Previous generations had it easy when it came to dressing for work. If you picked a suit that fitted and kept your shirt and tie sober, you’d be unlikely to put a foot wrong. Yes, it was restrictive. But at least everyone knew where they stood.

The revolution against the dress code has unyoked us from style servitude but, with right and wrong now less clearly distinguished, it’s easier to take a sartorial stumble. Can you wear trainers but still look like you mean business? Is there any way to wear jeans at your desk without looking like an off-duty dad? Yes, and indeed yes. Just follow our map through the minefield.

The Mistake: Gym Bags & Suits

You’ve rightly binned the briefcase for a backpack as a more practical way to cart your kit to work, but know your limits. If what’s slung over your shoulder is riddled with velcro and pockets, save it for hiking.

The Fix

Your backpack is office-ready if it passes a few tests: premium fabrics, muted colours, and a contemporary shape. Ideally, that means leather in black, brown or blue, with high-quality hardware and enough space for your laptop and a spare layer.

The best backpacks your can wear to work/the office

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The best men's leather and suede backpacks

REISS BILTON GRAINED LEATHER BACKPACK - click to buyted baker SADSAC Rubber leather backpack - click to buyASOS Backpack In Faux Leather With Chunky Zip Details - click to buyRAINS BACKPACK - click to buy

The Mistake: Misunderstanding Athleisure

Gone are the days when black lace-ups were your only option, but that doesn’t mean you can wear your gym trainers to work. If they’re neon, or you’ve actually used them to run in, they’re out.

The Fix

It’s all about the materials. Look for classic canvas and high-end leather or suede, which you can even wear with a suit to give it a creative flourish.

Work-worthy trainers are unfussy and, above all else, as clean as the high-shine Oxfords they’re replacing. Box-fresh kicks from the likes of Adidas, Common Projects or Axel Arigato work. The beer-stained ones you wore to last night’s gig do not.

Men wearing smart trainers with tailoring

Brunello Cucinelli ss16windsor ss16massimo men aw16reiss aw15


The best sneakers to wear to work

ADIDAS STAN SMITH - click to buyCONVERSE Jack Purcell Signature Canvas Sneakers - click to buyreiss BRADLEY CLAE LEATHER SNEAKERS - click to buyETQ. LOW TOP 1 SNEAKER - click to buy

The Mistake: Disrespecting Your Suit

What to do with that suit you no longer need to wear every day? Dress it down by splitting the jacket from the trousers, of course.

Fine, until your laissez-faire approach to your tailoring renders it unwearable when you do actually have to dress up.

The Fix

Deploying your suit singly means trousers and jacket wear out at different paces. Invest in some tailored wool trousers and an unstructured blazer, which is softer at the shoulder and more relaxed in fit.

It also shrugs off wrinkles, so you needn’t stress slinging it on the back of your desk chair.

How to wear men's separates

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The best trouser and blazer separates for men

mango man Slim-fit check blazer - click to buyjigsaw ITALIAN JERSEY PIQUÉ JACKET - click to buyCHARLIE CASELY-HAYFORD X TOPMAN Navy Check Skinny Work Suit Trousers - click to buyuniqlo STRETCH WOOL SLIM FIT FLAT FRONT PANTS - click to buy

The Mistake: Dressing Too Far Down

Trendy tracksuit bottoms may have the designers’ seal of approval, but your boss isn’t refreshing this season’s runway reports. At work, being on-trend matters less than being appropriate – even in business casual offices.

The Fix

Balance is one of the fundamental rules of menswear. If you’re going to dress-down your lower half – and we’d suggest a cuffed slimline chino or trouser over the full jogger – then find balance up top with a smart shirt and jumper.

Similarly, a polo shirt is fair game at work, but you’ll swerve any awkward glances by pairing it with tailored trousers.

Men's high-low outfit combinations for business-casual offices

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The best business casual polo shirts and cuffed trousers for men

next polo shirt - click to buyreiss TRAFFORD MERINO WOOL POLO SHIRT - click to buyh&m Cotton twill joggers - click to buyAMI Tapered Brushed Wool-Blend Drawstring Trousers - click to buy

The Mistake: Dad Denim

By now your denim game should be on-point, but the urge not to be too out-there can steer you into Clarkson territory. Be wary of anything shapeless, or that looks like it’s been washed in an acid bath.

The Fix

Treat your work jeans like formal trousers by sticking to something rich in colour, without distressing, in a tailored fit. Pair indigo denim with an Oxford shirt, blazer and a loafer or Derby to make them safe for work.

Men's work outfits with jeans

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The best jeans to wear for work

uniqlo SELVEDGE REGULAR FIT JEANS - click to buyEDWIN ED-55 RELAXED TAPERED JEAN - click to buyLEVI'S MADE & CRAFTED Tack Slim-Fit Dry Selvedge Denim Jeans - click to buyM&S COLLECTION Tapered Fit Stretch Jeans - click to buy

The Mistake: Visible Undershirt

It’s only when you lose your office noose that you realise what it hid. Tie abandoned, the top button of your work shirt often follows suit. The peek-a-boo sight of your undershirt’s crew neck is an unsightly replacement.

The Fix

Don’t ditch the undershirt – sweat stains are an even worse sin – but swap for a V-neck to ensure it stays hidden. Heather grey beats white, as it’s less visible through lighter shirts.


Men's Undershirts

Uniqlo PACKAGED DRY V NECK SHORT SLEEVE T-SHIRT - click to buyORLEBAR BROWN OB-V Slim-Fit Cotton-Jersey T-Shirt - click to buynext V-Neck T-Shirt - click to buyreiss DAYTON MARL V-NECK T-SHIRT - click to buy

The Mistake: Creased Shirts

There is no business pressing enough (pun very much intended) to warrant leaving the house in the morning with a wrinkled shirt. Not only will doing so see your style stock de-crease, chances are it will also ruin the rest of your look.

The Fix

In short: invest in a good iron, and use it. If unsure how, learn. If that’s too much effort, buy a steamer. If you can’t deal with any of that, get a new job as something topless like a swimmer or stripper.


The best irons and garment steamers for 2017

Russell Hobbs Supreme Steam Traditional Iron - Click to buyBosch TDA3020GB Power III Steam Iron - Click to buyBrabantia Ironing Board with Steam Iron Rest - Click to buyVivreal Clothes Steamer - Click to buy

The Mistake: Poor Shoes

There’s an old saying that women judge a man by his shoes before anything else. Which isn’t exactly true: men do it too. Whether they’re scuffed, in dire need of a polish, or just square-toed monstrosities, second-rate shoes just won’t do.

The Fix

We’re not saying every pair you own needs to have a you-could-shave-in-that level of shine, but taking time at least once a fortnight to remove loose dirt, buff out any marks and apply some shoe protector will pay dividends when it comes to salary negotiations.


The best men's work shoes

TRICKER'S Robert Leather Derby Shoes - Click to buyMAGNANNI ALMOND WC DBLE MONK - Click to buyPAUL SMITH Glynn Suede Penny Loafers - Click to buyPAUL SMITH Glynn Suede Penny Loafers - Click to buyDasco Lightweight Cedar Shoe Trees - Click to buyGentlemen's Hardware Shoe Shine Kit - Click to buy