All men know how to dress for the office: you just put on a suit, tie and shirt and comb your hair, right? It's been like that for ever, give or take a bowler hat or two. The only difference today is that it has become acceptable to mix in a bit of personal style, particularly with outer garments, such as a funky hat, or coat. Women on the other hand, while having to conform to the same set of rules as men, are expected to put a lot more effort into their overall appearance. So how how much time and money are young high-flyers prepared to put in to keep up appearances?

Interviews: Melanie Rickey

Photographs: Andrew Buurman

Scott Carr, 27, is a financial analyst at Texaco

This is my second major job since moving to London from Durham. The dress code in my department is quite laid-back, so I'm not wearing a suit for work today but my smart trousers from Burton, shoes from Next, and a shirt and tie from Debenhams. The cap is by Kangol, the jacket I bought in the City, and the scarf is from Blazer. I probably spend about pounds 40 a month on work clothes, and pounds 90 on my own clothes if you average it out. I try to make an effort to look a bit different, but I always try to do it without spending much money."

Alex Dewey, 24, is a trader at Credit Suisse

This is my first job. I've worked here for a year and a half. When I got the job I was given two suits by a friend's father. This one is by Pierre Balmain, I don't know who the other one is by. The tie was a present, and the shirt belongs to my girlfriend's brother. I've actually got loads of shirts, because that's what you do, isn't it? I don't make much effort to get dressed for work, really, I just comb my hair. I do spend a lot of money on clothes for out of work. My favourite thing is a fleece I bought last weekend in Covent Garden.

Christel Bonin, 26, French teacher (top left)

"I have been teaching French in the City for three years. For the job I must be smart and professional, no jeans or trainers. I find it very easy to look professional. I wear little suits, smart jackets, and little extras like this scarf I bought in France. Today I have a Jigsaw jacket, M&S cardigan, Kookai trousers, and a few designer rip-offs that I bought in Hong Kong. My shoes are from Saxone. I dress like this most of the time."

Helen Milton, 23, is a PA at Credit Suisse (top right)

"The dress code at work can be quite strict, but I've been doing this job for a while, and I am used to it. I like to look smart both in and out of work; my bag is from Cable & Co and this trouser suit is from Hobbs, as are the shoes. Because I work in an investment banking atmosphere even the type of trousers, and length of skirt can come in for some criticism. I've never been told off myself, but it does happen. Luckily trouser suits are acceptable where I work. I spend quite a bit on clothes, but most of them double up as out-of-work things too."

Simon Morton, 25, is an IT consultant at Morgan Stanley

I've worked at the Ministry of Defence, and briefly at the Liffe dealing room, but I've worked here for 18 months. I buy all my work clothes in the City. I bought this suit last year from a shop called the City Clothing Company. The tweed coat is four years old, and my gloves, hat and tie are from Next. I don't mind wearing a suit for work, but I don't spend much on my working wardrobe. The most important thing for me is to keep my individual flair.