Gentleman’s Fashion Etiquette: A Complete Guide

Last updated on January 7th, 2024 at 07:07 pm

Trends come and go, but dressing and gentleman’s fashion etiquette remain. We have put together this fashion guide so you remain elegant.

Dressing well is not just about looking good; it’s about comfort, exuding confidence, respect, and sophistication.

Whether you’re attending a formal event, meeting with clients, or simply going about your daily life, knowing the ins and outs of fashion etiquette can set you apart from the rest.

In this guide, we will discuss the essential principles and practical tips that every modern gentleman should embrace to navigate the world of fashion.

You might want to see the complete list of gentleman’s etiquette and manners.

Table of Contents

Impact of a Gentleman’s Appearance on First Impressions

I have always had one friend at every given time in my life who doesn’t give a hoot about the dress code. He wears whatever they like at any time, so far it doesn’t hurt.

They argue that a man is not supposed to pay much attention to fashion and grooming.

While he might be right that a man should not be overly concerned about dressing up like women, he should pay attention to details and appear like a gentleman who knows what he’s doing.

Dressing etiquette is not much about cost and causing needless attention, but comfort, class, and elegance.

A gentleman’s appearance holds immense power in shaping first impressions.

It communicates his attention to detail, self-respect, and professionalism.

A well-groomed appearance, coupled with tasteful attire, instantly conveys confidence and respect.

It creates an aura of trustworthiness and reliability, making others more inclined to engage and connect.

Conversely, a sloppy or unkempt appearance can undermine credibility and hinder opportunities.

My friend might not look sloppy, but he does not look smart either.

By investing in your appearance, you can command respect, inspire confidence, and leave a lasting positive impression on others, opening doors to personal and professional success.

Related: Gentleman’s Guide to Netiquette

Gentleman’s Fashion Etiquette for Formal Attire

Dressing etiquette for formal attire, particularly when it comes to choosing the right suit, is crucial for gentlemen who want to stand out with a touch of modest class.

Here are two key aspects to consider:

Proper Fit and Tailoring

The foundation of a well-dressed gentleman starts with dresses that fit well, including a suit.

Opt for a suit that hugs your body without being too tight or too loose. The shoulders should align with your own, and the jacket sleeves should end just above the wrist bone.

You don’t want to appear like you are being worn by the suit.

Trousers should have a clean break at the shoes and sit comfortably at the waist.

Tailoring is essential to achieve the perfect fit, so don’t hesitate to visit a professional tailor for adjustments.

Related: How to Make a Toask Like a Gentleman

Understanding Different Suit Styles

Every body type has a suit style that will match it. While African gentlemen are not so keen on suits because of the weather, there are light suits that can go.

Familiarize yourself with various suit styles to choose the one that best suits your body type and the occasion.

The most common styles include the classic single-breasted suit, which is versatile and suitable for most formal events.

Double-breasted suits exude a more formal and traditional look, while three-piece suits add an extra touch of elegance with a matching vest.

Additionally, consider lapel styles (notch, peak, or shawl) and the number of buttons (one, two, or three) to further refine your suit selection.

Let’s take a deeper look…

  • Single-breasted vs. double-breasted suits: Single-breasted suits are the most common and versatile choice. They have a single row of buttons down the front and are suitable for most formal occasions. Double-breasted suits have two parallel rows of buttons, giving a more formal and structured look. See the image below.
  • Notch lapel vs. peak lapel: The lapel is the folded flap on the front of the suit jacket. Notch lapels have a small notch where the lapel meets the collar, while peak lapels have upward-pointing edges. Peak lapels add a touch of formality and are often found on tuxedos and more upscale suits. See the image below.
  • Vent styles: Vents are the slits at the back of the jacket that allows easy movement. Suits can have no vents, a single vent (a single slit in the center), or double vents (two slits on either side). Double vents are considered the most stylish and provide a better fit when sitting or moving.
  • Fabric choices: Formal suits are typically made of wool or a wool blend. For warm weather, lightweight fabrics like linen or cotton can also be suitable. Choose a fabric that suits the season and the formality of the occasion.

