What Is Cocktail Attire For Men? Best Dress Code Guide With Examples Of What To Wear (2022)

What Is Cocktail Attire For Men?

What Is Cocktail Attire For Men? Best Dress Code Guide With Examples Of What To Wear (1)

Cocktail attire for men takes on various forms, but the easiest way to think of it is to treat it as the “optional” portion of the black tie optional dress code. To be more specific, it’s typically safe to opt for a dark suit, light shirt, rich tie, a pocket square, and dark, well-shined shoes.

You could even regard it as the business casual dress code of black tie optional. While cocktail attire tends to find itself gravitating towards business attire, there is lots of room to manoeuvre.

While the suit may very well come out of your capsule wardrobe, it doesn’t have to. It’s great to opt for striking details like peaked lapels or hacking (angled) pockets. In other words, stuff that wouldn’t normally fly at the office. Feel free to let your rake flag fly a bit, as it were.

You should never wear a strict black-tie tuxedo to an event with a cocktail attire dress code. This is overkill and you’ll look very much out of place. However, you can wear smoking jackets.

With that said, there are some events that are more formal, and some that are more casual. Below, we’ll do a garment-by-garment breakdown of what’s best for a casual cocktail event and a formal cocktail event.

Note that the word “formal” is being used loosely (and purposefully incorrectly) throughout this page. This is simply for ease of use, not as an attempt to re-define the word “formal.”

Do I Need A Suit For Cocktail Attire?

You don’ttechnically have to wear a suit for cocktail attire, but you’ll look best in one. You can opt for an odd jacket and trousers combination. For instance, a blue sport coat and medium grey trousers with a light blue shirt, burgundy tie, and dark brown shoes would work well.

(Video) Cocktail Attire Dress Code Explained

However, this assumes that the event is informal in nature. Indeed, there are several grades of cocktail attire according to the nature of the occasion!

When in doubt, contact the host. You’ll come off as a thoughtful guest, and the host will appreciate having as many people staying “in their lane” as possible.

Otherwise, wear a dark suit in navy blue, charcoal grey, or, if the event is in the evening, black.

Jacket & Trousers For Cocktail Attire

What Is Cocktail Attire For Men? Best Dress Code Guide With Examples Of What To Wear (3)

  • Casual/daytime: Light-to-medium grey or medium blue matching jacket and trousers or an odd combination thereof
  • Formal/evening: Suit in charcoal grey, black, or deep navy blue

What Shirts To Wear For Cocktail Attire

What Is Cocktail Attire For Men? Best Dress Code Guide With Examples Of What To Wear (4)

During the day or for a more casual event, you can wear white, ecru, or pastel colors such as pink, lavender, or yellow if your skin tone is sympathetic to it. Play around with a bit of pattern in your dress shirts too if you like. Any cuff style will do for casual cocktail attire.

Meanwhile, white or light blue dress shirts are typically appropriate for a formal cocktail event. Furthermore, dress shirts with French double cuffs will dress up your presentation a lot, and we suggest them highly for cocktail attire.

In either case, a safe choice will always be a dressy white shirt with a classic spread collar and double French cuffs.

For a comprehensive primer on dress shirts, see our shirt guide. We also recommend the best dress shirt brands including Jermyn Street’s Hawes & Curtis and Eton Shirts from Sweden.

Best Shoes For Cocktail Attire

What Is Cocktail Attire For Men? Best Dress Code Guide With Examples Of What To Wear (6)

(Video) How to Master Cocktail Attire and Casual Dress Codes | Stitch Fix

No matter what time of day, you need to wear dress shoes for cocktail attire. For a list of our preferred shoe styles, take a look at our shoe style guide.

While you should avoid tan shoes because they’re too light, a medium brown or burgundy calfskin shoe is perfect for more casual events (and most daytime ones). You may also wear black. Oxfords are the preferred style, but a slim, streamlined loafer like a Venetian will work as well.

In the evening or for more formal daytime events, you should wear either black or dark brown dress shoes with your dark suit. Oxford styles (cap toes, whole cuts, etc.) are your best bet here.

