to absorb moisture and help them keep their shape.
DON’T tuck your tie into your trousers. It should hang just above your waistband.
DO wear suitable cufflinks. Coloured cufflinks should match a colour in your tie or shirt. Cufflinks with semi-precious stones are more formal. If in doubt, opt for a classic pair in sterling silver.
DON’T accept a scruffy collar. Use brass or sterling silver collar stiffeners (also known as collar stays). They’ll smarten up your formal shirt and stop any dreaded sagging towards the end of the day.