Let’s face it: you, the average young man, can probably get away with wearing only statement shirts and rotating the same three pairs of jeans while you’re in college. Once you’ve got that diploma in hand and land your first job, though, you’ll soon find that such a wardrobe simply isn’t going to cut it. Whatever your personal feelings are towards fashion, transitioning from student to working professional will necessitate more than a few changes in how you dress.

The most obvious reason for doing so is this: improving the way that you present yourself through your clothing can help your career in many ways. Dressing well conveys certain professionalism that can influence how people treat you. It can make others not just take notice of you, but also take you seriously. However, if you aren’t too passionate about the sartorial specifics, you can easily lose yourself trying to update your style to better suit the working environment. To help you out, here’s everything you’ll need to build a great office wardrobe:

Socks and Footwear Fundamentals

Most fresh-faced graduates typically aren’t swimming in money at the outset. However, being strapped for cash is no excuse to look shabby. You just need to be smart when choosing which items to invest in first.

sock shoe men

Some guides might tell you that your first purchase should be a tailored suit. However, unless your future workplace enforces a strict business formal dress code, there isn’t much of a point in splurging on one. Instead, put your money towards a couple of quality pairs of work shoes in timeless styles, such as Oxfords, boots, or brogues. These will go with almost everything you own. Additionally, you’ll be able to wear them for years without going out of style. Having two pairs on hand also means you can alternate them, ensuring they won’t wear out so easily.

Now’s also a good time to get rid of all of your old socks and replace them with fresh pairs. There’s simply no good reason to hold onto ones that are discoloured, worn, and full of holes. Treat yourself to dress socks in a variety of solid colours and patterns that can subtly jazz up your ensemble. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time sitting down at a desk, consider investing in a few pairs of compression socks as well to aid with circulation and help prevent leg swelling.

Shirt Basics

It’s virtually impossible to go wrong with a dress shirt in the office. Depending on your company’s dress code, you can get away with quite a lot in terms of colour, pattern, and even material. Your safest bet, though, is to build up a reliable stock of cotton Oxford shirts, preferably in shades that are pleasing to the eye such as white or blue. Micropatterns and checks should also be very acceptable.

dress shirt men

When you buy your shirts, make sure to focus on the fit. Even the most beautiful shirt, made with the finest of materials, will only look sloppy when it doesn’t fit you well. If a store-bought shirt doesn’t exactly hang off your body right, don’t hesitate to bring it to a tailor.

Essential Trousers, Pants, and Slacks

Short of wearing ripped jeans that look as though they’ve been through a paper shredder, you can probably get away with any number of trouser or pant styles in the workplace, depending on the dress code. For creative offices or relaxed environments with a casual vibe, you could probably get away with a refined pair of chinos in khaki or grey, or some very nice denim jeans in a dark indigo wash. If the workplace is more formal, you could go for wool or wool-blend trouser in charcoal grey or navy.

Hawes and Curtis suit trousers

Hawes and Curtis suit trousers

When shopping for trousers, focus on the distance between the seam of the crotch and the waistband, also known as the “rise”. Work trousers should have a “regular” rise, sitting naturally on your hip and relatively roomy in the crotch.

Indispensable Jackets and Coats

Last but not least, every young professional should have at least one blazer or sport coat. For workplaces that aren’t too formal, you can wear deconstructed jackets or blazers that have a more relaxed fit. These are also usually available in more eye-catching patterns, allowing you to better express your personal style. If the workplace is more business formal, stick to the classics. Go for a structured jacket in a strong and solid colour, such as navy or charcoal grey.


Once you’ve got your basics down, it’s all a matter of knowing how to mix and match your pieces to produce the best effect. Fortunately, if you’ve done your job right, everything in your new wardrobe should go together beautifully. Congratulations on getting to the next level!