If you need to shop for a new pair of shoes, check out our dress shoe buying guides. We offer a variety of guides according to your budget or preferred style. Otherwise, our two current preferred brands are Beckett Simonon and Ace Marks.

Beckett Simonon effortlessly offers the best value for money with Argentinian calfskin shoes at only $170 when you use our exclusive discount code “BU20“. The only downside is that their dress shoes group made-to-order, which means that you need a wait a few weeks for them to arrive.

Meanwhile, Ace Marks provides men with slick and beautifully-crafted Italian shoes at a very competitive price. Unlike Beckett Simonon, they offer swift delivery in exchange for a slightly higher price point.

Cocktail Attire For Men Accessories

Accessories for cocktail attire can include:

(Video) Cocktail Dress Code & My Favorite Cocktail Outfits

  • A Tie
  • Tie Clip (where appropriate)
  • Pocket Square
  • Lapel Flower
  • Socks
  • Cufflinks
  • Belt or Braces

For further reading on how to wear any of these accessories, simply use the links above!

What Is Cocktail Attire For Men? Best Dress Code Guide With Examples Of What To Wear (9)

Daytime/less formal cocktail attire events allow you more leeway in terms of color and pattern with your accessories. Socks can match something besides your trousers, the prints on your tie and square can be bolder, that sort of thing.

This doesnot mean that you should go bonkers, but rather that you can add a few flairs of color if you’re into doing so andif you won’t be taking attention away from people such as newlyweds.

As for formal evening cocktail events, you want to keep your colors a bit simpler. Socks should match your trousers, and your tie should be a rich, deep color like plum, burgundy, or navy blue. As for pattern, subtle neats, especially pindots, are quite handsome.

Furthermore, we strongly suggest wearing a pocket square too. As this is a particularly stylish dress code, you’ll benefit from its colour pop to your cocktail outfit.

Finally, a cocktail event is the perfect opportunity for wearing a bow tie! In many circumstances, men may feel uncomfortable by the way they draw attention. However, a cocktail event is the ideal occasion for a bow tie to look right at home.

Check out our guide to bow ties to learn how to wear one as well as the best brands.

When To Wear Cocktail Attire

If you were invited to an event or celebration, then there may be a dress code included on the invitation. Obviously, if the invitation states “cocktail attire,” then you should abide by the invitation.

However, there are many occasions that implicitly call for cocktail attire even if it’s not explicitly stated on the invitation or in the event details. Indeed, it’s a dress code often you could potential regard as the business casual of black tie.

(Video) What to Wear to a Wedding As A Guest - DO's & DON'Ts for Proper Attire + Outfit Suggestions For Men

As a general rule of thumb,it’s always better to be a little overdressed for an occasion than it is to be underdressed. To paraphrase the late, great, Glenn O’Brien, “You can always tell people you have somewhere to go afterwards.”

We discuss some of the most common occasions that call for cocktail attire including weddings, anniversaries, formal sporting events and other occasions.

Cocktail Party

Cocktail parties can include holiday parties, office get-togethers, fundraisers, and similar events. These will typically be held in the evening, so it’s best to opt for the more formal options we mention above, but only to an extent. Give yourself some leeway in terms of color and pattern of your accessories. This is fun, after all.

Wedding

What Is Cocktail Attire For Men? Best Dress Code Guide With Examples Of What To Wear (11)Weddings can be tricky as it relates to cocktail attire. Sometimes the reception will be held immediately after the ceremony, and sometimes there’s a break of a few hours in between each part of the wedding.

The invitation should have the information you need in that regard, but if it doesn’t, contact either the bride or groom to confirm.

As the spotlight should be on the bride and groom, it’s advisable to keep your cocktail attire on the quiet side. With that said, if you know the bride and groom to be fun-loving party animals, have some fun with your cocktail attire. If you know them to be a bit more staid, opt for a more conservative look.

For a comprehensive introduction to what to wear to a wedding, see our guide to weddings.

Anniversary

When folks reach milestone anniversaries (typically starting at ten years of marriage, with additional markers at 25, 40, and 50+ years), they will often throw parties, or their children will throw parties in their honor. A common dress code is therefore cocktail attire.

