A Guide to Formal Dress Codes For Men

If you have received an invitation to a special occasion and you are struggling with the appropriate attire, you need to explore these formal dress codes for men.

formal dress codes for menFashion rules have changed a lot throughout the decades, becoming more relaxed over time. Nonetheless, some work environments and certain events still require men to dress the part.

From black tie gatherings to business matters, these formal dress codes demand certain standards, which are not always that obvious and they frequently cause us to have many questions.

But do not panic, we’ve all been there. Following you will find everything you need to know about them, especially what each one of them requires.

Black Tie and White Tie dress codes

The Black Tie dress code is one of the most common ones among menswear. It is usually requested at weddings and important birthday parties, among others.

It requires you to wear a tuxedo whether it is a daytime or evening event. However, some guys prefer an alternative suit called the “Stroller” for the day, which is slightly less formal. That is totally up to you.

If you are actually the host and not the guest, in this case, then you should check out how to dress for your wedding day.

formal dress codes for menIdeally, all men should own a timeless tuxedo that they can wear for years and that fits perfectly. Nonetheless, if you are not one of them, you can always take advantage of rental services. The Black Tie dress code is very strict, even if it is daytime, so make sure that the tuxedo of your choice fits perfectly. If it doesn’t, then you can still get it adjusted.

There is one higher level of formality though, which is the White Tie dress code. Many of you might have not even heard about it until now because it is actually very unusual. The White Tie dress code is highly conservative, and it is usually requested for diplomatic events, award ceremonies and occasionally on certain sports celebrations.

If it is the case that you are invited to an event that requires this attire, then we advise you to opt for rental services, as those are clothes you will rarely wear again and, therefore, are not worth investing in.


Cocktail dress code

Among the formal dress codes for men, Cocktail attire is not the most requested option. It is a semi-formal look, often worn at weddings and anniversaries, as well as certain sports events and birthday parties.

It doesn’t require a tuxedo, but you do need to stick to dress pants and a blazer. Contrary to what you may think, the cocktail dress code permits modern color alternatives, combining textures and patterns.

In this case, a tuxedo is not required 一ties are not mandatory either一, but that doesn’t mean it is a smart-casual look. It’s still a formal dress code, but it leaves room for creativity and adding your personal touch. Think about a block color suit, an eye-catching silk pocket square and a pair of classic leather shoes.

For more insights on this, here’s the Cocktail Dress Code Men Explained.


Business dress code

This is another commonly worn dress code, often requested at formal social events. In this scenario, there is not much space to be playful with your look.

That is, you should opt for a monochrome two-piece suit or a pinstriped alternative at the most. Combine it with a white dress shirt; a matching, subtle tie; leather black or brown shoes, and you are good to go.

As well, you need to take into consideration if the event happens during the day or night. If it is the first case, then you can go for lighter colors, like light gray, navy blue or khaki. While night time demands darker tones, such as dark brown, blue and black.

On the other hand, it may happen to you to receive an invitation that requires “casual business attire”. In that case, the dress code allows you to be more flexible: you are still required to wear dress pants (not jeans) and a collared shirt, but you can pick from more options.

For instance, you can try a blazer or sports jacket instead of the conventional one. You could also opt for a sweater instead, or skip the blazer at all. Moreover, ties are not mandatory. Regarding the shoes, it is still a formal dress code, so leather Oxford shoes are required.


Let’s talk about exceptions

Sometimes, invitations don’t specify the dress code, or they do, but they announce it as “optional”. So, what should you do in these situations?

On one hand, if you are not told what dress code is required, the first thing you can do is ask the hosts or the other guests. It is the most simple and straight-forward solution to the problem. However, if you can’t do so or you don’t feel comfortable with it, you can go to plan B.

To figure out which dress code is the most appropriate for an event, you need to consider two things: the time and location. Is it an outdoor or indoor setting? Is it happening during the day or at night?

If it is outdoor, the dress code is slightly more relaxed. And if it is daytime, it is more casual as well. If it is at night and/or indoors, then it is strictly formal and you should choose darker shades for your suit.

On the other hand, occasionally you might receive an invitation saying “black tie optional” or “black tie preferred” too. In this case, you are not obliged to wear said dress code, but you should know that it is encouraged and the hosts will certainly be doing so.

In other words, it means that 一within your economic possibilities and personal style一 you should try to aim to that level of formality.

On a similar note, these are the essential suit colors for the perfect man’s wardrobe.