The Shirt and Tie Dress Code

The trend toward dressing up for business seems to be getting stronger every month. Managers of service businesses, such as banks, advertising agencies and accounting firms, are leading the way in requiring their employees to wear shirts and ties to work. During difficult economic times, it seems as though clients want their bankers and accountants to dress like bankers and accountants. Whether you are joining a company with a formal business dress code, or your current employer just issued the "back to dressing up" memorandum, we thought it would be helpful to discuss how to put together a thoroughly professional business wardrobe.

Let's start with the suit. A good suit is expensive, so we recommend that you purchase suits that offer the maximum amount of flexibility. Select a medium weight wool fabric, rather than a heavier flannel, for your first few purchases. This will allow you to wear the garment for 9-10 months out of the year. Start with basic colors, such as navy and gray, in either a solid or stripe. Taking this conservative approach to pattern and color will offer greater opportunities to accessorize in different ways, and will allow you to wear the garment more often than you would a more fashion forward suit. Finally, stick with a two or three-button model, which will remain in style for as long as you own the suit.

If your "shirt and tie" dress environment allows you to wear a sportcoat, rather than a suit, the same logic applies. Select tropical weight wool or wool gabardine trousers in neutral tones, such as gray, tan, navy or olive. Start with a basic navy blazer, along with a few sportcoats in traditional patterns such as herringbone, glen plaid or houndstooth. Match the secondary color of the sportcoat pattern to the trouser to assure that your ensemble is well coordinated.

Start your dress shirt collection with 6-8 basic 100% cotton dress shirts. If you are not particularly adept with an iron, and you don't want to pay for professional laundering, invest a little extra in 100% cotton non-iron shirts. Select a collar style that complements your features. If you are tall and thin with a narrow face, a traditional straight collar will accentuate those features. Choose a spread collar instead. Conversely, a spread collar will further emphasize a round face, so those with that feature should choose a European or traditional straight collar. If you are uncertain, a Park Avenue or modified spread collar will work for most men.

With regard to color, white and blue solids, as well as blue pinstripes, are the most conservative choices. You can dress them up with a contrasting white collar and cuff. Once you have satisfied these basic requirements, you can select from a variety of patterns that are fairly timeless, such as Bengal stripes, mini-checks and end on ends.

Although we have recommended a conservative approach to starting your wardrobe, we encourage you to have some fun with your accessories. Matching a colorful tie to a basic suit and shirt is a relatively simple task. If you are wearing a patterned shirt, you can still make a statement with your neckwear. Just remember to match a small patterned shirt with a larger patterned tie, and vice versa. If you enjoy French cuff shirts, there are wonderful cufflinks available to complement them. Select anything from an elegant silver oval to a whimsical fishing motif.

We will close here with a few more tips to round out your wardrobe. The color of your socks should always match the color of your trousers. Shoes and belt should coordinate in both color and styling. And, of course, a stylish pocket square always adds a dash of elegance to any ensemble.

Click here to view our dress shirt collection.
Click here to view our necktie collection.

If you have any additional questions about seasonal trends please contact us at PFadvisor@paulfredrick.com.