Networking man in the city

How To Dress To Impress At Networking Events

This is a guest blog for Networking In The City by “the UK’s leading etiquette and royal protocol expert” William Hanson.

We judge people within seven seconds of meeting them.  That’s a fact: it’s been proved by psychologists.  We look at how people are walking, standing, how they greet us, but – perhaps firstly – what they are wearing.  We are more likely to gravitate towards those who are dressed in similar clothes to us.  The slick suited accountant is less likely to want to talk to the un-ironed t-shirt wearing media hotshot.

As we only have one chance to make a first impression it always alarms me as to why so few Brits want to bother to get it right, particularly when it comes to the sartorial stakes.  Networking events are more likely to be lounge suit affairs, catering for those who have popped to the event in their lunch hour, or dropped by post-work.

Men are often the worst dressers, turning up to the office or a networking event in a good suit, worn badly.  Follow my tips below to ensure you look the part at future networking events – and, most importantly, people want to come to talk to you!

Colour  Suits should be in grey or navy.  A brown suit is simply beyond the pale for city-wear.

Stripes, checks or plain?  The choice of design is up to the wearer.  Stripes complement the taller man’s stature but should be treated with caution by shorter men – but never worn outside major cities.

Jacket  Two or three-button suits are correct.  One button should only ever be fastened.  On a two-button suit the top one is fastened when standing; on a three button the middle button is fastened only.  All buttons are unfastened when seated to avoid strain.

Shirt  This should be a turndown collar – button down collars (practically a craze in America) are not correct British formal wear and should not be worn with a tie.

Shirtsleeves  Double-cuff or button cuffs are fine – the former being dressier and slightly more formal.  If double-cuffs are worn then you require cufflinks.  Novelty cufflinks are not to be encouraged under any circumstances.  Avoid talking to the man with the beer keg-shaped cufflinks.

Tie design  This is where a bluffer can become unstuck.  Striped ties often have associations with military regiments or public schools.  Unless you are an alumnus of either then avoid wearing their tie or else you will be seen as an imposter.  You can’t go wrong with a plain tie.

Tie style  Skinny ties are like a rash: everywhere!  To many they look as if one can’t afford a proper tie.  Stick to a wider tie (otherwise referred to as a ‘normal tie’) to avoid looking off beat.  The width of your tie should be similar to the width of your lapel.

Tie length  The tie should finish just above the belt/start of the trousers.

Shoes  A lady will say she can tell a lot about a man from his shoes and so they should be well kept at all times: polish them regularly and replace the laces when the aglets (the plastic bit on the end of laces) fall off or begin to fray.  Brown shoes with a business suit is Italian practice but not the done thing on British soil.  Brown shoes are to be reserved for the country.


William Hanson is “the UK’s leading etiquette and royal protocol expert” who has advised businesses and VIPs alike, as well as feature on TV and radio around the world. He is also the author of  the recently released ‘The Bluffer’s Guide To Etiquette’. For more information about William, please visit:

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