The Do’s and Don’ts Of Formal Dressing

Here’s an interesting fact – The most number of fashion faux-paus are made by men when they don formal attire. You would think that given a large part of the population has to dress formally for work, they would get it right, right? But no, au contraire! As it turns out, not too many people are aware of the etiquette behind formal dressing. This could be one of the reasons why you see this being taught as a formal seminar in business schools and multi-national seminars around the world.

Dressing formally entails playing by certain rules – colors, prints, silhouettes etc to avoid/embrace and so much more! Here we break down the do’s and don’ts of formal dressing for men

#1 The Suit

When it comes to suits, its always better to go the more formal route with a dark colored solid or pinstriped suit. Not only are these timeless winners but in case you don’t know what suits your shape best, these are foolproof as dark colors are universally slimming and flattering.

# 2 The Sleeve

Too short or too long – such a common mistake! There’s an acceptable length when it comes to your shirt sleeves – the end of your sleeve should fall below the base of your wrist (to be more specific -in the space between the base of your wrist and the bottom knuckle of your thumb) Anything shorter or longer is wrong, wrong, wrong!

Shop: Men’s Shirts


#3 The Collar

One of the elements that’s least paid attention to, the shirt collar makes a big difference. Too big and floppy and you look frumpy, too small and narrow and you look daft! The right fit for a shirt collar is snug around the neck without feeling choked. The best way to gauge the right fit is with the two finger test – if two fingers fit under the collar perfectly, the collar is the right size.


#4 The Pant

The more formal the occasion, the more vital it is to match your pant to your blazer. What you want is a pair with a straight back but a slight crease down the front length. Always try your pants on with your formal shoes to correctly gauge the length.

Shop: Men’s Trousers

#5 The Jacket

Nothing screams “I don’t know how to dress” more than an ill fitted jacket. For the love of God, throw out those oversized, too long, frumpy jackets and get a fitted one. The ideal length for a jacket is when the bottom ends at the natural cup of your hand. You also want to show a little bit of your shirt cuff under the jacket. Carefeul about this one though because too much cuff and your jacket will look small for you (and probably is!)

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#6 The Accessories

There’s nothing tackier than a tacky tie. But there’s nothing that can pull together your suit quite like a tie either. Now do you understand the importance of a good tie? While a contrast tie is a great idea, make sure the contrast compliments your shirt. Complicated, yes. Essential, also yes!

Pocket squares and cufflinks are also great accessories that take your overall look from good to great. A pocket square should match/compliment your tie (and therefore your shirt) Don’t shy away from playing with prints (polka and paisley are favourites). As long as it doesn’t make you look like you’re going overboard/trying too hard, add on a pair of subtle cufflinks to really polish your look.

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#7 The Belt

In case you didn’t know this already, as a general rule of thumb, you should match your belt to your shoes. There’s really nothing more that needs to be said in this regard!

#8 The Socks

Cardinal rule – dark socks, dark socks, dark socks! Too many men wear white/light socks under their formal trousers. No, just no! Always make sure you pair your suit with dark socks – have fun with the prints but ensure the base color is dark.

#9 The Shoes

It should go without saying that you should wear dress shoes with your suit. No, loafers do not qualify as dress shoes. Well polished, lace up dress shoes are your answer. The belt and shoes should match and both should compliment the suit color. Definitely avoid matching tan shoes to a dark suit!

Shop: Men’s Footwear


#10 The Man

And most importantly, the man himself! None of the above points matter if you are unkempt and messy. A well groomed man is his own best accessory. Well combed hair, a trimmed and neat mustache/beard, well maintained nails and a clean face are essentials. Don’t forget, a little bit of cologne also goes a long way!



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