As the less fashion-inclined gender, we have an uphill hike when it comes to adhering to and succeeding at professional dress codes. For many, reading a dress code term is quickly followed by a Google search and maybe a last minute trip to Joe Banks. Hopefully, this ‘beginner’s guide’ will shed some light on how to get your ‘GQ’ on in any dress code, cover some do’s and don’ts and offer some essential items to start building your wardrobe while focusing on how to maintain your functionality and stay dangerous.

First, let’s go over the different dress codes. The major accepted terminology includes formal, business, business casual and casual.

Formal wear is an easy one…you won’t have it and will have to rent it. This includes the funny looking tuxedos worn at very fancy dinners. Again, you probably don’t and won’t own anything for formal dress, just don’t confuse the term ‘formal’ with a ‘suit and tie.’

Business dress should mean one thing and one thing only, a matched suit and tie. This is where you should start your wardrobe by getting a decent pair of black and navy suits. While my personal favorite is charcoal pin stripe, you can always add to your options later, start with black and a blue, then add a brown or charcoal, and even a lighter summer color as well, such as a tan. A great entry level suit, especially if you are like me and never skip chest day (I.E. I have a 48-34 chest/waist offset) is a Haggar ‘Tailored Fit’ separate set. For around $150 you can get a nice looking, well fitting suit for daily wear. Separates are also great as they not only allow you to buy unmatched sizes, but you can also easily buy an extra set of slacks, which is highly recommended as they wear much faster. Pick a comfortable, rubber soled, lace-up pair of shoes. A great entry option is the Docker’s Trustee Oxford. For belts, a good reversible is a great option; not the twisty kind but the kind where the buckle flips over, the twisty kind will break. I travel frequently, so I only bring one belt and my go to is the DeSantis Econobelt in black. It is rugged, stiff and has a textured interior which makes it a great option for supporting your tools.

Men’s Professional Attire: How To Dress The Code

Business casual is much the same minus the tie and minus the ‘matched’ requirement. You can mix and match khakis and a blazer, or stick with the matched set, just lose the tie. Remember, business casual is for casual business, like a seminar or a lunch with a colleague.

Casual should be considered a polo and jeans. This way, you won’t show up to the event in your subdued American flag hat, 5.11s and Merrells wondering why people are looking at you funny.

Men’s Professional Attire: How To Dress The Code

Traveling with a suit? Here’s an easy way to keep it wrinkle free:

10 Do’s and Don’ts

  • Select your dress to ‘stay gray:’ being on the job is not the time to ‘peacock’ to get a glance from the ladies. Fit in, blend, hide in plain sight. Keep it conservative and boring.
  • Match your accessories: cuff links, tie and pocket square should match, so should your belt, shoes and socks.
  • Get a suit jacket one size larger to allow more arm movement for driving and do the same with your slacks if you IWB.
  • Slacks should fit as to rest on your shoes with a slight bend in material when standing straight up, not bunching up at your ankles.
  • Jacket sleeves should be between your thumb’s main knuckle up to showing 1/2″ of shirt sleeve and the collar should show 1/4 inch of your shirts collar.
  • Wear a watch, but keep jewelry to a minimum.
  • Your tie should reach your belt buckle. No skinny ties, nothing flamboyant, wear a tie clip and consider breakables or clip-ons. Tie a full windsor, YouTube is your friend.
  • Shirt-stays are a wonderful thing.
  • Ensure you are groomed appropriately, no body odor and no strong colognes or fragrances.
  • If you have a doubt, you shouldn’t wear it.


Thanks for reading. Stay safe, stay gray. – JML

Article originally published on Lasorsa and Associates and written by Joe Lasorsa

Joseph M. LaSorsa, CPP® is currently employed as a senior partner managing and conducting: Protective Operations Training Courses, Executive Protection & Bodyguard Services, Risk Management Consultations & Seminars, Workplace Violence Prevention Seminars & Intervention Services, Security Consultations & Seminars, Private Investigations and Technical Surveillance Counter-Measures with LaSorsa & Associates – an International Protection, Investigations & Consulting Firm.