Dressing for the boardroom can be both a blessing and a curse. Just like our school days when we were made to wear uniforms, corporate dress codes often remove the pressures of having to decide what to dress ourselves in each day. Or, at the very least, it narrows our decision down to a simple shirt and tie combination.
But for some of us, this just isn’t enough. We end up feeling stifled and restricted in our sometimes stuffy work ensembles and strive to find ways of expressing ourselves. This is where adding a creative touch to our corporate attire comes in.
The Difference Between Creative & Corporate Dressing
There are not too many things in life that are completely black and white, but when it comes to corporate dressing it is often just that. From bankers to lawyers, a more formal working environment generally calls for less variety in the clothing department. Yet as long as fit, fabric and style are considered, corporate wear can be a suave and sophisticated affair.
The key with corporate dressing is that your overall look needs to be slick, refined and professional. Whether you’re attending an important client lunch or standing up in front of a crowded boardroom to deliver a presentation, you will want to keep the focus off what you’re wearing and on what you’re doing. A tailored monochrome suit is the go-to (and sometimes the be all and end all) for these lines of work, finished off with a well-polished pair of Oxfords.
But when it comes to dressing for more creative work environments, such as jobs in media or advertising, there is often more room to experiment. You’ll still want to maintain a sense of professionalism, but you might be able to try out more relaxed pieces such as unstructured tailoring, a short-sleeved shirt, vibrant colours and even statement prints.
That’s not to say those working in creative fields should get to have all the fun. Today we want to try and blur the lines between dressing for both corporate and creative workplaces. Or more specifically, inject some personality into formal attire. Besides, you are often required to think creatively in any job, whether it’s to rectify a business problem or come up with an advertising concept, so why not dress more creatively too?
The ‘Rule Of One’
The best way to start incorporating some creative flair into your corporate wardrobe is by focusing on one item in each outfit. This way, you won’t overpower the entire look or ‘go too far’.
Whether it’s including a printed piece, opting for a textured shirt, revealing a bold pair of socks or simply the way you roll your sleeve cuffs, there are many subtle tweaks we can make to our current nine-to-five looks.
The Power of Colour
Following this ‘rule of one’ technique, let the power of colour work its effortless magic. Of course, we don’t mean a vibrantly coloured suit here; the chances of you feeling comfortable and confident in a bright green two-piece – let alone being allowed to wear one – are slim to none. Think subtle yet impactful.
The most obvious accessory to start with is your tie. Bear in mind our advice on shirt and tie matching and then look to build yourself a collection of high quality block-coloured ties in a variety of textures and hues that can be combined with your traditional white, sky blue, pink, and striped work shirts. Just remember to keep your choices contemporary and not OTT – anything too thin, shiny, cheap-looking or ‘quirky’ should be avoided at all costs.
Key brands to consider when building your own tie collection include Marwood London, Drakes, Suitsupply and Brooks Brothers, along with high street names such as Reiss and T.M.Lewin.
A pair of brightly-hued socks are a great way of factoring colour into your workwear wardrobe. If you’re wearing a black or charcoal suit, your choices are almost limitless when it comes to which shade you go for. From bright blue to citric orange, a great pair of socks will liven up even the most dreary of office ensembles, with the unexpected flash of colour when you sit down or cross your legs proving even more powerful than an obvious, overt statement.
For those with that are allowed to wear a navy suit to work, try lighter, complementary colours such as pastel pink or yellow or keep it in the same family with an on trend cobalt blue pair. There are a number of great men’s hosiery specialists on the market currently – Pantherella, Happy Socks, Corgi and Falke all produce high quality socks in a variety of contemporary colour ways and patterns.
Another way to introduce colour into your workwear with the ‘rule of one’ technique is through the lining of your suit or overcoat. The lining of your garment might seem like a rather subtle element of your ensemble, but you’d be surprised what difference an unexpected splash of colour makes to the way you look and, more importantly, the way you feel. After all, expressing yourself through your clothing is all about an attitude. It’s a mindset.
