Sayonara, Suits: Alternatives to Men’s Business Attire

By Brandon Doyle, writer
Sep 07, 2016
Image Credit: Monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images

Studies show that wearing formal attire helps people feel more powerful, and can actually change the way they think.

But dressing up doesn't have to just include the traditional business suit; if the traditional wardrobe of a businessman with the suit, the watch, and the briefcase don’t express who you really are, here are some dress alternatives to reflect your style while still maintaining a powerful professional look.

Related Article: Dress to Impress: Work Wardrobe Staples Every Professional Woman Needs

Alternative to the Suit

Wearing a traditional suit gets boring; keep in mind, though, that not all workplaces are created equal; some of these options are more casual and might not fit into your job’s dress code. Be aware of what others in the office are wearing and try to stay on a similar level.

Man wearing light blue jacket, plaid shirt, and denim

Going with denim

Depending on where you work, you may even be able to get away with a blazer and some nice denim jeans. Yes, we said jeans. They look great with a textured tweed or linen blend blazer. Jeans should be slim, not too tight and not too loose. Pair the blazer with a striped or classic print shirt and it is stunning; complete the look with loafers. Ditch the white button-down in this situation and try colors and patterns to add variety to the look.

Man wearing tan jacket with pocket square, standing outsideSport sneakers

Bringing activewear into the business world is a very modern way to dress down a business suit. When appropriate, wearing a pair of clean, minimal, slim, luxury sneakers looks great with a lightweight suit. When we say sneakers, we don’t recommend that you wear your workout Nikes to the office; we’re thinking more along the lines of these Common Projects sneakers. 

Mixing it up

Try mixing separates; wear a double-breasted jacket in an earthy tone with trousers for a more casual, yet still professional look. Go for mustard or teal pants to really make a statement.  

Related Article: 10 Helpful Business Fashion Tips To Make Any Professional Look The Part

Add some plaid

Plaid is a great way to add interest to an outfit. There are plaid jackets and button ups available for men that look fantastic without being overwhelming. There are more options than just plaid too, find another print like paisley or stripes. Be careful when adding patterns like these to a wardrobe, though, the pattern is branching out far enough, don’t add any bold colors or wear multiple patterns at the same time.

Making a suit your own

If you like the look of a suit but are just looking for a change from day to day, try occasionally wearing a cotton/silk blend suit for a more modern look. Experiment with different colors like navy or gray instead of the traditional black. It is also possible to play around with different textures in ties, or to add a colorful pocket square. 

Alternative to the Briefcase

Messenger bag

A messenger bag is worn over one shoulder and is a practical alternative to a briefcase. Generally, it is hung on one shoulder and not worn across the body, the one shoulder style gives the messenger bag a more professional look. Choose a more minimal, leather messenger bag like this Kenneth Cole bag.

Business man on smartphone wearing jacket and leather bag

Bring a backpack

Backpacks might have a bad reputation for being a high schooler’s bag; however, if chosen correctly, a backpack can be a very chic look. the Versa Executive Backpack is a great one for business trips. While Cotopaxi makes high-quality backpacks that are great for businessmen who ride bikes into the office.

Other Accessories

Accessories play a big part in personal style. Here are some fun ways to customize your look, while still looking great in the office.

Phone case

Businessmen take a number of phone calls each day, why not let your phone reflect your style? A carved wood case or classic leather portfolio are great ways to add style to a phone while keeping the look professional. Definitely stay away from large prints and letters on a phone case that can be seen as distracting and immature.

Related Article: Interview Success Secrets: How to Project Confidence With the Right Attire


A watch should match the formality of the outfit. It should go without saying, but no athletic or digital watches with a suit. In general, analog watches are more classically formal. Watches with a more minimal style always look great, and leather straps pair well with most suits.

Stylish socks

Contrary to popular belief, socks don’t have to match trousers. Coordinate your socks to your shirt, tie, or pocket square. Just be sure the socks match each other at least. Socks don’t have to be a solid color; they can be polka dotted, argyle, or striped; these styles add some fun and a splash of color to even a business outfit.

Brandon Doyle is the Founder of Wallaroo Media, a digital marketing agency. He loves travel, his family, sports, and bologna sandwiches. Connect with him on Twitter!
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