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Business formal dress

Business formal is often confused or used interchangeably with business casual.

There is no harm in both making mistakes while talking. However, if you make the same mistake with your outfit then it will be a pity.

Professional business wardrobes became popular with the exponential growth in office jobs.

It is still in practice today, even though it has been modified into business casual in specific industries.
Let’s take a look at what defines business formal, so you never need to be confused again.

What is business formal dress?

Business formal dress

After the two world wars, the world saw an increase in office jobs. This paved the way for business formal dress to make its mark.

As a result, more and more men began to run for office. Since businesses wanted their employees to look professional in suits, this became the norm.

It was eventually classified as a business formal. Moreover, business formality became a symbol of success. Hence, the wearer of this dress code was considered to be doing well financially in life.

In terms of formality, it’s just above business casual attire. Nevertheless, it has some strict basic guidelines. The rest is in the hands of your workplace and what they want you to wear.

Business Casual vs Business Formal Attire

Difference Between Business Casual vs Business Formal

Business casual and business formal are both office dress codes. However, while business formal has strict rules, business casual is becoming more popular.

Face-to-face, business formal is exceptionally conservative and refined. In contrast, business casual is its more contemporary and relaxed counterpart.

The rules of wearing a suit help us to differentiate between the two. Where business formal attire mandates wearing a suit, business casual has no such compulsion.

In fact, the business is open to a myriad of casual interpretations. But, on the other hand, business formality allows little or no room for deviation from the rules.

However, since both the outfits are for the office, you cannot wear anything dressy.
The workspace needs downcast business wear that shows your seriousness rather than a trend.

If you’re not sure of your workplace’s exact guidelines, ask around.
If you still don’t have enough information for the dress code, make it look like you at least tried to stick to formality.

business formal dress

The rules of business formal dress haven’t changed in decades.
The main aspects of this costume include the primary suit. Other essentials such as shirt, tie, dress shoes and accessories complement the suit.
Let’s look at each element from a business formal perspective!


Men in charcoal gray suits, business formals

Any professional working man should have a dark, two- or three-piece suit in his closet.

Traditionally popular choices are navy or charcoal gray suits. Since lighter suits fall more on the casual end, I would suggest you keep them for a business casual day.

If you want to add a little excitement, opt for a fabric that has fewer pinpoints or pinstripes.

Keep a maximum of three buttons for a single-breasted suit. In contrast, a double-breasted jacket will require four or six buttons.

Also, you can wear only two lapel styles for business formal attire. These include notch and peak lapels with a preference for the collar style.

That’s because the notch is a traditional favorite that makes any man look sophisticated yet flexible. Whereas, the top zone (known as the “power” zone) falls more on the formal side, making you appear authoritative and impressive.

Lastly, suit matching pants should have a flat front or pleats. I would recommend inward-facing pleats as these dress pants give a snug fit that is excellent for the office.


If you’re a fashionable person, you probably already have a white, long-sleeved button-up dress shirt.

Luckily, it’s the foundation of any business formal outfit. However, a light blue shirt can also add zest to the look.

It’s also fine to wear a textured or subtly engraved shirt. Make sure the shirt has either French or barrel cuffs as this is what the dress code requires.

I would recommend buying French cuff formal shirts because they are more professional. Plus, French cuffs allow you to express your fashion-forward personality. However, keep them subtle and non-flashy.

Lastly, it’s important for your dress shirt to have the right fit. If the shirt is too tight or too loose on your body, none of what I said above will make a difference.


A man is adjusting his tie.

A conservative tie is a must for standard business formal attire. This is the reason why most offices make tie a mandatory part of the dress code.

However, you should be careful with bright, flashy ties. Keep colors neutral to avoid drawing too much attention.

Your safest option is a dark solid black tie that complements a crisp black suit. This is extreme business formal.

You may inadvertently mix other colors. However, make sure that the colors of your tie, shirt and suit complement each other.

Also, there would be no harm in experimenting with some small patterns or stripes. But keep it subtle.

Prefer silk tie as it is the perfect fabric for a formal tie. For daytime wear, a knit tie or mixed with grenadine works just as well. Don’t fall for any other texture, though.

dress shoes

Dress shoes are an important aspect of office wear. Fortunately, shoes for business formal offer many possibilities.

The first thing you need to do is find out the right type of shoes, be it oxfords, derbies or loafers. Once done, the next important step is to match the shoes with the suit.

Oxfords are a classic footwear choice with any suit. Black Oxfords will never fail you for business formal as they are incredibly versatile.

Derby shoes are second only to Oxfords because of the slight lack of formality between the two.

Make sure it is a plain toe derby as they are the most formal.

And if you feel that none of the two types of shoes work for you, then go for loafers. Despite the relaxed look of this shoe type, a Venetian loafer can still go with business formal.

Wear it on days when you want to be your most relaxed self. I would not recommend loafers for big meeting days or even interviews.


Accessories to Wear With Business Formal Attire

Presenting a professional look is always incomplete without accessories. In fact, it is the accessories that help in showcasing your true personality.

But before that, make sure that your dress is well ironed. Neckwear should be neat, and consider pocket squares to contrast or harmonize with your entire outfit.

It is appropriate to add a simple watch to a business outfit. Be sure to match the strap of the watch with the belt if it is leather.

Also, the belt should match the color of the shoes. For a chic business formal look it all comes down to choosing and matching each other.

Lastly, avoid visible piercings of any kind as they tend to look unprofessional. Also, wearing a low strength cologne is never a bad idea.

Tips on Dressing for a Formal Business Meeting

Formal Business Meeting Dressing Tips for Men

Business meetings require you to bring your A-game when it comes to dressing. Since these take place in a highly professional setting, your personality, dress and style should reflect this.

First, choose a dark solid suit that isn’t too loud or flashy. Match a formal shirt with a suit and make sure both pieces are perfectly ironed.

Make sure the suit fits well. Also, before applying these, make sure you are well prepared. Take a shower, cut your nails, and preferably get a haircut.

Choose formal shoes like oxfords or derbies to complete the classic look. Make sure they are sufficiently polished before entering the meeting room.

Wear a watch on your wrist to look more professional. You can choose either a leather or metal strap.
Plus, a tie and belt are a must if you want everyone to take you seriously.

Dressing for a Business Professional Boardroom Meeting

boardroom meeting outfit men

Boardroom meetings are no joke. Therefore, you should take your outfit as seriously as anything else.

The first step is to understand the dress code. Does the industry allow business casual or business formal?

If you are unsure, always go business formal as it is the safest option.
You should dress to impress, not attract. As a result, keep the suit dark and solid. Wearing a formal contrast shirt.

I recommend that you stick to black, navy, or charcoal gray suit colors.

The best shirt to go with these colors is white, light blue or light pink. But it’s a board meeting, so why not keep it simple with a black suit and white shirt?

Similarly, your shoes should be either Oxfords or Derbys. Get a leather briefcase or bag that matches the color of the shoes. Stick to gray and black in this case.

Your outfit looks chic. Brush out your hair and show the board that you have what it takes to lead the company to success.

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