It’s the nightmare we all dread! No, not that one about being naked in class – the other far more real threat; turning up to a casual event looking way too formal or, worse still, attending a black tie affair in jeans and a T-shirt.

Let’s hope this guide will solve those issues once and for all! I’m going to explain how to work an outfit so you’ll be able to turn up for drinks straight from the office, without anybody realizing you’re wearing the same threads as this morning.

Dress formal, then work your way down. It’s easier to relax a formal outfit than it is to dress up street clothing. In the event of an unexpected casual encounter you should remove your tie, open the top button, hike up the shirt cuffs and lose the suit jacket; you’ll still appear smartly dressed, but without the buzz-kill office icons.

Pack an emergency kit. For the back of the car or a staffroom locker; try to keep it stocked with an assortment of goodies. Here are a few simple suggestions as to what you might consider for your pack:

  • Hair styling products (e.g. gel, pomade, wax, hairspray)
  • A vanity mirror
  • A comb or brush
  • Some accessories (e.g. chain, wrist strap, ring, watch)
  • A practical set of standby clothes (e.g. Jeans/T-shirt, Chinos/Polo shirt, Tie/Dress shirt etc).
  • Neutral footwear (e.g. ankle boots or loafers)

Oh, and don’t forget to pack a small decant of your most memorable cologne too; modifying your fragrance to match your altered appearance is an easy trick to pull off. If done correctly, everyone should note the fragrant change subconsciously, but be unable to put their finger on what’s different …

Restyle what you have to hand. It only takes a few minutes to re-sculpt your hair ‘on the fly’ or readjust your scarf knot; it’s amazing what a few simple modifications can do to alter your appearance.

Ties are just one great example; swapping a ‘Half Windsor’ for a loosely-knotted ‘four-in-hand’ can take you from ‘work horse’ to ‘casual chic’ in a flash!

Confidence triumphs! If your clothing looks out of place, fidgeting and twitching will only make things worse; wear your clothes with comfortable pride and people will soon forget about your inappropriate shoes/shirt combo.

Do you have any top tips you want to share? Perhaps you take exception to one of my suggestions, or want to add your own spin on them? Use the comments section to impart your own dressing up/down wisdom.

About The Author

Johnathan Bell is the founder, owner and main author of Guy Style Guide, a website dedicated to everyday male fashion, style and grooming. The primary mission? To guide clueless men through the tricky mindfield that is the growing world of male couture. Find him on , Twitter and Tumblr.