5 Office Dress Codes and How to Crack Them

The world of office appropriate attire becomes increasingly complicated as work environments continue to evolve, now including trendy digital startups and shared spaces.

This guide will help you cut through the clutter and crack dress codes of today. You will now be able to arrive to work or a job interview confident and presentable from head-to-toe.

Business types

Broadly, there are five main office dress codes:

  • Business formal 
  • Business professional 
  • Business casual 
  • Small business casual 
  • Creative   

1. Business formal

Always dress business formal for interviews. There’s no virtue in taking a risk and dressing in a less formal business type. It is better to be overdressed in relation to your interviewer than undressed.

A common mistake among candidates is to forget to take your personality into the interview. Although formal business attire, you can still use your outfit to get across your character. A well-chosen pair of earrings or your favourite cufflinks can be good ways to stand out from the crowd. But be subtle and use your best judgement.

Guidance for her

  • Trouser suit or conservative length skirt suit in a neutral, dark colour 
  • White-collared dress shirt 
  • Modest accessories 
  • Dark tights 
  • Neutral colour closed-toe heels 

Guidance for him 

  • Two or three-piece suit in neutral, dark colour 
  • White or plain formal shirts 
  • Sold-coloured unflashy tie 
  • Cufflinks or a watch 
  • Black or brown Oxford shoes

2. Business Professional

Business professional is one level down from business formal. It’s slightly more relaxed but works just as well whether you are in the boardroom or at your desk. Avoid dressing more than one level up from your office dress code to avoid being overdressed.

Guidance for her

  • Conservative length skirt in modest colours 
  • Solid colour top or blouse 
  • Dark or nude tights 
  • Neutral colour closed-toe heels 

Guidance for him

  • Dark-coloured suits in subtle, conservative patterns 
  • Pressed suit trousers paired with a matching jacket 
  • Formal shirts in traditional patterns and conservative colours 
  • Brightly-coloured or conservatively-patterned ties

3. Business casual

Dress down days and offsite events have long been dominated by business casual attire. Increasingly though, blue chips organisations are loosening the dress code policy and making business casual the norm throughout the working week.

However, business professional or business formal still tend to be required for client-facing roles and meetings.

If you work from home, we would advise business casual dress. It helps shift your mind into work mode. Also, you never know when you might have to hop on a video call.

Pyjamas are the enemy of productivity.

Guidance for her

  • Skirt or suit trousers 
  • Shirts, jumpers, or blouses in solid colours or subtle patterns 
  • More casual statement jewellery 
  • Closed-toe heels, flats or loafers in any colour 

Guidance for him

  • Formal shirts in any colour 
  • Jumpers or cardigans worn with collared shirts 
  • Ties are optional; most colours 
  • Suit trousers or chinos 

4. Small business casual

Smaller companies on the whole tend to have a more relaxed dress code.

You can move up or down one level depending on circumstances but business formal or business professional will nearly always be inappropriate. 

Guidance for her

  • Suit trousers or knee-length skirts in casual fabrics like cotton or dark denim 
  • Shirts, cardigans or blouses in a variety of colours and patterns 
  • Open-toed heels, flats or wedges 
  • Most jewellery 

Guidance for him

  • Casual chinos or trousers – no jeans unless explicitly stated 
  • If denim is okay, stick to dark colours and straight-legged styles 
  • Collared polos, crew-neck jumpers in most colours and patterns 
  • Clean and well-kept trainers or loafers 

5. Creative

Tech companies, marketing agencies and other small, creative environments are often the least defined when it comes to a dress code or policy.

The best advice is to take note of the majority of employee outfits when getting an office tour or going in for an interview. Mirror accordingly.

Guidance for her

  • Clean, wrinkle-free t-shirts 
  • Pops of colour and unexpected patterns 
  • Stylish shoes or accessories that display personality 

Guidance for him

  • Specific niche dress codes will depend on established office environment 
  • Trendy fashion items and layers 
  • Tailored denim 


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