Related: Gentleman’s Guide to Driving Etiquette

Dress Shirts

Dress shirts are a type of formal shirt designed to be worn with suits or formal attire for various social and professional occasions.

Typically made from cotton or linen material, they are characterized by a stiff collar, long sleeves, and a button-down front.

Dress shirts offer a sophisticated and professional look, often featuring various patterns or colours, and can be customized with different collar styles and cuff designs.

They are an essential wardrobe staple for men, providing a polished and elegant appearance when paired with a suit, tie, and dress shoes.

A gentleman's dress shirts

Dress Shoes

Dress shoes are a crucial element of gentleman fashion etiquette. They are typically made of high-quality leather and feature a sleek, polished appearance.

These shoes are designed to be worn with formal attire, such as suits or tuxedos, and convey a sense of sophistication and elegance.

The most common styles include oxfords, brogues, and loafers. It is important to choose shoes that fit well and complement the overall outfit.

Proper care and maintenance, including regular polishing and resoling, are essential to preserve their appearance and longevity.

Dress shoes are a timeless accessory that adds a refined touch to any gentleman’s ensemble.

Related: Guides to Chatting Etiquette for the Gentleman

Dress shoes to complement a gentleman's dressing etiquette

Selecting Appropriate Dress Shirts and Ties

Selecting appropriate dress shirts and ties is equally important to complete a gentleman’s polished look.

Here are two key aspects to consider:

Matching Colours and Patterns

When pairing dress shirts and ties, it’s crucial to create a harmonious and balanced combination.

Start by considering the colour of your suit and choose a dress shirt that complements it.

Classic white or light blue shirts are versatile options that work well with most suit colours.

When it comes to ties, select a colour that complements the shirt and suit while adding a touch of contrast.

As for patterns, ensure that the shirt and tie patterns do not clash. For example, if your shirt has a bold pattern, opt for a more subtle or solid-coloured tie.

Related: Gentleman’s Social Media Eqituette

A complete formal attire for a gentleman

Knotting the Tie Correctly

Tying a tie properly is an essential skill for any gentleman. The most common knot is the four-in-Hand knot, which is versatile and suitable for most occasions.

Other popular knots include the Half-Windsor and Full-Windsor, which create a more symmetrical and formal look.

When tying your tie, ensure that it reaches just above your belt buckle and that it is neither too loose nor too tight.

A well-tied and properly proportioned knot adds a touch of elegance to your overall appearance.

By paying attention to matching colours and patterns when selecting dress shirts and ties, as well as mastering the art of knotting the tie correctly, gentlemen can elevate their formal attire.

These details demonstrate a keen eye for fashion etiquette, style and attention to detail, enhancing the overall impression of sophistication as a gentleman.

Remember, dressing etiquette is about presenting oneself with confidence and grace, leaving a lasting impression in any formal setting.

Related: How to Walk Like a Gentleman

Cufflinks are decorative fasteners used to secure the cuffs of a dress shirt.

They bring an essence of refinement and grace to your formal outfit.

Here’s how to properly wear cufflinks:

  • French Cuffs: Cufflinks are typically worn with French cuffs, which are double cuffs that are folded back before fastening. Ensure that your shirt has French cuffs before attempting to wear cufflinks.
  • Insertion: To wear cufflinks, fold back the cuffs of your shirt and align the holes on both sides. Insert the cufflink through the holes, making sure the decorative part is facing outward.
  • Fastening: Once the cufflink is inserted, secure it by flipping the fastening mechanism. This can vary depending on the type of cufflink you have. Some cufflinks have a swivel bar, while others have a hinged mechanism. Make sure the cufflink is fastened securely to keep the cuffs in place.

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Cufflinks to complete the gentleman's fashion etiquette

Pocket Squares and Different Ways to Fold and Wear them

Pocket squares are small, decorative pieces of fabric that are placed in the breast pocket of a suit jacket.

