Menswear – Putting Together A Business Wardrobe


It’s easier for men to build a professional wardrobe, but as with many other things, it’s getting started that is the toughest! Let’s talk this time about Accessorizing your Business Wardrobe, and check out the website for additional articles in this series.

Okay, guys, we’ve talked about suits and touched on the foundation garments known as dress shirts, let’s talk about accessories. I suggest you take the conservative road with regard to your business suits, especially when you are just building a wardrobe.

Conservatively-styled suits may not get you noticed at a dance club, but they will certainly be a better investment for your professional life. A good, basic man’s suit will last for years, especially if you’ve taken into account my tips on fabric, construction and color.

Accessorizing your suit with relation to neckties and cuff links are just one way you can add a unique personal touch to your look. Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up.

When selecting shoes to complement your business wardrobe, consider your own likes and dislikes. Do you prefer lace-up shoes or loafers? Lace-up shoes are a bit more conservative, so if in doubt, start with a lace-up shoe. Loafers are perfectly acceptable, though I would emphasize that you should look for a sleek, lower cut shoe rather than a pair of penny loafers.

Shoe color can be a subject for confusion, so let’s lay the ground rules: Black shoes can be worn with just about every suit, however, men with warmer coloring can also wear brown. A good pair of dark brown shoes will also complement a navy or charcoal suit. There is also a dark red-brown color (Cordovan) that will harmonize with a lot of different dark suits and bring a little personal accent to the overall effect.

As a general rule, socks should match or at least tonally relate to your trousers. Today’s man has a wide variety of shades and patterns to choose from, but be careful not to make your legs the focal point of your business look by choosing socks that are too light. Black dress socks with black shoes are a pretty safe bet if you’re unsure.

You can select from over-the-calf or mid-calf socks, but I find on most men that the mid-calf sock can sometimes cause a funny little dance called the “pull up the socks shuffle”. If in doubt, stay with an over-the-calf sock.

Athletes and men with larger legs and calves may have to shop at a specialty store to avoid a too-tight sock that will cause discomfort or cut off circulation. Socks below mid-calf are absolutely out of the question for a business look. “Showing a little leg” is inappropriate and is considered unprofessional.

The color of your belt should always match your shoes. This means a brown belt will NOT work with black shoes. There are a variety of patterns and buckle styles to choose from. A glossy, shiny belt might be a choice for a man in a creative, yet professional occupation, and a smooth leather belt with little shine is a better choice for a conservative occupation like Law or Banking.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but save the overly-large belt buckles (those the size of small cars) for outside of business hours. Most businessmen won’t own or wear a very large belt buckle for normal business activities. Even in locations where larger belt buckles are commonplace (Texas, for example) they are rarely worn for business occasions. Take your lead from the business leaders in your community – but realize that the longer a man has been in business and the more successful he is, the less traditional dressing rules on accessories apply to him.

Neckties have traditionally been a creative outlet for men in their business dress. It’s a chance to let some of your personality show through, though there are still rules to be considered. If you are wearing a solid white or blue dress shirt (and you should be, if you read my previous article on Dress Shirts), you have a lot of latitude when choosing neck wear.

Patterns and stripes are appropriate for wearing with solid color shirts, but don’t choose a too-wild pattern. The focus should be on your face, and people should be listening to what you have to say, not staring at your tie. This also means that ‘musical’ or ‘flashing’ novelty ties should not be worn for everyday business. They can occasionally be worn for personal or family occasions, but even there, be careful. Stripes, small geometric patterns and paisleys all continue to be popular, but avoid the novelty ties. People just won’t take you seriously when you wear that Hula Girl tie.

When selecting a necktie for a patterned shirt, consider a large patterned necktie with a small patterned shirt (or vice versa). Don’t match large patterns in a shirt with large patterns in a necktie. There will be too much visual interest and no place for a person’s eye to rest.

Cuff links are a matter of purely personal choice. A man preferring French cuff shirts can have a great deal of fun choosing cuff link styles and colors. They are considered jewelry, a means of self-expression.

If you are warmer-toned in your coloring, by all means choose gold, warm metals or enamels, and warmer-toned stones like amber to wear with your shirts. If you are cooler-toned in your coloring, choose silver, platinum, gemstones in rich, dark colors and bright enamels to complement your suits and your own coloring. The sky is virtually the limit!

One last point on the accessory that can provide that extra little ‘oomph’ in your polish and finished business attire: the pocket square. They are very simple accessories that add that touch of elegance to your business look.

Select a color that accentuates your necktie (i.e. a gold pocket square for a navy-and-gold patterned tie and a navy suit), but don’t fall into the safe-but-boring world of matching ties and pocket squares. Since they are inexpensive, purchase several and tuck one into your pocket every day. The easiest way to find good colors is to purchase them at the same time you purchase your ties.

For more information on this topic or to get specific help with your personal and professional image questions, contact Dianne M. Daniels at:

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Twitter: ImageCoachDiane

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Author: Uzumaki Naruto

"I want to see this market as a sharing market. Where merchants and customers sincerely support one another."

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