The words business-professional attire hold certain expectations of formality.

A conservative or corporate office expects its employees to look polished. Indeed, it is a professional setting, and employees need to match their surroundings.

Presenting yourself at work signifies respect for your role in your company and society. It signals to your coworkers, your boss, and clients that you care about your work.

Business-professional attire for men is simple to pull off and looks good on everyone. But first, I want to dig a little deeper into its meaning.

What is a Professional Business Attire?

Until the advent of the different dress codes within the past few decades, there was only one way to dress for an office: a suit, dress shirt, and tie.

In fact, it still exists today. Only now do we call it a business professional dress code.

what is a business professional dress code for men

Suits were the only business attire for most of the 20th century. The styles of the suits may have changed over the years, but the sentiment has not.

Dressing for success is still valued. Besides, most workplaces always want their employees to look their best.

However, each office will have its definition of what is acceptable in its space.

Business Casual vs. Business-Professional Dress Code

Dress codes for offices have varying degrees of formality. Business professional is the top tier in dressing for your job.

Business casual, however, is becoming more popular in the workplace, competing with trendy smart casual.

business-casual dress code attire for men

Business professional attire is highly polished and conservative. The business casual is more relaxed and less formal.

However, both dress codes still require a certain level of care and maintenance.

The main difference between business casual and business professional is the role of suits. A suit is required for business-professional attire but not mandatory for business casual.

business formal dress code attire for men

In addition, there is no veering from business-professional rules; it is formal, allowing very little interpretation.

On the other hand, business casual tends to run on a spectrum of how dressy you are expected to be based on your office guidelines.

Keep in mind that business casual attire has many different interpretations. Until you get a good grasp on what exactly it means in your workplace, err on the side of dressy.

Business Professional Attire for Men

Obliging the rules of a business-professional environment means wearing appropriate and accurate business-professional attire.

Harvey Specter wears his business-professional suit

The basics of achieving a business-professional look have remained the same for decades.

The suit is the central piece, with a dress shirt, tie, and good shoes filling in the details. A man only needs a few of these pieces to mix and match to create multiple high-style looks for work.

Dark-Colored Suit

Every professional business wardrobe should start with a dark two- or three-piece suit.

Charcoal grey or navy are the best color choices for business professional suits.

navy vs. charcoal formal business suit color choices

Lighter colors are more casual; dark is safest in conservative office settings.

Understated pinstripes or pinpoints add a bit of diversity to the fabric.

The number of buttons on the jacket should be two or three if it is a single-breasted suit. Both are acceptable, though a two-button suit looks more modern and helps you appear less stuffy.

A double-breasted suit is another suit jacket style that’s acceptable for formal business wear. It may have four or six buttons.

single-breasted vs. double-breasted suit jacket style

You will find two lapel styles on suits that are proper for business casual: peak and notch lapels. Both are acceptable for the business-professional dress code.

A notch lapel is the best style to choose; it is the traditional standard, and it always looks good. Anybody can look elegant in a notch lapel jacket.

what is a notch lapel suit jacket

A peak lapel is a more formal style but also a bit more “power-hungry”. It’s usually a part of bold and conservative power suits, giving a stronger look.

what is peak lapel suit jacket

For this reason, you may not want to incorporate too many suit jackets with this style into your business-professional ensemble. They may be too flashy for your environment.

Suit pants can either have pleats or a flat front. Inward-facing pleats are a popular option that also makes the dress pants more comfortable when sitting.

what are flat-front pants

The pant legs can be cuffed or plain at the ankles. Uncuffed dress pants are viewed as more formal and, therefore, competent for business-professional attire.

Dress Shirt

Every man who owns a suit should already own at least one collared, button-up, long-sleeved white dress shirt. It is a staple for every business attire.

Matching a white dress shirt with a navy suit

Light blue and pale blue dress shirts are also common business attire to add a bit of variety to your appearance.

In addition, your dress shirt may have a texture or a very subtle engrained design in the fabric.

Business-professional dress shirts have either barrel cuffs or French cuffs.

french cuff vs. barrel cuff

French cuffs are slightly more professional and allow for some self-expression through cufflinks. Remember to keep this adornment appropriate and nothing too fancy.

It is essential that your dress shirt fits well and does not balloon out. An ill-fitting shirt can ruin an otherwise perfectly polished look.

