The 4 Levels of Business Dress

The 4 Levels of Business Dress


One of the most confusing but essential wardrobe concepts is business dress. The dress code will vary from one company or office to another−and may be written or unwritten. But what’s important to know is that there are four basic levels of business dress. Learn them, and it will take the mystery and confusion out of knowing how to dress for any business occasion.

Level One: Formal

Formal attire is for black tie events, generally held in the evening. An appropriately formal outfit would be a solid or subtly pinstriped dark suit in black or charcoal. You’ll want to wear it with a beautiful white dress shirt and a conservative necktie or bowtie. The tie should be 100% silk, and it is ideal if the shirt has cufflinks.

You’ll need a classic and conservative black leather belt, and over-the-calf black dress socks. Your belt should match a pair of exquisite lace-up black dress shoes shined to a high gloss. The Batta is always an excellent choice

Level Two: Business

Business attire is less formal. In conservative professions like finance, dark suits and white or light blue shirts with a classic necktie or bowtie are great. Pair them with lace-up dress shoes such as wingtips and a matching belt.

Other professions allow for a less reserved wardrobe. That can mean either a suit or a sports coat or traditional blazer. You may also be able to wear button-down collared shirts, in solids or patterns, without a tie. Likewise, slacks or chinos may be appropriate. Any dressy shoe will work, but they should be matched to a dressy leather belt. We recommend shoes such as the wing tip Cardiff II, the Oscar (a monk strap style shoe) or the Bari, a set of dressy loafers. 

Level Three: Business Casual

The rules for business casual are slightly more relaxed. Handsome slacks or khakis work great, and can be worn with a button-down long or short sleeved shirt with a collar. For footwear, safe but stylish choices include sharp looking loafers or versatile monk-style shoes. Or you can wear a lighter color shoe, like the Belvedere Lago in cognac, the Oscar in pistachio, or the Mare in camel.

Level Four: Casual

Remember, this is still a level of business dress, not non-business beach, bar, or sports attire. If the invitation states “casual,” wear pressed khakis or classy jeans and a leather or fabric belt. Pair that with a solid or patterned collared shirt, a crisp polo shirt, or a designer-quality tee shirt. One of the best options for casual footwear is a pair of gorgeous leather sneakers. You can also wear loafers or classic driving shoes such as the Belvedere Omar.

Ask and Observe

When in doubt about your particular organization’s business level standards, ask your boss or HR representative. Pay close attention to what the top level executives wear to formal and casual events and around the office. They are your best role models to follow. After all, if you dress the way those leaders do you’ll always be aligned with the look the company is trying to project.

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