While it’s still important to let the couple take the spotlight in the sartorial sense, a good rule of thumb is the inverse-anniversary rule: the more years being celebrated, the less flashily you should dress.

Some Sporting Events

There are various equestrian events that have dress codes, and cocktail attire is one of the dress codes you may see if attending one. Here, it’s a great idea to let some colors and patterns fly if you’re so inclined.

Other Semi-Formal & Formal Occasions

Engagement parties and garden parties are some other cocktail attire-driven events that you’ll want to be sure you’re properly dressed for. You’ll want to dress a bit more quietly for engagement parties, whereas a garden party calls for some more daring in your clothing choices.

Please note that truly semi-formal or formal eventsdo not call for cocktail attire. They call for a tuxedo or white tie and tails, respectively.

What Next?

Now that you’re familiar with cocktail attire, how well-versed are you with the other dress codes than men tend to find themselves dressing for? Take a look at our guide to dress codes and some related content:

(Video) Dresscode Tutorial (What To Wear) | Camille Co

  • What Is Black Tie Optional?
  • How To Wear A Tuxedo
  • How To Dress For A Job Interview
  • Top 10 Best Dress Shirt Brands For Men
  • Bespoke Unit Suits Homepage

FAQs

What should men wear for cocktail attire? ›

What is cocktail attire for men? At its simplest, cocktail attire means that you should wear a suit in dark colours, ideally navy or charcoal, with a white shirt, a pair of black leather dress shoes, and a tie. You can divert from this template only if the invitation explicitly calls for it.

What does cocktail dress code mean for men? ›

Different kinds of cocktail events

As a general guide, 'cocktail' means no jeans and no sneakers. You want dress chinos or suit pants, a button-up shirt or suit shirt, and probably a blazer or suit jacket. Ties are optional, but recommended, and your footwear should look sharp and polished.

How would you describe cocktail attire? ›

Cocktail attire isn't overly formal and is encouraging guests to be dressed a step above smart casual. For women, an above-the-knee hem (or any length above floor length) is appropriate. For men, they can wear a suit (tie optional) or sports jacket and dress shirt.

What should I wear for cocktails? ›

For women, cocktail attire is typically a cocktail dress: a knee-length dress designed for just such an occasion. For men, cocktail attire generally entails a suit that is less formal than a tuxedo.

Are jeans considered cocktail attire? ›

You can also choose wide-legged or cropped ankle dress pants to wear with a fancy top. Women can certainly experiment with two-piece ensembles or even a jumpsuit; however, jeans are still a no-go for cocktail attire. Instead, choose a formal pair of trousers that make you feel comfortable and elegant all at once.

What does casual cocktail attire mean? ›

Basics of Casual Cocktail Attire

Simply put, this style of attire lies somewhere between cocktail and business casual. Avoid wearing a tuxedo or anything considered too dressy, otherwise, you might look out of place. Deciding what to wear is easy once you know how, but don't get confused with semi-formal wear.

Can I wear sneakers to cocktail attire? ›

As such, clothing that is more casual – such as jeans, polo shirts, or casual sneakers – has no place in the Cocktail Attire dress code, but neither does more formal menswear – such as dinner jackets, formal waistcoats, or cummerbunds.

Is a black suit OK for cocktail attire? ›

Cocktail Attire Don'ts

Don't wear a black suit. A dark suit is good, but just not black. It's only appropriate for formal wear, the office, or a funeral. Don't wear a tuxedo.

What is summer cocktail casual attire for a man? ›

A nice button-down shirt, dress pants, and a blazer should do the trick for a summer cocktail party. Be sure to avoid flashy patterns or colors and keep it classy. If it's hot outside, you can always ditch the blazer and go for a more relaxed look with a polo shirt or T-shirt instead.

Is cocktail attire the same as semi-formal? ›

Cocktail attire is a smidge more formal than semiformal attire, and is often for weddings held later in the day, while semiformal is usually for afternoon weddings. Avoid a tuxedo and go for a well-tailored suit with a solid shirt—tie optional but encouraged. Take cues from the wedding's location.