Vest (optional)

Vests lend an exquisite look to your ensemble and can be very flattering for most people.

how to wear suit vest

A vest is a very tailored look; however, the rest of your suit must be low-key. A trendy cut or pattern on the suit can be too busy looking and ruin the vest’s sophistication.

Your vest should fit your form well; if it is baggy, you will look sloppy. It must be long enough to cover your waistband; do not wear a belt with a vest.

Another item to leave at home when you wear a vest is a tie clip. It would only be redundant because the vest will hold your tie down just as well as the tie clip does.

When wearing a vest, leave the bottom button undone. It will help the vest sit on your frame and your hips better. Also, it will not inch up when you sit down.


A conservative setting requires a conservative tie. A solid color is the best and safest choice.

wearing a solid dark grey tie with a charcoal suit

Do not draw too much attention to your tie. Stick to neutral colors and nothing overly bright. The colors of your suit, shirt, and tie are linked to each other and should be chosen wisely.

If you wear a black suit in formal business settings, you will want to keep your tie black. A black suit with a black tie is the epitome of business-formal attire and is appropriate for every office setting.

Again, make sure the tie and shirt match. You may want to incorporate some stripes or small patterns for some flair, but keep the look simple and not flashy.

wearing striped shirt and striped tie

Silk is a classic fabric for a formal tie. You can also mix in grenadine or a knit tie for day wear but do not combine it with other texture experimentation.

Dress Shoes

Business professional shoes are an essential part of business attire and indispensable for office wear.

Matching your shoes with your suit is just as important as finding the right shoe type.


The Oxford shoe is a timeless classic that is a perfect pairing with a suit. It is a closed-lacing shoe with a low heel and gives an excellent formal look.

oxford dress shoes style

Oxfords are very versatile and are a must-have in every well-dressed man’s wardrobe.

Black pairs with everything and adds a touch of elegance to every suit. Patent leather Oxfords are very dapper and will be the perfect shoe for your evening attire.

Brown can look very nice with a dark grey or navy suit, though it is not as conservative as black.


Derby shoes are the second most popular shoe after Oxfords. They are slightly less formal due to their construction since they have an open lacing system.

derby dress shoes style

This open appearance makes the shoe a tad bulkier than the Oxford, creating difficulty when pairing it with particular suits.

There are two common toe styles for derby shoes. A plain toe is the most formal of the Derbys, with zero embellishments.

On the other hand, a cap toe also looks nice and can add a splash of style.


A loafer is a slip-on shoe usually not recommended for formal business settings. If you decide to wear one, it has to be with a straightforward design and no embellishments.

loafer dress shoes style

For the best appearance, you can choose either dark brown or black patent leather loafer for your formal business attire.

It is the least formal footwear for business-professional settings because it relaxes the suit’s look.


As strict as business professional dress codes may be, you are welcome to add your personal stamp on a suit and tie by accessorizing.


If you opt for French cuffs, your cufflinks should be metal, with no gemstones.

suit accessories: the cufflinks

All metal you wear should match, so check your watch, tie clip, etc., to be sure they complement each other. Silver is a more conservative choice.

Knot cufflinks are very versatile. They look fantastic with business professional clothes but can be used for business casual or even smart casual.


A plain white cotton or linen handkerchief is a classic that you can never go wrong with. Silk gives a lovely touch that is even more formal.

wearing a white pocket square with a navy suit

If you want a bit of color, you can find a handkerchief that will complement or contrast your tie. Also, do not pick a random color without checking it against your tie.


The perfect watch can effortlessly pull together your entire look. But without one, the whole business-professional attire can look incomplete or empty.

how to match the metal watch with the rest of your attire

Your watch should be understated. A dark leather band dress watch should match your shoes and your belt. Do not forget to make sure the metal in your watch matches the other metal in your outfit.

Watches don’t have to be expensive. In fact, there are plenty of affordable watch choices that can drastically enhance your look.

Things to Avoid

It is good to have some advice on the things you need to include in your business-professional wardrobe. However, it is equally important to know the things that you should never include.

Suit Is Not Well-Fitted

Make sure the suit fits perfectly on you. If your suit is too large, it makes you look unkempt, no matter how sophisticated it is.

Get yourself a good tailor. He can whip that baggy suit into shape, and you will be more comfortable in it.

how should a suit fit

Another option would be to invest in a made-to-measure suit. It does not have to be a luxury reserved only for the elite. After all, it’s your everyday office wear.

