Simplify Your Clothes Part 3: Formal Work Clothes

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A large portion of your work clothes will already be decided if you have gone through Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. Your watch-strap, belt, bag and dress shoes or loafers, are all black because you only have black leather items now. Your t-shirts are all medium-grey v-necks, preferably in merino wool because they are so awesome. Your socks are all dark grey. If you really want to show off your one additional colour from part 2, you could even get a little color accent on your socks, but then you’ll be messing up the convenience of never having to match socks again when putting away laundry.

This blog post will focus on the last remaining pieces of a professional wardrobe from which you can grab and put together items blindly, and still look well put together.


You can get by for the rest of your life with only two suits, a solid dark grey suit and a solid dark navy suit. You can wear these to any occasion, with basically any shirt and they will always look good. If you could only choose or own one suit, then I would choose dark grey. Even if in part 1 you chose to only wear brown leather instead of black, both navy and grey suits will also still look good.

You can’t go wrong with a dark grey or dark navy suit

Dress Shirts

I’m a big fan of the ‘untucked fit’ Oxford shirts because you can wear them casually and untucked, or tucked in with a suit. Double duty clothing means having fewer shirts in your closet, spending less money on clothes, and Spending less time choosing clothes.

Most of your dress shirts should be solid white, or solid light blue. These are tried, tested and true dress shirt colours that will match all your ties and suits. If you are yearning for some pattern on your dress shirts, then go for white dress shirts with stripes, checks, or even an airplane or paisley patterns in navy, grey or your chosen colour from part 2. The key here is that these patterned shirts should have fine, small or narrow patterns that are close together. Why is this? In order to contrast with your ties.

Neck Ties

The colours here won’t surprise you. Once again choose black, grey, and navy with white only as an accent colour. Generally it is better for your tie to be darker than your shirts, so you want to avoid pastels or white as the main colour. Your neck tie is the one place on formal outfits that can really pop with your single chosen colour. Just make sure your ties are solid, or have large or wide stripes, checks, or patterns like paisley. Doing this will ensure that if you grab a striped shirt and striped tie, there will still be a size contrast between the two. I suggest large patterns on ties and small patterns on shirts because it is simply easier to find dress shirts with subtle, or small stripes and patterns. This is work clothes too, so you won’t be buying large, bold, palm tree print dress shirts. Feel free to get a palm tree tie if that pleases you. Just make sure it’s a large pattern and in black, navy, grey, white or your own chosen colour.

Solid, or wide, large pattern ties in a familiar colour palette

Pocket square

This is easy. If you want to use a pocket square, get a white pocket square. You are done. You cannot fail with a classic, white pocket square. If you really want some colour, then choose a pocket square that contains your chosen extra colour.

The only pocket square you need

Putting Everything Into Practice

What follows are photos showing 4 dress shirts, with 4 neck ties and the same suit. There is also a white pocket square, and a grey and coloured sweater. If you remember from the last post in the series, burgundy was the one extra colour I chose for my simple, no-look wardrobe.

Warmth and a little colour

The majority of my clothes are still black, grey, navy and white, but there are a few burgundy elements in there.

I may be biased, but I think every shirt and tie combination works well. I also think that all the shirt and tie combinations would look equally good with a grey suit.

But what if you had chosen a different colour? Luckily, I have 3 green items left from my wardrobe simplification purge. Dark green was my second favorite colour, so I held onto these items and keep them separate from all my other clothes. Once they wear out, I will not replace them.

The second set of pictures shows a similar mix and match of black, grey, navy and white with dark green instead of burgundy as the one extra colour.

Similarly, I think all the shirt and tie combinations would work with a navy suit just as well as the grey suit in the photos. If there are any combinations that you think do not work, feel free to share in the comments below.

Final Takeaway

Ultimately, the foundation of a no-look business wardrobe are the colours black, grey, navy and white, with fine patterned dress shirts and broad patterned ties. There’s even room for one bonus colour of your choice.

The next post in this series will provide a simple colour shopping guide for a low-stress, no-look wardrobe.