Navigating dress codes for formal and semi-formal events can be challenging, especially for men. However, grasping the fundamental components of formal and semi-formal attire is vital for personal style and professionalism.
Banks usually require formal attire for day-to-day affairs. In fact, banks are as professional as they get. Bankers are expected to dress sharply. This pre-requisite perhaps stems from the notion that people don't want to leave their money with people who aren't well-dressed. We might see bankers' clothes as formal, but some consider them uniforms.
"Legally, a banker has to maintain the secrecy of their customer's money and monetary information. It is understood that a banker's body gesture shall not reveal the secrecy. The suit is accepted and considered as the banking uniform that hides [any] gesture [which may hint at any bias]," Mahbubul Alam Chowdhury, the Vice President of the Corporate Banking Division, at United Commercial Bank Limited explained to The Business Standard.
Before we get into the details of picking out an outfit, it is noteworthy that even though bankers are always expected to wear formal attires, over time, the country's stance has loosened up on the "uniform." In a climate of extreme heat, it's safe to say that corporations, in general, are moving towards semi-formal attires.
The formal attire
The formal dress code for bank professionals is the most traditional option and generally consists of a suit. Accessories, such as neckties and pocket squares, are not typically allowed, but people have started to incorporate those in their outfits to give them a personal touch.
Mahbubul said, "It reflects the personal discipline of a banker and upholds the formal character of a bank office."
Amir Rashed Khan, Director, Corporate Affairs, Brand and Marketing of a multinational bank was a bit philosophical about the banker's attire. "In our country, bankers have historically held a certain honourable status and that still applies. Bankers, who are the face of their bank and brand, should always be mindful of their attires. They should try to opt for professional attire that reflects the seriousness of their role," said Rashed.
The semi-formal dress code for men represents a stylish step up from casual attire, offering a blend of sophistication and personal flair. While some might view it as a middle ground between formal and informal dressing, it's far more than that.
Imagine blazers or suits paired with matching trousers, two-piece ensembles with or without a tie, enhanced by pocket squares and dress watches. But in a country like Bangladesh, people tend to ditch jackets for semi-formal attires.
"I am always conscious of the situation and context. Whether I am meeting clients, attending meetings, or representing the bank at an event, I choose an attire that is appropriate for the occasion," said Rashed.
Takiyan Chowdhury, the senior vice president & the HR- Head of HR Operations, at Prime Bank, said, "We guide them [employees] to wear proper dress. In business cases, it has to be a suit, and in semi-business or after-business [work affairs], it's smart casual."
"On casual days, I always wear a pink shade, blue check jacket and contrasting pants. I use light brown oxford, burgundy monk strap and black suede penny loafer shoes on a casual day. I named it Colourful Thursday," said Mahabubul.
How to pick your attire?
Many might wonder how to go about picking these outfits for professional settings, be it a formal or a semi-formal work affair. Our interviewees have given us great tips to pick out your outfit.
Item of Clothing:
Aniqa Zaheen, a costume designer by profession said, "I like to dress man in solid colours when it comes to formal [wear]. Looking clean and sharp is the key to looking professional."
It is always important to pick solid colours for your outfit rather than patterns or designs. A coloured shirt with darker pants and dress shoes. Store-bought items are definitely an easy solution for all these items. But when it comes to clothing, all our interviewees advised to get fitted or tailor-made clothing items since "movement" is a big part of a banking professional's day-to-day job responsibilities.
In regards to ideal bank wear, Mahbubul said, "Donning shirts – mostly in solid white and blue and variants of stripes on white and blue. Tie is an ornamental accessory, not functional, that makes an accent in dressing. The necktie is teased in solid maroon, stripe, check, houndstooth, diamond-patterned printed tie."
Since Bangladesh is a hot country, Takiyan advised to wear a linen shirt with a linen jacket "as it might be a bit more comfortable given your day-to-day movement." Additionally, the consensus was dark shoes to complete the outfit.
Aniqa is very keen on her colour pallet when it comes to a professional look, who said it's important "Using eye soothing cool, tones like blue, green, grey, black etc. looks elegant rather than red, yellow, orange etc."
Rashed also shared similar thoughts. "When it comes to selecting colours and patterns for my professional attire, I tend to choose classic options. Neutral colours like navy blue, charcoal grey, and black are my favourites. These colours give me a sense of professionalism and confidence that aligns well with the banking industry's image," he said.
Mahabubul added, "The colour I prefer in a suit is charcoal, navy blue, grey pinstripe, muted Glen and Windsor check on deep grey etc."
For a banking professional, accessories are a must to complete the outfit. "Accessories like watch, glass and bags with a professional look is also important," said Aniqa. Other items like pocket squares, ties and nice socks are always good to incorporate into your outfit.
People generally put in a lot of time to prepare their attire. Mahbubul shared an excellent tip. "It is best to organise your next-day attire and accessories the previous night. A well-dressed gentleman exercises this practice. I check my wardrobe to see whether my required stuff is there. Each Friday or Saturday, I polish all my shoes and sometimes steam iron suits. A routine practice of organising will make it a habit."
Amir focused more on attention to details, "I also pay attention to grooming details. Neatly combed, short hair and polished shoes contribute to an overall polished appearance."
Takiyan Chowdhury said, "It should be part of your lifestyle. You have to experiment, you have to look at yourself in the mirror, and you should know that you look good. As the old saying goes, if you look good, you feel good!" said Takiyan. He also emphasised how important it is for people in the banks to be presentable.
Dressing formally or semi-formally is a great way to show respect, professionalism and sophistication in any setting. With the proper knowledge and attention to detail, any man can effortlessly pull off a formal or semi-formal look and exude confidence and style.
Whether it's a black tie event or a business meeting, understanding the nuances of these dress codes will allow you to make a strong impression and always look your best. Embrace the opportunity to elevate your style and make a statement with your wardrobe choices.