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What to wear to work now: the new rules of officewear

Guest Editor

Step away from that tired suit: modern workwear is so much more than the drab dresscode of yesteryear. These days, it's all about balancing professionalism with personality, so give your 9-5 wardrobe a new spin with our top 5 picks

A male model wearing a cool workwear outfit from John Lewis

In the modern workplace, where your day can cover everything from desk time to pitching to meetings to socialising and back again – and that’s just before lunch – it’s hard to know what to wear. The suit is no longer an everyday requirement. Yes, it’s still part of the picture but, increasingly, offices are happy for employees to express some individuality, as long as they still look smart.

Fortunately, it only takes a few key pieces to update your everyday basics. Keep to a neutral colour palette and a modern, relaxed fit, and you can mix and match all week long. Here's our guide to what to wear to work. 

Men's tailored joggers from John Lewis

01. Tailored joggers

The influence of athleisure is now so prevalent that it’s OK to wear track pants to work. Avoid bright colours and anything you’d wear on the sports field in favour of the new office-appropriate version, characterised by sophisticated shades of charcoal and navy, and a drawstring fastening at the waist.

Wear them as you would chinos or indigo denim jeans, keeping the clothes on your top half a tad smarter. Plain layers, such as a casual blazer worn over a fine-knit cardigan and white T-shirt, look stylish and modern, or try them with a fitted polo top and lightweight mac. Box-fresh white trainers are the ultimate finishing touch.

Men's khaki trousers

02. The utility jacket

The zip-up utility jacket is a hard-working essential. The neat, boxy shape makes it a good blazer alternative when you want to look sharp but casual, while the heavy twill cotton adds a stylish extra layer when the weather can’t quite make up its mind. Choose a fit that’s a little roomy so there’s an easiness to the look. The classic combination of a darker jacket with a lighter button-down shirt keeps it polished – just make sure the shirt collar is always visible. Added bonus: military-influenced patch pockets are perfect for stashing a phone or wallet.

Men's mac and scarf

03. The lightweight mac

It’s spring – so you know showers are on the cards. The modern solution: an updated version of the classic trench, characterised by minimal detailing and a shorter fit. To make it work, avoid wearing the coat over anything beige. Instead, opt for a dark head-to-toe outfit underneath, such as indigo denim and navy or black knitwear. And consider this a work-trip essential. The lightweight design can be folded away and stashed in your carry-on, then thrown over crumpled clothes to polish your look when you arrive.

Grey men's polo shirt

04. The polo shirt

The modern workplace has embraced this sporting classic. While throwing on a simple T-shirt may be too casual for some offices in high summer, a polo shirt is an entirely different story. There are a few things that will tip the balance in your favour: a neutral colour such as slate grey or navy keeps this top the right side of smart. Wear the shirt buttoned-up but untucked, while the fit should be loose but not oversized. Look for options with simple, elevated details, such as the blue trim on this sleeve, which is reworked with a cotton-knitted finish.

Men's navy blazer

05. Cuffed indigo jeans

The challenge with wearing jeans to work is choosing a pair that look smart and modern, never sloppy. The answer: a straight-leg style that’s dark and uniform in colour, with minimal wash and no distressing. Keep the rest of the outfit dark, with a black rollneck and smart, navy blazer for an effortlessly pulled-together look.

To dial up the formality, switch to a washed-cotton shirt and dark tie. Ring the changes with how you style them, turning up the cuff and wearing them with trainers, or rolling down the hems and pairing with bright socks and classic black or brown Oxfords.