Etiquette for Respectful Office Attire

By | 2017-01-13T13:42:07+00:00 October 12th, 2012|Categories: Respectful Workplace|Tags: |3 Comments

There are offices, and then there are offices. Whatever line of work you choose, if an office is part of the equation, so too is interacting with co-workers. In a frightening downward spiral, the way most of us dress to go to work is unprofessional. A company’s image is reflected in its employees – their first impressions and their professionalism. At the office we are a community to which we all contribute. What we wear has enormous impact on how we are perceived. This same perception is true for clients and customers. Look your best and dress up a notch and see how much better you feel about yourself and your job.

For formal business occasions, men and women should wear dark suits. For men, shoes should be black and polished. One’s shoes should always match one’s belt. Wear a white shirt and properly tied neck tie. A pocket square picking up a color from the tie is a nice accent for a man. For women, matching shoes and handbag work nicely. A brooch or necklace adds to the professional look.

Informal business relaxes the dress code. Men should still wear a jacket and tie, or perhaps an open collar on Fridays. Women might wear a skirt or slacks and a blouse. The idea is not to become unprofessional, but to be less formal. Traditionally certain colors, such as browns, would be worn only in the country, but today those guidelines have been greatly relaxed.

Resist showing too much skin or cleavage unless you work for the Jerry Springer show. It looks cheap and unprofessional and broadcasts a poor company image. Wear clothes that are clean and that fit properly. Keep your hair and nails well groomed. Look in the mirror to check hair, teeth and general appearance.

Remember that when a company hires us, we represent that company both in the office and out. Be sure to be clear on what is expected of you sartorially and strive to exceed those expectations.

People will notice!

This is part of an ongoing series on etiquette in the workplace. Read previous posts here.

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About the Author:

Jay Remer
Jay Remer is certified by the Protocol School of Washington as a consultant for corporate etiquette and international protocol. He lives in St. Andrews, NB, Canada. For more information, visit


  1. Holly Matrimony Weddings October 12, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Great post! Business casual commonly seems to be the dress code but I think there is a range of what that looks like 🙂

  2. KB October 31, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Thanks for the article, Jay! I got mulling over what you wrote and it occurred to me that there is alot more to this theme of dress codes when considering respect.

    In my experience, empathy is a key component of respect. I wouldn’t dream of underdressing to an executive meeting, but I also wouldn’t dream of overdressing for a field team meeting. One has to empathize with your audience and communicate in their language in order to effectively buiild rapport and relationships. This includes physical appearance, body language, vocal tone / inflection and also style of language utilized. The use of empathy, coupled with preparation becomes particularly important when representing your government department, corporation or even stakeholder group to a cultural group that is different than one’s “home culture”.

    For example, I work for a government department in a field of aboriginal relations. When I speak with my senior executive team, I wear proper business attire and use body and vocal language appropriate to their corporate culture. However, when I meet with a First Nation (say Chief and Couincil or a group of elders) I dress for the field, use culturally appropriate body language and speak in a way that is appropriate to their culture. You can imagine how important this becomes when one has a meeting that must address concerns of the aboriginal group and one wishes to build a positive and constructive relationship with them, despite the challenging task at hand!

    If I had to choose one learning point regarding repect and dress codes, I would say “empathize with your audience and dress in a manner that shows them you understand, respect and wish to build positive relationships with them.”

    For your consideration, sir.


  3. Rosette Olguin April 8, 2013 at 11:26 am

    There are some folks who cram up their business cards with all the information it can hold. This is not done, for a business card is business card and not sales literature. Let the additional info be there on your sales literature and keep the business card as simple as possible. This will ensure that the card will be able to pass across the information it was supposed to convey immediately. Would you rather want that the CEO of a reputed company scanned all through your business card just to find your contact information? A proper business card design should have as much `white space as possible on it. People should be able to access the necessary information immediately..

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