Dress Codes Explained
Up To Code
Professional attire is the look that gentlemen wear in very professional environments. It's the uniform of lawyers, bankers, professors, Wall Street traders, and other business environments where decorum and professionalism are woven into the culture and fabric of the organization.
When a gentleman is dressed in professional attire, he's communicating that he is about taking care of some serious business. His outfit says that his focus is sharp, that he's intellectually capable, and he's intent about the work that needs to be accomplished. There is a high level of respect that comes with this look.
Navy is considered the power colour, but both grey and black also make strong business suits. A plain white shirt is always a great option but you can spice it up with textured shirts or small & inconspicuous designs like graph checks or pencil stripes. Blue, grey, & black are standard business colours for ties. Don’t feel limited as there are varying shades of blue and grey, and designs such as polka dots, stripes, and paisley are great ways to add more style without over doing it.
White, straight-fold handkerchiefs as a pocket square add a crisp and classic element to the overall look. Coloured pocket squares can work depending on the environment. Your shoes should be the same colour as your belt; brown or black. Again, shades of brown vary so there is still a lot of variety available. The safest bet is to stay with solid socks that match your trousers.
Business casual is a casual look that is made for a professional environment. Even though the look is a more comfortable one, it’s still supposed to illustrate a high level of professionalism.
On business trips, at a business lunch, or a day at the office, things occasionally get more relaxed. The business casual dress code therefore allows you a more relaxed choice of clothes and is less formal than business attire. Nevertheless, your appearance should remain upmarket and professionally presentable.
The key to this look is combining business wear with selected casual elements in a targeted way. A suit without a tie, a light shirt, and lace-up shoes - Oxfords or loafers, for example - paired with a flat watch, a belt & bag that match your shoes will put you on the right track.
A separate jacket or blazer with a button-up shirt, shoes that are less formal than Oxfords but smarter than trainers (e.g. brogues or loafers), and an optional tie is also advisable. Just avoid striking colours & patterns. You don't want to look too sporty or colourful as it reduces the professionalism of your look.
Black tie events, generally, are less formal than white tie events, but more formal than creative black tie events – it is reserved for social functions and evening events, such as awards ceremonies, a milestone birthday party, a grandiose wedding, or a prestigious ball. Some of these events will be reflected on as among the greatest memories of your life. That means there’s no cutting corners!
Customarily, a black tie dress code is less regulated than a white tie dress code, so more latitude for variation is given for this aesthetic. The dinner suit or tuxedo is the principal element for men at a black tie event.
A black, midnight blue, or white jacket with ribbed silk facings on a shawl collar or peaked lapel on top of trousers with a single silk or satin braid covering the outer seams will ensure you're up to code at a black tie event. Your dress shirt should be white and feature French cuffs and a turn-down or detachable wing collar. A black cummerbund or a low-cut waistcoat and a black ribbed silk bow tie matching the lapel facings are a must.
Finish the formal look off with black dress socks and black shoes — highly polished or patent leather Oxfords, or patent leather court shoes.
Creative Black Tie
The Creative Black Tie dress code is considered the least formal aesthetic in the formal wear category. It's a new school twist on traditional formal wear.
Normally, Black Tie asks you to operate within strictly defined parameters to create a uniform effect. It’s not, out of respect for your hosts and the occasion, the time to flex your fashion muscles. This, however, is an invitation – albeit a vague one – to do something a little more unusual than the typical penguin suit!
The Creative Black Tie dress code invites you to have fun with traditional black tie attire while maintaining a similar level of polish. Therefore, it’s the perfect dress code to showcase your flair for fashion.
To do so, take the standard black tie dinner suit or tuxedo and add your own spin... You could choose a unique material, such as velvet, an unusual colour or pattern, or even some statement accessories. Trainers? Maybe... How far you can push it really depends on the hosts and the context and whether your overall appearance is still suitable for a formal setting.