How To Dress For A Networking Event | Dress & Prepare For A Networking Event

Posted by Alyssa Breeden on

Alyssa Breeden

You’re set for that exclusive networking event. You’re ready to rub shoulders with the big wigs in your industry. Whether its Warren Buffet, Roger Goodell or The Rock, you want to make that impression. Heck, even if it’s not them, you want to be seen. Jean Claude Van Dame may be strutting himself in spandex, but you’re gonna show up to that actors guild convention in a three piece suit damn it! But how do you know how exactly to dress? Seriously, what if dress codes vary from one networking to the event (which they usually do).

What protocol do you follow, and how do you dress up so as to make the best possible first impression. And once you have gotten the attire component sorted out, how do you maximize your time at said networking event to create the most possible opportunities for yourself moving forward? Worry not, we are going to address all of these in this article.

Dress Networking Event

Courtesy of

We know dressing well is important (or so we’re told – yes, this coming from a men’s style blogger), but why is such a degree of emphasis placed on the first impression? As much as we like to tell ourselves that how we dress shouldn’t reflect upon us, it is biologically wired into us to make split second impressions. It’s how we process the world around us. Harvard Business School Social Psychologist , Amy Cuddy, who has studied first impressions, points to two factors that people are trying to inherently assess when they first meet you:

  • Can I trust this person (implies endearment)
  • Can I respect this person (implies competence)

While we would like to believe that displaying competence is of high importance, Cuddy suggestions that demonstrating warmth and endearment is of greater value. As Cuddy Points out, “from an evolutionary perspective, it is more crucial to our survival to know whether a person deserves our trust.” Given that we were often in fight or flight mode during our development as a species, it is no wonder that trust seems to be of higher value.

We definitely do not want to feel like this when approached by someone who is badly dressed - especially at a networking event!

Given the wide range of dress codes / event types associated with networking events, here is our breakdown:

Business Casual

The increased adoption of business casual has meant the conventional suit and tie has been replaced with a dapper, yet more subtle look. This often includes more attention being paid to the accessorizing of an ensemble, that can complement a less stringent but often equally striking look!

Casual Pants

 Switch out your traditional woolen suit pant for an alternative. A woolen pant that is not part of a conventional suit ensemble could work, as could a pair of cotton pants / chinos. First and foremost is fit – ensure that your alternative pants are well fitted. A casual look can easily transition into something extremely sloppy once fit is not paid attention to. Navy cotton pants / chinos would be your safest bet. If opting for alternative woolen pants that are not part of your suit ensemble, options include solid or plaid pants (striped pants may seem slightly dated!).

For suggestions on matching pants to your shirts, please click here.

Business Casual Blazer Pants

Substitute your suit with a blazer and pants for a relaxed dapper look. Courtesy of

Sports Jacket / Blazer

Pair woolen or cotton pants with a shirt, and you may have segued into more of a casual versus business casual look. Seek to round out that dapper ensemble with a sports jacket or blazer.

If you are looking to upgrade your wardrobe to include a range of jackets / blazers that will suit you within a business casual capacity (irrespective of whether they are being used for a networking event!) one should opt for three types of jackets.

Conservative sports jacket

A staple in any discerning gentlemen’s wardrobe, this is a staple that can be worn with a pair of pants in any business casual setting. Try and opt for a sports jacket in either grey, blue or brown. The important element of these jackets is to have some color and pattern present, without being overbearing. Windowpane is a pattern that has made a strong resurgence in recent years, and is a safe bet when choosing your conservative sports jacket. A great range of conservative sports jackets could include blue windowpane check, grey plaid and brown glen check.

Windowpane Sports Jacket Business Casual

A windowpane sports jacket will have you looking sharp at your next business casual event! Courtesy of

Fashionable Sports Jacket

If you are looking for more creative freedom with your ensembles, a fashionable sports jacket will undoubtedly make a bold statement in your business casual attire. Remember, there are no discernable rules here, so be creative! Go with bolder colors, patterns and fabrics. Try and visit your local bespoke tailor, personalizing elements such as colored button holes, jacket lapels and even your monogramming!