Too Much Fashion-Forward Suit

If your setting is very conservative, that is not the time or the place to show off your impeccable fashion sense. You want to fit in and not stand out in any fashion-related way.

Avoid too many accessories on your business suit

Avoid too many accessories with your suit.

If the environment is not ultra-conservative, feel free to be slightly on-trend, but do not go overboard. Pick one detail to embellish; any more than one will look tacky.

Neglected Shoes

If your dress shoes are scuffed and beat up, you better shine them or toss them. If the heels are worn, take them to a shoe repair shop.

When you invest in top-of-the-line footwear, your dress shoes should last you a very long time.

It may cost you a bit extra now, but you will save money later by not needing to replace your shoes very often.

Top 10 Business-Professional Attire Shops

Knowing where to begin looking for the perfect office wear can be overwhelming.

If you are on a budget, it can seem even more daunting. I will talk about the ten best business attire shops, with the quality of suits in mind.

Some of these shops offer some pretty expensive suits, although it’s safe to conclude that most are affordable.

It’s not an extensive list of the best suit brands, but it will still give you a clear look at what we’re after.

Hugo Boss

Hugo Boss is a classic brand in suits. Every suit on this label is very sophisticated.

Gerard Butler in Hugo Boss suit

There are no bold offerings here, only traditional colors and styles. You will find a variety of cuts here to flatter most body types and fit all occasions.


You will not find any Bonobos stores; instead, look for their “guideposts” to help you with your suit selection. They provide excellent customer service, working with you to narrow down their vast collection.

Bonobos suits collection for men

Their suits are well crafted with great attention to detail and are made of fine materials with a precise cut.

Tommy Hilfiger

Famous worldwide, this uniquely American brand specializes in offering a modern look.

tommy hilfiger suits

This label is known for its preppy, crisp style that stands out among competitors. But do not let the popular name brand fool you; Tommy Hilfiger suits are also affordable.


This company has only been around for 20 years, offering ready-to-wear and made-to-measure suits and other business attire.

Suitsupply: business-professional attire store

Suitsupply offers many designs, fabrics, and patterns at prices men can afford to pay. In addition, their suits have a clean look and are customizable.


Indochino is a reasonably priced, made-to-measure internet suit company. They provide you with video instructions on how to get your measurements yourself accurately.

Indochino business-professional attire

If you aren’t comfortable with that, they will measure you in one of their showrooms.

They offer many styles to create your look, but beware that they have a no-return policy.

Calvin Klein

The brand offers top-quality suits that are custom-made from high-end fabrics.

Nick Jonas wears Calvin Klein suit

Calvin Klein is for you if you’re trendy and want to wear a contemporary wardrobe for a fairly affordable price. They are a bit on the pricey side, but it is difficult not to fall in love with their clean and simple designs.

Black Lapel

This trendy store may not offer a large selection of business suits, but the ones they do offer are perfectly classic.

Black Lapel men's suit

The company does not offer a ton of variety of materials to keep costs down for their customers.

However, you can rest easy when ordering online from Black Lapel as with any other online store; they accept returns if you are unsatisfied.


NordstromThis upscale department store offers great brands all in one spot. Nordstrom suit collections are reasonably high priced, but not outrageously so. If you wait for a sale, you can find a great suit at a great price.


Macy's logoMacy’s is another department store offering a superb selection of office wear and business attire. Their frequent sales make some of their suits, especially their higher-end ones, a real steal. Macy’s is excellent for basic suit staples, too. You almost don’t even want to wait for one of their sales.


Amazon logoWhen it comes to business attire, they have far too many choices to sort through. In fact, you can find almost any suit you are looking for, and sometimes with killer deals. In addition, Amazon frequently offers fast and free shipping.

Bonus: The Tie Bar

The Tie Bar logoNow that you’ve got the suit, it is time to spice it up! You can’t have a suit without a tie. Tie Bar offers every type of tie imaginable, and they don’t feel excessively expensive. You might be tempted to select several. And don’t forget to order yourself a tie bar or two before checking out. They have inexpensive offerings in many sizes.

Alexander Stoicoff

Author: Alexander Stoicoff

Hi, I’m Alex, and I’ve studied and specialized in styling in Rome. Through my writing, I want to help men dress well and learn the purpose and significance of suits and other formal attire. My final goal is to make men more confident in their wardrobe choice and life in general.