Getting dressed for work should be easy for men. Put on a pair of men’s dress pants and a shirt and you’re good to go, right? You’d think it’d be that easy, but today’s office dress code isn’t as simple as it used to be.
In the 1950s and 1960s, office wear was formal. Businessmen donned grey flannel suits with white dress shirts, dark-colored ties and overcoats (hello, Don Draper). Then, during the 1970s, pants got a little looser at the bottom, and so did the office dress code. Life was groovy, and business styles slowly started trending toward business casual attire. By the 1980s, the business casual revolution in clothing really took off.
But today’s workplace dress code can go either way. Some fields and companies stick to the traditional, suit-and-tie look, while others are more flexible. That doesn’t exactly let you know what’s appropriate workwear, does it? You want to dress to give off the right impression. You want to look smart, but not overdressed. You want to appear ambitious, but not like you’re trying too hard. You want to look confident and cool, but not aloof.
Whether you’re climbing the corporate ladder or you just landed a job at a startup creative agency, here’s what you need to know about wearing men’s polo shirts and men’s dress shirts in the office.
When you tell your partner you’re taking her to dinner, what’s the first question she asks? It’s probably, “Where are we going?” They ask that because she wants to know what to wear. She’ll only know what to wear if she knows where she’s going in advance.
So, think like your partner. Ask questions and learn about your office environment so you know whether men’s polo tops, dress shirts or both are appropriate. Here are some questions any man in any career can ask:
If you’re starting a new job and haven’t seen what your boss or coworkers wear or if you weren’t told about a dress code during your job interview, ask someone from the human resources department. They can let you know what’s appropriate to wear to work.
Men’s polo shirts are comfier than dress shirts, but they’ve gotten a bad reputation over the years. That’s not because they’re bad but because too many men wear their logoed golf polos to the office.
Take it from us, avoid wearing polo shirts with flashy patterns or emblems to the office. Opt for solid and dark-colored polo shirts instead. A fitted polo with a tailored pair of men’s chinos is as comfortable to wear as it is as effortless to pull off. This way, you look ready for the office and for after-work drinks with clients.
Most business casual offices allow polo shirts, and others only approve of them for casual Fridays. Still, others think polo shirts are a summer-only choice. We disagree. When the temperature drops, your cotton polo shirts will look great under a sports coat, blazer or cardigan sweater. You can also wear men’s long sleeve polo shirts in the fall and winter.
Men’s dress shirts can be considered formal or informal, but they lean more toward the formal side. They’re most often worn in legal, financial and academic office settings, as well as for job interviews, formal business meetings, office presentations and meetings with clients. There’s nothing more formal than a white dress shirt and tie. But if you’re a man who needs dress shirts for every day of the week, then feel free to add in some different colors and patterns to mix it up. This allows you to show off your personality while still letting your boss know you’re professional and serious enough about work.
Every man should own a handful of dress shirts. It’s a good idea to have at least a couple of solid-colored, plaid and white ones. Supima cotton men’s button-down Oxfords are lightweight and breathable, making them the perfect fabric choice for summer. Heavier fabrics, however, are better suited for colder climates unless you wear the dress shirt under a suit coat.
Dress shirts can even work for business casual offices. A classic business casual men’s outfit includes a sports coat, non-matching trousers, men's no iron shirt and a tie.
Along with the polo vs. dress shirt debate, another controversy is if you wear your shirt tucked or untucked. Our answer: tucked. Every time. No matter where you work, tuck that men’s dress shirt or polo in. This simple tip not only makes you look more competent but it also says, “I’m here to work. I know what I’m doing and I do it well.”
If that’s not enough incentive to be the kind of guy who wears his shirt tucked in, then you should know that a recent survey of men found that those who tuck in their shirts were happier and made more money.
So, which style of shirt should you get? We think every man should have a few men’s polo shirts and dress shirts in his closet. It’s the only way to ensure you’re ready for any office setting and occasion.