Koreans take “clothes make the man” to the next level. The style of outfits you wear at work can actually shape your destiny.
This post covers everything you need to know about Korean office fashion and dress codes.
I’ll explain which outfits are appropriate for men and women and what to avoid.
I learned about dress codes during my first corporate gig in South Korea.
Let’s dive right in!
Appearances are a big deal in Korea and business fashion is no exception.
We even have an old saying that goes, “there’s no handsome man in shabby clothes and there’s no ugly man in nice clothes”(못 입어 잘난 놈 없고 잘 입어 못난 놈 없다).
19 Versatile Korean Outfits You Can Buy Right Now
As you can imagine, this rings even truer in the workplace. And dressing well can make your office experience or business meeting a lot easier.
More about Working in Korea as an Expat
Things to know
The Korean version of the “clothes make the man” is “옷이 날개다”. Literally, “clothes are your wings”, which is commonly used today.
Dress codes will vary depending on industry, average age of employees, company size and culture.
For example, IT companies will be relaxed compared to, say, finance companies.
More about Starting a Business in Korea as an Expat
When in doubt, “단정해 보이는 룩” is the goal. This means “neat and tidy”.
Business casual attire for Korean men is a bit more formal and conservative than it is in western countries.
Standards are becoming more relaxed as time passes, but this will depend on the boss.
The dress code applies on business trips too, since key contacts could potentially be met at the airport.
More about business trips in Korea
I committed the faux pas of not wearing makeup one time and my team was very uncomfortable.
Team building exercises allow for more casual dress depending on the location.
For example, you can wear ski outfits on a skiing trip.
Things to avoid
- Wrinkled or messy clothing.
- Hats, sunglasses, shorts and sandals.
- Overly flashy or loud colors.
- Visible tattoos, facial hair, hoop earrings, informal hair styles (pompadours, beehives, mohawks and other styles that attract attention) or anything else that expresses excessive individuality are not recommended.
- T-shirts, jeans and old sneakers will not win you any favors, unless you work for Google or Apple.
Tips for women
Korean office wear for ladies allows for some flexibility.
Dark colors aren’t mandatory for women. A bright pastel tone is a safe choice.
Clothes for Women
Korean women buy a lot of clothes specifically for work.
Blouses with knee length skirts are a good look.
Dress can be short, but not at public companies, including government offices and banks.
Pants suits and skirt suits are common enough to be acceptable.
Women can also wear slacks, which are nice and comfortable too.
A nice jacket can make you look more formal and respectable.
Accessories for Women
Accessories should be subtle and understated.
A small watch is the perfect accessory at work.
More about Korean gifts
Shoes and Bags for Women
Formal flats work for most places where you don’t directly interact with customers.
High heels should be moderate height (no 6-inch stilettos).
Chanel bags will only bring jealousy if it’s your first day at work. Try Coach or more affordable brands.
If you’re Dae-ri or above, no one will say anything about your Chanel or YSL bag.
Hair and Makeup for Women
Nude makeup is recommended over smokey makeup, unless you work at a cosmetic company.
Korean women have many options for hairstyles.
Most of my friends either have short hair or a perm.
But the rule of looking neat and calm still applies, so, nothing too bright like blonde or ombre hair is recommended since most Koreans have black hair. Unless of course it’s your natural hair color.
Tips for men
Korean business attire for men is pretty straightforward. Think Mad Men without the fedoras.
Dark colors like gray or navy are safe choices.
Clothes for Men
Suits are the default. This includes button up shirts, jackets and slacks.
Slacks are common in most office settings.
Khakis are not common and might not be appropriate.
Korean summers can be quite hot, so short sleeved button up shirts are acceptable in some office environments. But never wear shorts.
Korean winters are cold, so long-sleeved sweaters are OK to be worn over dress shirts. Also, thick black long coats will help you keep warm.
Dark jeans are not acceptable unless you work in the arts.
Polo shirts are considered a bit informal and are better left for team building exercises.
Accessories for Men
A nice watch is a good choice. Not too expensive if you’re just starting out.
Swiss watches are great if you’re manager level.
Also cuff links add a nice touch if you’re working at a finance company.
Koreans try to avoid wearing ties, but they’re mandatory for formal events or at more conventional companies.
Shoes and Bags for Men
Dress shoes or loafer are fine for footwear.
Just make sure to put on quiet-looking socks, no loud colors or bold patterns.
Every Korean male carries a bag.
A black or brown color briefcase is a must in Korea.
Hair and Makeup for Men
Men’s hair should skew a bit shorter. Think military haircuts, because your boss will have served in it.
Koreans are more conservative when it comes to men’s hair color. Try to avoid bright colors.
Make sure to always shave before work.
Many Korean men put on light makeup nowadays, but this is by no means mandatory. Just don’t be surprised if you see them do it.
BB cream or clean eyebrows will make a good impression.
Guided conversation is the fastest way to get fluent in Korean. Pimsleur takes you from 0 to conversational in 90 days. You can try Pimsleur here for free!
Did we miss anything?
Dressing well in Korea is always a good idea and will improve the way you’re viewed.
I was always impressed with the high level of decorum in Seoul. It made me step my game up a lot to fit in.
You don’t have to break the bank to dress well. There are many affordable options.
