How to Build a Man's Business-Formal Wardrobe

For men, formal business attire means a suit of some sort, but dressing well means much more than just slapping on a suit. Look through the following tips to find out how to bring some class to your business-formal wardrobe.

  • Suits: Get two or three made of wool and other blends for autumn and winter, and one made of cotton or tropic-weight wool for spring and summer.

    Choose among three basic suit styles (and their multiple variations):

    • American cut: Can have two or three buttons. They have center-vented jackets with natural shoulders and pants with a straight line.

    • Italian cut: Have unvented jackets with padded shoulders and pants that are fuller than those in American-cut suits.

    • British cut: Have side-vented or unvented jackets with square shoulders and a tapered waist, and pants that are narrower than those in both American-cut and Italian-cut suits.

  • Pants: Traditional dress slacks. Always make sure they are ironed neatly and fit properly.

  • Shirts: Buy five long-sleeved white shirts and five long-sleeved light blue shirts. (There’s no such thing as a short-sleeved dress shirt.)

  • Socks: Socks should be at least as dark as your suit or pants. Wear dark socks coordinated with the color of your suit. Patterns are permissible so long as they’re not ostentatious.

    White socks are unacceptable in business. And wearing no socks is equally unacceptable.

  • Shoes: Plain- and cap-toed oxfords, wingtips, and plain or tasseled loafers are the extent of men's choices for dress business shoes. Coordinate your shoe color with your suit color.

  • Accessories: The little things are what matter most:

    • Briefcases: Traditionally are black or brown leather. If you choose a notebook computer bag instead, hold it to the same high-quality standards you would a briefcase.

    • Belts: Match or closely match the color and texture of your shoes.

    • Ties: Should be silk, understated, coordinated with your suit and shirt, and should end at the top of your belt.

    • Watches: If you go for status symbols, buy an expensive watch. Otherwise, a medium-range watch with a leather or metal band is the way to go.

    • Eyeglasses: Wear glasses that fit your face and personality.

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