Dressing: What constitutes a professional wardrobe for men

Posted by: KSG-admin Post Date: February 17, 2021

Dressing: What constitutes a professional wardrobe for men


By Lynette OtworiPrincipal Lecturer and Trainer in Management Communication, Protocol and Etiquette

Last week we looked at a formal dress code for ladies. This week, it is only fair that we shift the mirror to the gentlemen. Style and grace will boost the competitive edge of a man in any business environment. I, therefore, do agree with Brandon Sanderson when he said, ‘Clothing does not really change a man, but it changes how others react to him’.

Men wardrobe
Allow me to start with a few tips about a formal dress code for men. Formal wear for a man, particularly in the public service, traditionally entails wearing a suit, a shirt and a tie. Gentlemen, kindly note that the darker your suit the better.

You should therefore invest in black, navy blue, ash grey, parliament blue and other dark colours for your suits. You can then brighten up the package with a shirt or tie. A man should ensure that these three pieces of clothing – a suit, a shirt, and a tie – are always having a quiet conversation. The trio should talk to each other quietly.

Picture this: A man is wearing a checked coat, a striped shirt, and a flowered tie – this is shouting! There are gentlemen who like broken suits, my advice is to not trespass in your wardrobes in the name of looking for broken suits, and avoid picking a jacket from one suit and a trouser from another suit and call it a broken suit. Tellingly, in the end, when you wear the actual suit, you realize one of the items is more faded than the other, which makes a man look as ridiculous as wearing a suit with the coat label on it.

A label is to help you in the shop, so that you know what you are buying. The moment you get home, please remove it. Your tie should be conservative and ideally hit the tip of the belt. The younger generation are now wearing ties just below the breast, which does not give one a professional look.

Smart casual
A man can decide to wear a jacket but that should always be accompanied by a long sleeved shirt. Short sleeved shirts are good for smart casual wear but they cannot be worn with a tie.

Checked shirts should preferably not be worn with a tie, except for very small checks. Big checked shirts are good for smart casuals. If one cannot get it right, please do not wear a checked shirt with a tie. Last week I noted that it is not appropriate for women to wear transparent clothes, let me state here that it is perfectly fine for a man to wear a brilliant white shirt and a white inner vest.

The only appeal I would like to make to men is to ensure their inner vests are in good shape. In the event that it gets warm and you are forced to remove your jacket, people should not see a torn vest!

Sometimes, men have fallen back to T-shirts instead of vests, when it is extremely cold and unfortunately the tshirts are mostly branded. Now imagine you are approaching a podium to make a presentation and people are all smiles because they are reading your t-shirt from the back with as varied writings as: ‘Kick Polio out of Kenya, Tuko Pamoja!, Seng’enge ni Ng’ombe’, and many other slogans. It is shameful.

A branded t-shirt can only be relevant during the event itself. Re-use it for any other function save for formal wear.

One time, in a leadership class, a male doctor stopped me in the session and requested for two minutes to share an experience with the gentlemen in the class. He told of a scenario where there happened to be an accident and some very smartly dressed men were wheeled into the casualty department.

Unfortunately, one of the things the doctors do in such a circumstance is to loosen the clothes of those hurt or even remove them all together. After removing their clothes, the doctor said he could not reconcile the inner suit with the outer suit of one of the patients. In short gentlemen, everything has a lifespan!

Belting up
On matters belt, what does it mean for a man to have the right belt? Your belt should always be in tandem with the colour of your shoe. Never wear a black shoe and a brown belt and you assume you are smart. Your socks, similarly, should be the colour of your trousers or darker for formal wear.

However, happy socks are easily becoming a trend, especially for young men. If happy socks make you happy, please, any time. Nevertheless, if you have a formal occasion, formal socks give you a professional look. Always ensure your socks are clean, same colour and worn properly. Besides, while you are standing, your socks should be covered. Otherwise, this would mean your trousers are too short.

Men, learn to wear properly fitting clothes. Correct fitting means your shoulder pads end with the shoulders. In case of a shirt, only about half an inch of the shirt calf should be visible. If we see the entire calf, then either your shirt is too big or your jacket is too small.

I like talking about comfortable waist of trousers. Gentlemen, please bear in mind your belt is an accessory: It is not a rope for tying your trousers! These days it is very common, especially at airports, to see men remove their belts for security checks and they have to cling to their trousers because they are threatening to fall. Trousers should, first and foremost, fit before one wears a belt.

Gentlemen, also invest in a quality watch and a quality wallet. Whenever you pull out your wallet, it ought to make a statement. Never mind about the contents! A quality watch is a must have for every gentleman. So in case you forgot about your watch because you can rely on your phone, fetch out that watch and wear, even if it is not working. It is an important accessory.

The beard, on the other hand, should be well shaved and a moustache well trimmed. Use colognes of mild fragrances and invest in a good deodorant so that you do not smell of sweat or display sweat marks beneath your shirt. Here is some little secret gentlemen – the only hair that you really must have is the one on your head!

Finally, your shoes are the first things that someone notices. Invest in high quality, preferably lace-up, shoes for formal events. Ensure your shoes are always clean and well maintained. My parting shot is a quote by Charles Hix who said, ‘looking good is not self-importance: It is self-respect’