Prior to the 1970s the question of ‘what to wear in the office’ was very simple: you wore a suit. That went for both men and women. Men wore two or three piece suits with ties and women wore two-piece suit separates (think Jackie O), usually with a skirt as the classic women’s pantsuit of today was considered quite scandalous—until the 1980s power suit came along, that is. It’s said now that only 1 in 10 people wear a suit to the British office each day. It may be because of the upswing of the ‘business casual’ movement or the fact that tech billionaires opts for jeans and t-shirts, but either way, suits are not always an office staple. But that doesn’t mean that suits—or a smarter look—are out. Here’s what to wear in the office.

The boss/manager

Ever notice how most of the people in ‘corporate’ at your office wear full-on suits? It shows that you mean business and are there to be taken seriously. With suits these days, there are so many classic options and ways to express you style, so even if you’re the boss or a manager, it’s still possible to display some personality with your look.

One way to express that is by wearing a bespoke suit—two or three piece—or a bespoke jacket paired with chinos. It’s best to go for more subtle smaller prints with your shirts—think small check print over a larger one or a plain, solid-colour shirt.

With your chinos, it’s best to stick to solid neutrals like grey, beige, black, and navy. These colours can easily be paired with a lighter suit jacket and shirts. For a manger’s shoes, it’s best to go with classic leather Oxfords, a pair in brown and a black pair. You can also pull off a classic French cuff, paired with fun cufflinks.

The deputy/office manager

If you’ve not quite hit the top of the ladder yet—which is perfectly fine—and you’re trying to smarten up, the deputy or office manager can wear a new suit (dress for the job you want). Stick with darker colours for the office like black, navy, dark green, and avoid summery colours (unless attending a function). Darker suits work well for rotating looks as well to get more from your pieces.

For example, you can wear your black suit on Monday and wear the black trousers again on Thursday, paired with a plain shirt and no jacket or a smart jumper for a different look later in the week. Your shoe options can be fun too such as wearing suede boots one day and smart Oxfords another. You can choose to wear ties or forego them completely; it’s up to you. You can also play with colour such as wearing tailored red chinos with a subtle matching shirt and jumper too.

Office worker

If you’re like most of us—the office worker—your look can be more playful, but if you’re trying to impress the boss, always go for the bespoke, fitted shirt. Why do celebrities look so great in their outfits (no matter their body shape, size, or type)? It’s because they have their clothing designed for them, tailored perfectly to their silhouette. A great look for someone who works in the office would be anything from light chinos paired with a green gingham check and boots to a suit with a subtle striped shirt. When buying a suit, stick with classic colours and avoid the ‘English country gentleman’ fabrics (tweeds—as wonderful as they are) or you’ll look like you’re dressed for going riding or clay shooting in the office. Add colour to your chinos and stick to classic wool fabrics with subtle patterns on your suits.

The administrative assistant/secretary

As a secretary or administrative assistant, if you’re the face of the company, you want to be seen to be smart. You can pull off anything from chinos and shirts to a classic suit. You can play with cuts, colours, and fabrics since you want to be seen as a fun face of the business, demonstrating a ‘cool’ look. Pull off those green chinos or that hot-pink tailored dress. Wear the trendy shoes and the colourful tailored shirts. Look smart, look professional, but have fun.

What do you wear to the office?

Has your office gone casual or do you still wear a suit each day? Let us know in the comments what you wear.

Want to smarten up this year?

Trying to impress your staff with your style or land that promotion? Appearance matters. The easiest way to smarten up your wardrobe is with custom suiting, trousers, and shirts. Contact our tailoring team today for help choosing your perfect look. Custom looks can make anyone feel confident, stylish, and a million bucks.

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Elaine Frieman

Elaine Frieman

Writer and editor from both sides of the pond with a Master's degree in British Victorian Literature and a love of fashion. Elaine Frieman is a dual British and American citizen (with a generic American accent); she has a love of people, travel, reading, writing, food, ballet, theatre, and cultures. And who doesn't love a good suit? She spent her childhood near the rolling green Pennines in the North of England; then she relocated to sunny palm-tree-laden Florida and moved further north to the deep-South Bible belt of Georgia. She currently lives in Todmorden, England with her boyfriend Michael, after having lived in Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, Weiden in der Oberpfalz, Germany, and in Oldham, England. No plans to relocate any time soon.

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