They add a pop of colour and style to your formal attire. Here are some different ways to fold and wear pocket squares:

Straight Fold: This is the simplest and most classic way to fold a pocket square. Fold the square in half to form a rectangle, then fold it in half again to create a smaller square. Insert the folded edge into the breast pocket, leaving a small portion visible.

One-Point Fold: Lay the pocket square flat and fold it diagonally to form a triangle. Fold one corner of the triangle towards the center, then fold the other corner over it. Adjust the width to fit your pocket and insert it with the pointed end facing upward.

Puff Fold: Lay the pocket square flat and pinch the center to create a puff-like shape. Hold the pinched center and insert it into the pocket, allowing the edges to fan out slightly.

Two-Point Fold: Fold the pocket square diagonally to form a triangle. Fold one corner in the direction of the center, followed by folding the other corner on top of it.

Adjust the width and insert it into the pocket with the two points facing upward.

Related: Guides On Personal Boundary

Dressing Etiquette for Semi-Formal Attire

There are times when a gentleman has good room for more style and relaxed dressing.

This is a semi-formal scenario that is neither formal nor casual. There are a few things that will inform your choices starting from the dress code of whatever the situation is.

The Dress Code

Decoding the dress code for semi-formal attire involves understanding the level of formality expected for the occasion.

Semi-formal attire typically falls between casual and formal dress codes.

It is important to consider the event, location, and time of day when interpreting the dress code.

Generally, for men, semi-formal attire includes a suit, dress shirt, tie, and dress shoes.

However, the specific requirements may vary depending on the occasion.

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Appropriate Choices for Business-casual Settings

In a business-casual setting, the dress code is less formal than traditional business attire but still requires a professional appearance.

Men can opt for a combination of dress pants or chinos, a collared shirt (such as a button-down or polo shirt), and dress shoes or loafers.

To achieve a more refined appearance, you can incorporate blazers or sports coats.

It is important to avoid overly casual items like t-shirts, jeans, sneakers, or sandals in a business-casual setting.

Selecting the Right Type of Shoe

Choosing the right type of footwear is crucial for completing a gentleman’s outfit in a semi-formal situation.

For semi-formal attire, oxford shoes or brogues are excellent choices. They are classic, versatile, and appropriate for most formal occasions.

Loafers can also be suitable for certain semi-formal events, especially during warmer months.

It is important to ensure that the shoes are well-fitted, comfortable, and match the overall style and colour scheme of the outfit.

Dressing Etiquette for Casual Attire

Gentlemen’s dressing etiquette for casual attire is the guidelines and principles that men should follow when dressing casually.

It involves maintaining a sense of style and elegance while being comfortable and appropriate for the occasion.

Here are tips to get you on the right path:

Striking the Balance between Comfort and Style

To strike the balance between comfort and style, consider the following:

  • Proper Fit: Ensure that your clothing fits well and flatters your body shape. Avoid overly tight or baggy clothes.
  • Fabric Choice: Opt for fabrics that are comfortable, breathable, and appropriate for the weather. Natural fibers like cotton, linen, and wool are good choices.
  • Casual Tailoring: Look for garments with a relaxed and less structured silhouette. Unstructured blazers or jackets and relaxed-fit pants are examples of comfortable yet stylish choices.
  • Accessorizing: Enhance your outfit with simple yet stylish accessories like a quality watch, a leather belt, or a pocket square. Avoid excessive or flashy accessories in casual settings.

Related: How to Shake a Hand Like a Gentleman

Choosing Appropriate Clothing Items for Casual Occasions

When selecting clothing items for casual occasions, consider the following guidelines:

  • Shirts: Opt for well-fitted, quality shirts such as polo shirts, button-downs, or casual dress shirts. Avoid overly loud patterns or graphics.
  • Pants: Choose well-fitting trousers or chinos in neutral or muted colours. Avoid jeans with excessive fading, distressing, or embellishments.
  • Footwear: Opt for leather shoes, loafers, boat shoes, or clean sneakers. Avoid athletic or beach sandals unless appropriate for the activity or location.
  • Outerwear: Select a lightweight jacket, a blazer, or a smart casual coat depending on the season and occasion. Avoid overly casual or sporty jackets for more formal events.