Fashionable Plaid Blazer

A plaid sports jacket with detailing can provide for an incredibly striking look! Courtesy of

Navy Blazer

The Blazer is the perfect jacket that lays in between a suit and sportscoat – not as structured as a suit, yet not as unstructured as a blazer. What distinguishes a blazer from a sports jacket is

(1) A blazer typically does not have a pattern – there may be a weave, but no distinct patterns are evident

(2) Blazers typically have metal buttons, to distinguish them from jackets that come with a traditional suit.

Navy Blazer

A blazer will elevate your ensembles in a business casual setting!


No business casual ensemble would be fashionably complete with the exquisite use of accessories. Looking to dress to the nines without the conventional suit and silk tie? How about a textured necktie, such as a knitted silk tie, or a silk or linen pocket square?

Knitted silk ties provide textural variation that will make you stand out versus your contemporaries. A Knitted Tie is characterized by a (gasp!) open knitted weave, vs a silk weave(typically around 2 to 2.5 inches), along with a square end. It is these very characteristics that make the knitted tie ideal for business casual settings!

Silk and Linen Pocket square are the ideal accessory with a sports jacket (especially if you are going sans tie), as they will add an element of flair and panache to your outfits like few other items can.

To View The Dark Knot’s range of exquisite silk knit ties, please click here.

To view The Dark Knot’s range of Silk & Linen Pocket Squares, please click here.

Knit Tie Pocket Square

A Knit Tie and Pocket Square are a great addition to any ensemble!

Are you looking to really make an impression? Why not show that you are dressed a cut above your peers with a grenadine tie? A grenadine tie is a textured, woven silk tie that looks incredibly elegant. A grenadine weave is an open weave involving two warp yarns twisted around the weft in order to provide a strong, sheer fabric. While a grenadine tie, may, from affair, appear to be a replica of its close cousin, the knit tie, there are some distinct differences.

  • Knit ties tend to be manufactured from a tube of yarn, with a rectangular base, while grenadine ties have your conventional pointed ends.
  • While knit ties are best worn in more informal settings, grenadine ties can be worn in both a semi-formal and formal capacity.

Grenadine Tie

A Grenadine Tie can look incredibly suave with the right ensemble. Courtesy of

If you would like a range of grenadine ties that provide for an incredibly dapper, striking look, please click here.

Job Fair

A Job Fair can almost be construed as speed job interviewing. Prospective employers are looking to meet as many qualified people as they can in the shortest amount of time. Hence, that split second impression is of vital importance, given that you should assume that you will always have very little time to present yourself.

Men should therefore stick to a well fitted suit in classic colors, such as a solid or subtly striped charcoal grey or navy suit. Pair this with a wardrobe staple, such as a solid white or light blue shirt, and a tie to go with. A monochromatic color scheme (such as a navy tie against a light blue shirt) will allow you to look elegant yet understated. Looking to make more of an impression? Opt for a triadic color scheme, with a burgundy or red tie against a light blue shirt. A triadic color scheme provides the perfect blend between warm (burgundy / red) and cooler colors (blue), which provides a sense of harmony to your overall ensemble!

Burgundy Tie Light Blue Shirt

A burgundy tie and light blue shirt will ensure that you make that ultimate impression!

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Industry Presentations & Conferences

Industry Presentations & Conferences are where you will truly get a chance to meet the elites in your industry. That being said, these events provide a great opportunity to network and rub shoulders with the best of the best. As such, dressing to your best is definitely in your interest! Business formal is therefore the best way to go. Opt for a solid, pinstripe or plaid navy or charcoal grey suit and a shirting staple such as a solid white or light blue shirt. Wearing a navy or burgundy tie will allow you to build trust!

Industry Conference Dapper Suit

Courtesy of

If you do decide to strut business casual attire, a combination entailing a knitted tie and a pocket square will provide you with the most dapper look possible!


Cocktail functions are an ideal way to network. What exactly constitutes a cocktail event? Think a short, knee hem dress for women and a formal, full blown suit for men.

For you dapper gentlemen out there, pick your best suit out in your wardrobe (or the best sports jacket and pants combination you can possibly think of!). Along with wearing a dapper looking suit, try and make a statement with one of your accessories.