Can I wear pants to a cocktail attire wedding? ›

Sorry guys– cocktail attire still calls for dress pants and a suit jacket, as opposed to a semi-formal event, where you may get away with no jacket. However, it's more relaxed than a formal black-tie event, meaning you can incorporate color in many different ways.

Are chinos cocktail attire? ›

Guys are still encouraged to wear a lounge suit. However, you can break out the chinos for cocktail events. And in some cases, you can even lose the tie. Go for a crisp white shirt, neutral pants and a sports jacket, or try a pair of navy chinos with a complimentary jacket.

Can you wear flats to a cocktail party? ›

In general, it's best to avoid wearing flats at a cocktail party unless you're going for a casual look. However, ladies who wear flats should choose pumps with one and a half-inch heels or lower since taller heels can make them appear too formal.

What are smart casual clothes? ›

What Is Smart Casual Attire? Smart casual attire is a dress code that combines well-fitting, polished business wear with elements of casual attire—think blouses, polo shirts, button-downs, chinos, dress pants, dark-wash jeans, and polished, practical footwear.

Can you wear a hat to a cocktail party? ›

You can wear a cocktail hat on top of your head or on the side and secure it in place with the typical hatpin. Cocktail hats go perfectly with elegant updos as they were designed to sit atop the head without giving you hat hair.

Can you wear a GREY suit to a cocktail party? ›

Special Event Cocktail Attire for Men

A grey suit isn't flashy, but the neutral color will help your accessories to stand out. It's extremely versatile, and also more traditional. If you prefer a colorful, modern base for your outfit, try this rich blue suit—just a shade lighter than the darker navy.

What is elevated cocktail attire? ›

Essentially, it means you should dress in relatively formal clothing—but not too formal. It's kind of an in-between place, if you will. Think: mini and midi dresses that are chic and polished, suiting that's a bit more tailored, and footwear that feels elevated (literally, if you're wearing heels).

Does a cocktail dress have to be short? ›

Is a cocktail dress long or short? A cocktail dress is always short and usually above the knee. They're designed for parties and special occasions that are semi-formal.

Can you wear jeans to casual cocktail? ›

While traditional cocktail attire is classified as semi-formal, casual cocktail attire is somewhere between cocktail and business casual. Apparel like denim is still not appropriate, yet an expensive dress and pair of heels aren't necessary.

What are the levels of dress code? ›

Classifications are divided into formal wear (full dress), semi-formal wear (half dress), and informal wear (undress). Anything below this level is referred to as casual wear, although sometimes in combinations such as "smart casual" or "business casual" in order to indicate higher expectation than none at all.

Is cocktail casual a thing? ›

Cocktail: A mid length or shorter dress that you'd find in the evening wear section of the department store. Not a gown, though. This isn't your senior prom, people. Cocktail casual: Like above, only not super fancy and definitely no black leggings or yoga pants.

Can you wear loafers to cocktail? ›

Make sure you don't wear sneakers with any of your cocktail outfits, even if you're wearing a blazer and a t-shirt. But you can definitely wear nice loafers to make any outfit look great. In fact, loafers are the definitive cocktail event shoe-of-choice.

What does summer cocktail attire mean? ›

So What Exactly is Summer Cocktail Attire? Summer cocktail attire falls within the sweet spot between business casual and semi-formal wear. Your favorite dresses, jumpsuits and two-piece options are a sure bet for any event that requires summer cocktail wear.

What is an after 5 dress code? ›

Although the phrase may seem mysterious when you see it on an invitation, "after five attire" is actually another way to say "semi-formal." To dress appropriately for after five events, you'll simply take your work-day style up a notch in formality.

What is cocktail attire for men for an engagement party? ›

You don't technically have to wear a suit for cocktail attire, but you'll look best in one. You can opt for an odd jacket and trousers combination. For instance, a blue sport coat and medium grey trousers with a light blue shirt, burgundy tie, and dark brown shoes would work well.

What is daytime cocktail attire? ›

Daytime: Daytime cocktail parties are generally more casual and laid back. Both men and women can wear comfortable casual party clothing that is seasonally appropriate. Nighttime: An evening cocktail party will probably be more upscale.

