Style Q&A: Breaking Down Breakfast Meeting Attire

The earliest meeting of the day, one for close colleagues or pressing business. Make a smart impression.

Christopher asks - What is acceptable breakfast meeting attire? Should one stick to an all business look or is business casual acceptable in building stronger relationships with your client or “closing the deal”?

Breakfast may be the least serious of business meetings but that doesn’t mean it should be taken less seriously. This question actually hits home as we recently had a morning meeting and much of this analysis is based on personal experience. Your attire for a morning meal should be just as thoughtfully planned and skilfully crafted as in any other meeting. It may be true most deals are made over lunch and/or dinner but those conversations that lead to those deals may begin at the breakfast table and you should be prepared. As we’ve said in the past, business isn’t casual, so why dress casual for business?

Aside from the obvious that your wardrobe should be clean, well-fitted and in good repair, there are a few considerations to keep in mind that differ from your other meetings.

Time

Most establishments serve breakfast before 11am which means you’ll be up early. An important consideration is that not everyone is a morning person. Some people don’t like loud noises or light, or aggressive stimulation. Or they may be recovering from a long night prior and haven’t had time to adjust like they would if it were a mid-day or evening meeting. Take this into account with your wardrobe. Loud and bright colors may be jarring and difficult to absorb early in the morning.

Flashy accessories may be too harsh for the viewer if they haven’t had their morning coffee. We suggest you stick with sober patterns and a muted color palette to avoid the distraction and potential physical pain for the person across the table.

Location

Many breakfast locales come in the form of diners, bistros, cafes, and the like. Few traditional restaurants serve breakfast alone which means that the space in which you’re meeting may be a bit tight compared to the sprawling ambience of a palatial restaurant. While diners and breakfast houses have their down home charm, they don’t offer the comfort and tranquility of a premiere evening establishment.  Bearing this in mind, the space may be a bit smaller than you’re used to, the environment a bit more rustic and the adjustment period a bit longer. Don’t make it harder on yourself by wearing your $3000 suit. Try something more passive than aggressive.

Etiquette

Whether you’re meeting for breakfast or any other meal your manners should still be intact. However, your manners at breakfast may need to be more accommodating than at another time. For instance many people take medication on a timetable and that time may be during the first meal of the day. If your counterpart needs to take a few vitamins or medication to start their day, you should be accomodating and give them the time and space  to tend to their health needs. Also, since it is a morning meeting alcohol should be avoided lest you come across as lush.

Attire

These are our recommendations for fit, fabric and function at the basic level when it comes to a morning meeting in any global location with any clientele you may encounter.

Fabrics – Worsted wool, cotton, hopsack, gabardine, cashmere, silk, flannel.

Suits – 2 or 3 buttons, single breasted, 1 or 2 vents, notch lapel, flap pockets. Solid, chalkstripe, tonal, birdseye, nailheadMore: A Visual Guide to Understanding Common Suit Features

Jackets – 2 or 3 buttons, single breasted, 1 or 2 vents, notch lapel, flap or patch pockets. Solid, soft stripe, tonal, birdseye, nailhead, barelycorn.

Shirts – Point, semi-spread, or button down collar. Barrel cuff. Solid, bengal stripe, tonal. White or blue.

Ties – Knit, woven, printed. Solid, paisley, repp stripe, pin dot. Single or double four-in-hand knot.  Silver, navy, bottle green, burgundy, black.

Sweaters – Standard collar cardigan, v-neck, crew neck, sweater vest. Solid, tonal herringbone. Blue/navy, gray, brown, green, burgundy. More: Primer’s Guide to Sweaters

Trousers – Flat front, plain or cuffed bottoms (depending on preference) Navy, gray, brown.

Socks – Over the calf in similar color to trousers or complimenting tie. Solid, ribbed, pin dot, birdseye.

Shoes – Smooth calfskin, suede or cordovan. Open laced derby/blucher or chukka boot. Brown or… brown.

Outerwear – Single breasted notch lapel, 3 button, single vent driving coat, topcoat, overcoat, or raincoat. Solid, birdseye, herringbone in gray, navy, brown.

Accessories – Leather or suede belt in same color family as shoes. Thin leather or metal wrist watch in same color family as belt. Card case or bifold wallet. Ballpoint or fountain pen. Collar stays. Aviator or caravan sunglasses. Polarized, Non-mirror lenses. Reading glasses. Pocket square in solid color preferably white cotton or linen in conservative fold.

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Grant Harris is Owner & Chief Style Consultant at Image Granted; a Washington, DC based Image Consulting Company dedicated to solving the complex image, style & fashion issues of today's professional man. He has a healthy obsession with socks. Follow him on Twitter & Facebook.

  • Attire Club

    Ok, but you need to take your most appropriate attitude with you!
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    Fraquoh and Franchomme

  • http://twitter.com/Fearless_Men Fearless Men

    This is great insight. My question is…what do you wear on a breakfast DATE? I had a last second “first” date for breakfast near the beach a couple of weekends ago. I just wore a T-shirt and jeans (live in San Diego). What’s the write attire in this setting?