Looking good while feeling your best is important to most people. For men especially, understanding how to look professional while in professional or more formal settings without compromising on comfort can definitely be an art. For some, the idea of feeling comfortable and looking professional may seem at odds. On the one hand, you have the sort of cozy clothing you'd never wear to the office like men's flannel pajamas and your favorite worn-in men’s T-shirt. On the other side of the spectrum, you'll find crisp button-up shirts with starchy trousers.
But, these distinctions don't have to be so black-and-white. There's a way to merge the comfortable and the professional in a style that syncs with today's more casual dress codes. Especially these days, as dress codes have become more relaxed, working from home has become the new normal, and casual Fridays or business casual are more of a thing, learning how to look professional while still feeling comfortable is important for men.
The good news is, it’s also quite easy to do. Here's a guide to how to style your clothes to look professional and feel comfortable.
One of the easiest ways to nail both professionalism and comfort is to pair button-up shirts with men’s jeans. We've been trending towards wearing denim in professional settings for a long time now. Ever since the casual Friday and business casual trends emerged in the '90s, denim has had a place in all but the most formal and traditional of workplaces. Today, it has become just as frequent a sight in work settings as a pair of men's chinos or men’s dress pants.
It's easy to see why so many professionals were eager to incorporate denim into their workweek rotation: not only is denim rugged and hardwearing, but it's also comfortable. With wear, denim will naturally mold to the body of its wearer. A good pair of jeans can become an article of clothing that knows your body better than any other and can be a constant companion from weekends to work days and back again. Wearing a button-up men’s dress shirt with a pair of darker wash denim jeans can be a great way for men to look professional while still feeling maximum comfort.
However, not every pair of jeans is fit for office wear. Among the types of denim that should be avoided when considering professional wear include distressed jeans, jeans in a lighter wash or bright color, jeans with extra details like embroidery, zippers or paint dribbles, and jeans that are too tight-fitting. In short, you want to seek out a pair of jeans that is as neutral and classic as possible: a classic dark wash in a straight fit will work perfectly for professional wear.
Depending on your setting, choosing the right men’s button-down shirt may be key for maintaining that professionalism. You should be intentional about whichever button-up you choose to wear with your jeans. For something more reliable but still comfortable, opt for a more classic style of a button-up shirt. You’ll have wider options when it comes to selecting a button-up, but we like the idea of pairing an oxford cloth button-up with denim. Because oxford cloth is a heavier fabric with less of a sheen, it matches the more casual appeal of denim while still remaining polished enough for professional wear.
Weather changes and layering may become important to your look, but layering doesn’t always have to be done for the purpose of staying warm. You may also want to reach for a men's sport coat or blazer when an occasion like a presentation or annual review requires a bit more dressing up. When thinking of which sport coat or blazer to pair with your jeans and button-up shirt, you should consider the sheen and texture. Sport coats or men’s blazers that are made from finer, tighter weaves will appear more formal, and may not pair as naturally with denim.
Instead, seek out sport coats and blazers that are made from a flatter or more texture-rich fabric, such as cotton, corduroy or flannel. The more casual hand and appearance of these jackets won't make them look out of place when worn above a pair of jeans.
When the temperatures start to drop and you want to change up your comfortable yet professional look, you won't just be wearing a button-up with a pair of jeans to work in perpetuity. When temperatures start to fall, you'll want to reach for a men's sweater. Either a crewneck or V-neck sweater is a great match for this look. The more casual, athletic-inspired aesthetic of the crewneck sweater pairs well with denim, and the more elevated V-neck sweater can help dress up the look. Ultimately, your ideal choice of sweater may be determined by how casual or formal your office is. For a more formal or professional look, opt for a luxury sweater such as a men’s cashmere sweater for the best look and feel.
With office trends continuously moving towards more casual, you don’t need to choose anymore between looking professional and feeling comfortable. Try some of these styling tips for your next meeting and see how you feel.