Traditional British heritage brands are often your best bet for tailoring with striking inside linings (block-coloured or patterned); think Ted Baker, Ben Sherman, Paul Smith and even high street names like Marks & Spencer.
Finally, spectacle wearers have even more room to be creative in a corporate workplace. Ditch your wire-rim glasses for a unique frame shape, which can quickly become a trademark of your personal style, or opt for specs with a hint of colour in the frames – the Ray-Ban wayfarers below fit the bill perfectly.
- Reiss Contra Plain Wool Tie Bordeaux
- Hugo Boss Plain Ribbed Tie
- Machine Washable Textured Tie
- Richard James Silk-satin Tie
- Charvet Silk And Linen-blend Tie
- Drakes Silk-grenadine Tie
- Falke Tiago Cotton-blend Socks
- Falke Tiago Cotton-blend Socks
- Pantherella Ribbed Cotton-blend Socks
- Reiss Icarus Plain Silk Pocket Square Orange
- Asos Pocket Square
- Ralph Lauren Black Label Silk-twill Pocket Square
- Paul Smith London Black Byard Wool And Mohair-blend Travel Suit
- Ted Baker Thawt Check Wool Suit
- River Island Grey Classic Suit Jacket
- Linda Farrow Square-frame Optical Glasses 175132
- Thom Browne Rectangular-frame Acetate Optical Glasses
- Ray-ban Glasses
Prints, Patterns and Texture
PPT is no longer just shorthand for PowerPoint in the office. It now stands for Prints, Patterns and Texture. If you’re not quite ready to introduce vivid hues to your workplace, prints, patterns or textures will help add a subtle creative touch to your ensemble without the snarky co-worker comments.
A printed pocket square is the perfect accessory to breathe life into your corporate wardrobe. Folded, tucked or simply stuffed into the top pocket of a well-cut blazer, they instantly add a dandy touch to your city slicker look.
It’s important to note that matching your tie to your pocket square is a sartorial no-no, whether it’s the exact shade or pattern, so bear in mind your colour pairing basics and instead look to contrast them in an elegant and refined way – a burgundy polka dot pocket square with a solid navy grenadine tie, for example.
Another go-to accessory for adding some character to your corporate workwear is a textured tie. Subtle but effective, a slim tie crafted from a textured fabric is an easy ticket into expressive yet sophisticated formal dressing.
If you go down this route, just remember to bear in mind the season – linen, cotton-silk blends and even chambray versions are perfect for spring/summer while heavyweight wools, herringbone and tweed can be considered in the colder months of the year.
- Tiger Of Sweden Textured Diagonal Stripe Tie
- Austin Reed Dino Polka Dot Jacquard Silk Tie Pink
- Brioni Houndstooth Jacquard Silk Tie 192074
- Made In Italy Luxury Pure Silk Paisley Print Tie
- Drakes Plaid Woven Silk Tie
- Austin Reed 8cm Red Marl Fine Navy Stripe Tie
- Reiss Cutler Knitted Silk Tie Wine Berry
- Marwood Lace And Silk Tie
- J.crew Houndstooth Wool Tie
- Corgi Striped Cotton-blend Socks
- Happy Socks Big Dot Socks
- Pantherella Multi-bar Striped Cotton Socks
- Drakes Printed Cotton Pocket Square
- Reclaimed Vintage Paisley Pocket Square
- Reiss Luccheese Multi Print Pocket Square Navy
When it comes to dressing for a corporate environment, we’ve proven that it doesn’t always have to be so black and white. Adding a touch of flair to your work wear will enhance your creative thinking; before long, colleagues will be relying on you for your out-of-the-box ideas and problem solving skills.
So what are you waiting for? There are so many ways to liven up your nine-to-five wardrobe while remaining professional and refined, just remember the ‘rule of one’ and add a couple of key accessories to your collection. You’ll be surprised by what a big difference it makes to both how you look, feel and work.
But now we want to hear your view – what are your top tips for adding a creative or personal twist to your boardroom-appropriate ensembles?
Let us know in the comments section below…