Creating the right impression when you walk into the office has become a vexed question in recent years.

The growth of 'tech casual' over the last three decades means that the T-shirts, polo necks and trainers championed by the likes of the late Steve Jobs of Apple and Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook has sparked a dress down culture across a wide range of industries, keen to show they also can attract the brightest minds that are not weighed down by convention.

Things could not have been simpler a generation ago. The vast majority of offices saw men dressed in suits and ties, women wore pants-or-skirt suits, or discreet combinations. But these set styles went out with luncheon vouchers.

Banks were among the first to adopt more casual codes, with dress-down Fridays in the late 1980s, but this has morphed into everything from business formal, to smart casual, to a virtual free-for-all if you work in creative industries, such as design, publishing or advertising.

We have crowdsourced the most salient views on dress etiquette at work through Quora, the global question and answer network.

What you wear to work matters.

Oscar Wilde summed it up neatly when he said: "It is only the shallow who do not judge by appearances".

Your colleagues, and more importantly, your bosses, will read your dress as a shorthand for how importantly you take your job. You may think first impressions do not matter, but others do.

Seattle-based account chief technologist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise Mark Neuhausen added: "Why limit your chances by turning off some people? At least show you care enough about them that you show up looking respectable."

It pays to find out your firm's dress code

A good place to start is your firm's human resources handbook. Then, simply look at what colleagues in your department wear, to see if these guidelines are widely relaxed in practice.

Be prepared to spend

David Forsdyke, managing director of the legal unit of recruitment firm Michael Page, said: "You spend more time in work gear than in casual attire. Budget accordingly."

Woman boardroom
In the office women have many choice available from discreet pants-or-skirt suits to more colourful combinations Reuters

Dress to impress – up to a point

There is an old adage that says at work "you should never dress for the job you are in, but for the job you want".

There is sense in this. Many studies show that bosses tend to promote people who look remarkably like themselves, when it comes to dress, attitudes and social background.

However, this needs to be handled carefully. It is a good guide to be one of the smartest dressed at your level in the firm. But if it is customary to wear chinos and a shirt in your department, and you always wear a suit, you stand a chance of being viewed as an untrustworthy figure out to curry favour with your bosses.

You should understand business formal dress

This is office dress we see in TV series like Mad Men or films such as The Apartment. Men in suits and ties, women in suits or formal combinations. Muted colours for both sexes.

You should understand professional dress

This is becoming a common standard across many offices in various industries. Men wear suits without ties. And can often substitute jackets for smart jumpers or cardigans. Women can wear a subtle-coloured dress, blouse, or sweater, and can also be more creative with jewellery and make-up.

You should understand business casual dress

Both sexes can put away suits. Men can wear shirts tucked into smart pants or chinos. Women can wear short-sleeved and sleeveless tops, hemlines on skirts can rest a few inches above the knee.

At the far end of this scale, in offices in the creative industries jeans are acceptable (although nicely tailored, no rips or fraying), T-shirts in good shape are also fine. For women, cropped pants (not tops), bold prints, and mid-thigh-length skirts are okay. But even in the creative industries staff who meet clients dress more conservatively.

Three rules you should never break

Always polish your shoes. If you are a man, always wear socks. Neither sex should wear hot pants.