Printed Silk Ties are unique conversation starters. Appearing as a range of bold colors from afar, up close, they usually show something you are interested in – such as sports (golf clubs, tennis racquets etc) or lifestyle (ocean, beaches etc).

The Dark Knot’s Animal Print Silk Ties are ideal for such networking events (or date nights!) as they are bold, beautiful ties that are indeed unique conversation starters. To view The Dark Knot’s range of exquisite animal print ties, please click here.

Animal Print Silk Tie

An Animal Print Silk Tie will add flair and personality to your ensemble at your next cocktail event! Featuring The Dark Knot's Nantucket Fish Green / Blue Silk Tie!

What not to wear to a networking event

As the old and clichéd saying goes, sometimes knowing what not to do is more important than knowing what you should do. Ditto for clothing. Especially ditto for formal wear. If you are trying to make the best first impression possible, knowing what pitfalls to avoid can take you a long way:

  • Avoid wearing too many patterns. Pattern clashing is one of the cardinal sins of formal wear, and can especially come back to bite you during a networking event! As a general rule of thumb, it is best to wear two solids and one patterned (e.g solid shirt, solid suit and patterned tie). If you are aggressive, you can opt for one solid and two patterns (e.g patterned tie and shirt and a solid suit). However, this should be reserved for those of you who are more comfortable with wearing multiple patterns. Only the very best dressed and experienced men should opt for three patterns – this is for the sartorially advanced!

Excessive Patters

Excessive pattern matching can lead to ugly clashing!

  • Don’t over accessorize. Yes, ties, pocket squares, lapel flowers, tie bars, cufflinks and bracelets are all great choices. Just not together. Over accessorize, and you’ll look like you’re trying to hard. And that’s the last thing you want to do when trying to make the best first impression.

Over Accessorizing

A sufficiently accessorized suit provides a much cleaner, elegant look versus an over accessorized suit. Sometimes, less is more.

  • Avoid excessive jewellery. Chains and gold bracelets can be avoided for the evening in lieu of something more subtle – the exposed neck and wrist. Yes gentlemen, you don’t always have to go a step above – sometimes simple and understated is the most impactful.

Don't show up like Razor Ramon to your next networking event!

  • Pouring on the cologne like you’re auditioning for Jersey Shore. That’s right, I said it. Go light on the cologne. It makes a favorable impression, as opposed to looking like a ‘dapper’ gent who has mastered the art of GTL (for all you non Jersey boys, that’s ‘Gym, Tan & Laundry’).

Tips For Professional Networking

With our suggestions for professional attire now firmly established, we thought it would be helpful to go over some tips to ensure that you maximize your next professional networking event!

  • Set a goal for yourself. Is there anyone specific that you want to meet or speak with?  Have a clear and defined goal for the event so that you do not waste time.
  • Practice your general introduction in advance. Know what you are planning to say about yourself so that you don’t look like a deer in headlights when that person that you have wanted to meet comes around (having a 30 second elevator pitch can be particularly helpful here).
  • Do not spend too much time speaking with one person. Make deep connections but be sure to move on – suggest follow-up activities such as dinner, coffee or a phone call. 
  • Get people talking about themselves; provide value to them with your conversation.
  • Walk through the room with confidence and do not forget to smile! Carry yourself with openness and do not shut yourself off by folding your arms at any time.  Your body language plays a significant role in communication.
  • Be the first to extend your hand in a conversation, show your eagerness to speak to the other person.
  • Make eye contact!
  • Express interest and be attentive to conversations. Ask open-ended questions to get to know the other person and their experiences, you never know what you might learn!
  • As in every social situation, avoid having too much alcohol.
  • Be sure to send follow-ups to all of the great people that you have met. You can do this by sending emails, LinkedIn requests/messages, or by making plans to meet up at another time.
  • Lastly, and most importantly – make sure you have those business cards! Bring more versus less – it always helps to be overly prepared with respect to carrying around your contact information. Distribute the weight of your cards evenly between two jacket pockets if need be!

And that’s a wrap for this one! I hope that you have found this article both enjoyable and informative!

Are you looking for a set of go to silk ties that will cater to your needs throughout the week? With The Dark Knot’s Essential Ties Collection, you can choose a set of ties that will be your wardrobe staples! Save big with our Essential Ties Collection here.


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