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this article that provide us a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only endorse the best language learning tools we use ourselves. Find out more about our code of ethics.
15 thoughts on “Complete Guide to Korean Business Fashion and Stylish Office Outfits (2023)”
I am Sharikah Chetty.
Thank you for the informative article of reading, I admire the Korean people,culture,dressing,acting and language.
Good morning Sharikah,
Thank you for the warmest comment. I really appreciate it!
Hello Minjung, My name is Elis.
I have been looking for an article online discussing Korean business fashion for women.
I must say, this is the most thorough one I have found so far!
I am a fashion major at university, and wanted to ask a few questions for clarification. I have a class project due in about a month or so and am doing research online. I myself am open to the idea of working in South Korea in the future, so this information is very good to know!.
Is the color red ever worn by women in the Korean business workplace? If yes, is it brighter or darker?
Do women in the Korean business world wear mostly solid color suits/dresses? Or do they sometimes wear print, like floral, stripes, or paisley?
I also wanted to know what colors for clothing in the South Korean business place are too loud and flashy, and if dark red hair would be accepted in the office? Or dark reddish-brown hair?
Please kindly regard this. Thank you so much for your time and assistance, as well as for writing such helpful blogs as this one! I will be directing my fellow fashion majors to your website!
Thank you so much for the kind comment. We do try here:)
It would be different depending on each company or industry. e.g. IT or game companies will allow more casual looks, etc.
Korean women wouldn’t frequently wear red at work in general. If they do, it would be darker almost like burgundy or tone-down red dress, covering it with a beige trench coat or simple/neutral color winter coat.
They mostly wear solid color suits/dresses, but sometimes print while it being not too loud (among prints, stripes are more common, I think).
It’s also okay to wear jeans, but with a blouse, so it doesn’t look too casual.
For reference, this Korean clothing shop is the one I like, I linked to its office look page.
Mmm… Loud and flashy colors would be anything except black, white, light blue, light pink, beige, etc. So, probably any vivid color is considered a bit flashy.
In terms of hair color, non-Koreans will be an exception, but for Koreans, dark brown or dark reddish-brown hair should be fine (again, as long as it’s nothing too flashy or noticeable like a K-pop idol).
However, most Koreans dye their hair back to black or brown before the job interview.
I hope this answers to all your questions. ^^
Best of luck with your project!
Hello Minjung 🙂
It’s a pleasure!
Thank you so much for the information, as well as the link to the Korean clothing shop!
Me and my groupmates are getting much inspiration for the project! We want to be authentic and respectful to Korea and Korean corporate business fashion 🙂
Thank you again! I hope you have a great rest of your day, afternoon, or night!
I’m so glad to hear it! I’m sure you’ll do well. Let me know if you have any other questions. ^^
Hi Minjung 🙂
Thank you so much again!
Hi Minjung ^^
Hope all is well!
Me and my groupmates are finishing up the Korean corporate and business fashion segment of our project.
Now, we are doing a Korean casual and nightlife fashion segment 🙂
We are deeply grateful for your assistance!
Could I please ask for your help again?
I am guessing that for Korean casual fashion, and maybe nightlife fashion as well, are not as restrictive for colors as in Korean corporate and business fashion.
Is it acceptable to wear spaghetti-straps, tube-tops, and clothing that reveals the back as a woman in Korea, apart from the beach, in a casual or nightlife setting?
Thank you so very much for all your help 🙂
Hi Elis ^^
I’m glad to hear that your Korean business fashion project is going well!
As you guessed, Korean casual and nightlife fashion are not restrictive at all, especially in big cities like Seoul and Busan. It’s definitely more acceptable in areas like Hongdae (홍대), Itaewon (이태원) in Seoul and Seomyeon (서면), Haeundae (해운대) in Busan. Maybe you can look up hashtags of these neighborhoods on Instagram to get some ideas. (I would still cover up a bit more in small cities.)
It’s totally acceptable to wear spaghetti-straps, tube-tops and anything that reveals the back or legs in summer during the day near beach towns, or at night in a casual setting like bars/pubs, clubs or on the street. (Nighttime when going out with friends to bars or clubs is more acceptable as well.)
A lot of Korean girls have been wearing off-the-shoulder tops, and now crop tops too.
We have completely different wardrobe for work and casual.
I think you can let loose for this segment! ^^
Best of luck!
Hi Minjung ^^
I apologize for the late reply. Me and my groupmates have been super busy lately.
Thank you so much! I’ll definitely check out the hashtags on Instagram for ideas 🙂
Awesome! Oh, me and my groupmates are going to have so much fun on this segment!
I can’t wait!
Many thanks again!
Not a problem! I’m so glad it’s going well. ^^
Thank you! ^^
This is a great article, thank you. I loved the clothing at the online store you recommended- it is exactly what I was hoping to find on my upcoming trip to Korea. Could you recommend some physical stores that I could visit that have a similar style (nice, feminine corporate and dressy-casual wear)? Thank you!
Thank you for the nice comment! ^^
I’d recommend checking out these stores below. They all have both online and physical stores, so you can view their clothes before you go to Korea.
JIGOTT (corporate, elegant), DINT (unique, feminine)
MIXXO (office, casual), Roem (lovely, casual), NAIN (young, everyday casual)
Hope you have a lovely trip.