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What To Wear – Part One March 4, 2009

Posted by sroeber in Attire.
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A Style Guide to German Business Attire

Although one may think it would be stating the obvious, it cannot be repeated often enough: Appropriate business attire is an absolute must when acting in a professional business environment. There may be some standards, which apply worldwide, but there are certainly also some hidden pitfalls, which you will want to be aware of before you attend this very important meeting with your German business partners. – They are rather conservative in that regard.

Suit / Costume

Professional business attire

Professional business attire

Let’s begin with the suit – or costume (for ladies.) Wearing a suit or a costume is expected in a professional business environment in Germany. Most business people wear dark colors, such as dark blue or dark grey. It may also go into medium gray, but bright colors are rather to be avoided. Firstly, because they are not commonly worn, and secondly because the danger of getting stains on them in prominent spots (e.g. on the lapel of your jacket) is just way too high. In the recent past, tailor made suits / costumes have really become affordable. Really nothing compares to a perfectly tailored “outer skin” in the business environment. There are several tailors in Germany offering professional, high quality products at affordable prices. Two examples: (a) Dolzer. This tailor has shops in most big German cities. (b) You can get your tailor come to your office or home also. This service is offered, amongst others, by Harper & Fields, located in Frankfurt and operating country wide and even internationally (if you got the necessary change, that is.) The big advantage of tailormade suits is that the trousers have the correct length. Hardly anything is as embarrassing as wearing too short “high-waters” or “flood pants” which end at your ankles rather than properly cover them. 

A dress handkerchief is optional and may be regarded as slightly preppy, but if its style and color match well with the suit and, especially, the tie, then there is no reason not to wear one.

Combinations of a blazer and, say, corduroy slacks are normally not appropriate.

Men should wear a belt, either black or brown. The belt color should match with the color of the shoes.

Shirt / Blouse

Your shirt must be long sleeved, even in summer, and should be plain colors (white or blue.) No experiments, no exceptions. Also here, the best choice of all is, of course, a tailormade one (you can get them at the same sources as above, i.e. Dolzer and Harper & Fields, but also with numerous others.) The prices are no longer so much higher than shirts and blouses of a certain quality off the shelf in department stores, and often monograms are offered at little or no extra cost. Good middle class off the shelf shirts for gentlemen are, for example, the “Luxor” series by OLYMP and blouses by BURLINGTON. No matter if you wear off the shelf shirts or blouses or if you had them tailormade: Make sure to always wear neatly ironed shirts. You don’t even have to do it yourself. In every (larger) city, there are dozens of cleaners who offer to wash, iron, and fold your shirt for as little as one Euro. A really affordable way to make your outfit a perfect one.


Business Tie by Onorato.

Business Tie by Onorato.

Especially for your first meeting(s), you should choose a tie with a muted color which fits nicely with the color of your suit. It may have color and stripes, but it should be slighly more dark than bright, and the pattern of the tie should not be distracting and overly obvious. Little elephants, cars, and other pictures are a no-go! Paisley may already be a bit too much. If you are of a rather pale complexion, a somewhat brigher color may help to create a nice contrast to your suite and your face, but stay within boundaries and don’t overdo it. Your tie should be tied professionally. There are in total six knots of which you should be able to tie at least two. There is a very helpful website on how to tie the various knots in case you are not familiar with the techniques: www.tieknot.com.


Classic Oxford Shoe

Classic Oxford Shoe

The ladies clearly have quite a bit more freedom regarding which shoes to wear, at least concerning the color. As long as it fits well with the colors of the costume and blouse (and, to make it perfect, the lady’s bag or purse), there are many possibilities. However, they should be plain colors. Also, high heels should be avoided, even if you master to walk in them with ease. The heels should be middle height, no more, even if you are rather small.

Gentlemen should wear black or brown business shoes, no slippers (they have been out of style since the 1990’s!) The color of the shoes should match with the color of the belt. And please: brown is not brown. Try to have the same brown tone on your shoes as on your belt and vice versa.

A very popular brand for business shoes and matching accessories is LLOYD. As a business man, you should stick to the classic “Oxford” form.

Socks / Stockings

That one is easy: black or very dark blue, no imprints, logos or designs on them, and long enough so your calf doesn’t show when your trousers happen to slide upwards. For ladies, stockings or nylons without designs; shading depending on the costume’s color. And: No socks are no option.

Read on in Part Two

This article is part of the blog, Doing Business With Germans



1. What to Wear - Part Two « Doing Business With Germans - March 7, 2009

[…] to Wear – Part Two 2009 March 7 by sroeber In Part One you could see what your suit, shirt and shoes should be like to make them an appropriate, even […]

2. How To Get Started - Part One « Doing Business With Germans - March 10, 2009

[…] Mobile Phone, Mute, Respect, Switch Off, Timeliness, Timing, Vibrate by sroeber Now that you know what to wear (and what not) in a formal business situation with Germans, you can now learn how to behave and what to do at the […]

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