SELLBYTEL Presents: The Business Dress Code Index

Whilst professional business attire might not necessarily define an employee’s competence, it certainly contributes a lot to the effect of someone’s initial personal impression. Business wear simply conveys a message to customers, clients, bosses, company executives and coworkers. After all, it is no secret that people do judge by outward appearance.

Before we move on, let us begin by defining the term “business dress code”. Interpreted rather freely by many, it is vital to agree upon some universal guidelines to start with. Plus, a clear distinction needs to be made between the male and female dress codes. The idea of “business casual” will further be discussed, as this style is currently gaining most popularity in the business world.

Business attire quite simply refers to the clothing employees wear to work. Depending on the workplace, there are various levels of business wear: the most prominent dress codes range from traditional and formal to smart casual, business casual and casual.

Generally speaking, in a traditional business environment, the standard for men includes a suit, a jacket and trousers, for women slacks, a skirt or a dress paired with appropriate accessories. Respectively, outfits should look somewhat like this:


Here the classic suit including tie is the way to go. Appropriate colors include black, grey and dark blue, while the cut may vary according to current trends. Shoes and leather belts should match, be black and exclude catchy details. Socks should always go with the rest of the outfit and exclude flashy patterns, plus they should hide the nude leg. The tie may in fact set a color statement, as long as the general look remains harmonious and elegant. The shirt should generally be long-sleeved and depending on the season, it might be short as well. When it comes to colors, the shirt should be single-colored (in the best case white or blue), involve subtle stripes only and obviously match the suit.


Females are recommended to wear skirt suits or pant suits with formal business blouses or tops, stockings, heel leather shoes and appropriate business accessories. Besides, women are advised to keep jewelry, makeup and perfumes subtle and elegant. When it comes to colors and cuts, the same rules apply as with males.

An increasingly wide-spread type of clothing in today’s international business world, the business casual look equally needs definition. The term describes a type of office clothing that is a little more casual than the traditional business wear. Many employers adopt this dress code to make employees feel more comfortable and to give them more freedom of expression through their choice of attire. Although business casual is actually casual, it doesn’t mean anything is allowed, though.

The majority of workplace dress codes have become less formal over the past ten years. However, there are few office terms that cause as much confusion as “business casual”. The challenge is that many companies do not have a clear dress code policy. In addition to that, whilst certain businesses are more flexible in their definition of “business casual,” others want their people to dress more conservatively. Thus our tip: depend both on your colleagues, supervisors and very importantly, your clients when it comes to clothing!

Here is a detailed guideline defining and characterizing “business casual”:


  • Shirts: A crisp, cotton, button-down is certainly the best option. Polo shirts are acceptable as well. Here you can go for a range of darker colors that would not be considered suit appropriate. However, try to stay away from solid black or colors like chocolate brown and mustard yellow.
  • Pants: Khakis or chinos are a good choice, but make sure they are clean and free from frays. Plus, avoid linen pants due to possible wrinkles. Keep your color choices conservative yet casual and go for something like tan, gray, or dark blue.
  • Shoes: A simple leather loafer in black or brown is totally fine.
  • Jeans: Some companies do allow jeans, so in that case keep your jeans dark, use a regular classic fit rather than a low rise and wear a belt.


  • Skirts: This includes dresses and knee-long pencil skirts. Add color by choosing a pencil skirt in green, pink, or other seasonal colors, depending on the company policy, of course.
  • Shirts: A nice assortment of cotton blouses, patterned shirts and a variety of sleeves is a must for every business woman. A silk blend worn with a skirt or a stylish pair of slacks, for example, always looks stylish and feels comfortable at the same time.
  • Shoes: A small heel or a nice pair of flats including stylish slacks is best to tie your business casual look together.
  • Jeans: If jeans are acceptable at your office, select a dark wash, flattering cut and one that will look good with any jacket in case you need to catch a last minute meeting. Avoid colored or skinny jeans and everything with a fray or hole.

Now, we hope this gave you a fair overview of what to do and what to avoid when it comes to business clothing. As a rule of thumb, anything that looks clean and presentable is allowed in an office environment. And remember: appearance can indeed make the difference, so rather come a bit more elegant than a little too sporty!

Do you agree with the points made or do you have any other comments? Let us know in the comments box below!


Text: Anna-Luisa Wiefel

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