Tips for Creating a Polished yet Relaxed Look

To achieve a polished yet relaxed look, consider the following tips:

  • Grooming: Pay attention to personal grooming by maintaining a neat hairstyle, facial hair (if any), and well-trimmed nails.
  • Layering: Experiment with layering different casual pieces to add dimension to your outfit while keeping it relaxed. For example, layer a blazer over a polo shirt.
  • Colour Coordination: Choose a colour palette that complements your skin tone and coordinates well. Stick to muted tones or neutrals for a sophisticated look.
  • Details: Pay attention to the smaller details like ironing your clothes, tucking in your shirts, and ensuring your shoes are clean and polished.
  • Confidence: Lastly, wear your outfit with confidence. The most important aspect of a polished yet relaxed look is how you carry yourself. Embrace your style and dress comfortably, and you will exude elegance effortlessly.

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Gentleman’s Grooming Etiquette

Gentleman’s grooming etiquette is the set of practices and behaviours that are expected from men in maintaining their personal appearance.

It includes various aspects such as personal hygiene, grooming, and styling of facial hair and hair.

Let’s take a closer look…

Importance of Personal Hygiene for the Gentleman

Personal hygiene is important for maintaining good health and a positive impression for the gentleman and every other person for that matter.

It involves taking care of your body by regularly washing, bathing, and brushing your teeth.

It also includes addressing body odor through the use of deodorants or antiperspirants.

Personal hygiene is essential as it helps prevent the spread of diseases, maintains overall well-being, and contributes to your self-confidence and social interactions.

Maintaining a Well-groomed Appearance

A well-groomed appearance demonstrates self-respect and professionalism.

It involves taking care of various aspects such as clean and trimmed nails, well-fitted and ironed clothing, polished shoes, and ensuring personal grooming products are used appropriately.

A well-groomed appearance signifies attention to detail and creates a positive impression in both personal and professional settings for you as a gentleman.

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Proper Grooming Techniques for Facial Hair and Hair Styling

Facial hair grooming includes maintaining a carefully groomed beard or mustache.

This involves regular trimming, shaping, and cleaning to keep it neat and tidy.

For hair styling, it is important to keep hair clean, conditioned, and well-styled based on individual preferences and trends.

This may involve regular haircuts, using appropriate hair products, and styling techniques such as combing, brushing, and blow-drying.


Practicing gentlemen’s fashion etiquette is of paramount importance for every man.

It shows you are self-aware and takes self-care seriously which keeps you confident and at par with the times.

By adhering to the rules above, you set yourself apart from the crowd and exude an air of sophistication and refinement.

Such attention to detail not only leaves a lasting impression but also opens doors of opportunity, as people gravitate towards well-dressed individuals.

Ultimately, the impact of a well-dressed gentleman extends far beyond aesthetics, influencing self-perception, interactions, and overall success in various aspects of life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the dress code for a gentleman?

The dress code for a gentleman varies depending on the occasion and setting, but generally it involves wearing smart and tailored clothing, such as suits or blazers, dress shirts, and appropriate footwear.

What is the smart dress code for men?

The smart dress code for men typically involves wearing formal attire like suits, dress shirts, ties, and polished shoes. It emphasizes a clean and professional appearance.

What is the etiquette of fashion?

The etiquette of fashion refers to the norms and standards of dressing appropriately for different occasions. It includes considerations like dressing for the occasion, considering cultural or religious sensitivities, and expressing personal style with class and respect.

How a gentleman should dress casually?

When dressing casually, a gentleman should aim for a relaxed yet put-together look. This may include well-fitted jeans or chinos, paired with a button-down shirt or a casual blazer. Opting for clean and polished footwear completes the casual yet sophisticated attire.