Do you have to wear black or white to a black and white ball? ›

How to Dress for a Black and White Party. Honor the black and white theme by wearing what the invitation states. It would be disrespectful to show up in a purple ensemble, and the host might remove you from the next party's guest list. Don't wear any color other than black or white.

What is spring cocktail attire? ›

WHAT IS SPRING COCKTAIL ATTIRE. Spring cocktail outfits are generally lighter than what you might have worn to a winter event: lighter in terms of fabric, color and overall feel. Instead of velvet, wool and cashmere, spring cocktail attire is usually made from fabrics like silk, satin, cotton and linen.

Is a blazer OK for cocktail attire? ›

Though the cocktail dress code doesn't necessarily warrant breakin' out your tuxedo, you shouldn't skip the blazer, sports, or suit jacket. Your suit jacket is always paired with matching pants, while blazers and sports jackets are standalone apparel. A jacket typically serves as the statement piece of your outfit.

Does cocktail attire require a suit? ›

A suit is required for men's cocktail attire. It can be a full suit or separate blazer and pants, but they should still look formal.

Are khakis OK for cocktail attire? ›

DON'T wear casual clothes such as khakis, chinos, jeans, polo shirts, or a casual sports jacket – essentially, avoid any article associated with the Business Casual dress code. DON'T wear causal shoes that are lace-less, like loafers or moccasins.

What is summer cocktail casual attire for a man? ›

Usually, your cocktail attire look should include a suit with a shirt, tie or bow tie, and dress shoes. In some cases, if the dress code is more casual, you can wear just a blazer and a pair of dark wash jeans. Know that you don't need a specific suit for cocktail attire.

Are chinos OK for cocktail attire? ›

Cocktail dress code for men

However, you can break out the chinos for cocktail events. And in some cases, you can even lose the tie. Go for a crisp white shirt, neutral pants and a sports jacket, or try a pair of navy chinos with a complimentary jacket.

Can I wear pants to a cocktail attire wedding? ›

Sorry guys– cocktail attire still calls for dress pants and a suit jacket, as opposed to a semi-formal event, where you may get away with no jacket. However, it's more relaxed than a formal black-tie event, meaning you can incorporate color in many different ways.

Is semi-formal and cocktail attire the same? ›

Cocktail attire is a smidge more formal than semiformal attire, and is often for weddings held later in the day, while semiformal is usually for afternoon weddings. Avoid a tuxedo and go for a well-tailored suit with a solid shirt—tie optional but encouraged. Take cues from the wedding's location.

Is cocktail attire black tie? ›

Cocktail. A small step above semi-formal, though not as formal as black-tie optional or black-tie, cocktail attire is a popular dress code choice. It's a balance between elegant and comfortable and typically more formal than a day wedding but more casual than a night celebration.

Can you wear a GREY suit to a cocktail party? ›

Special Event Cocktail Attire for Men

A grey suit isn't flashy, but the neutral color will help your accessories to stand out. It's extremely versatile, and also more traditional. If you prefer a colorful, modern base for your outfit, try this rich blue suit—just a shade lighter than the darker navy.

What is elevated cocktail attire? ›

Essentially, it means you should dress in relatively formal clothing—but not too formal. It's kind of an in-between place, if you will. Think: mini and midi dresses that are chic and polished, suiting that's a bit more tailored, and footwear that feels elevated (literally, if you're wearing heels).

What is the difference between cocktail and formal attire? ›

So where to start? Understanding the difference between cocktail and formal dress, that's where. Traditionally formal or black-tie events require the wearing of a long gown; for a cocktail event, shorter frocks or pant or jumpsuit outfits are the go.

Can you wear a black suit to a cocktail wedding? ›

Formal Weddings

A wedding in a formal venue or one that is black tie optional is the best place to wear a black suit. Simply put, a wedding where some men will be in tuxedos means you won't look out of place in a black suit.

Can you wear a black suit to a cocktail party? ›

On the other hand, a black suit can be safely worn to most other cocktail parties, such as birthday events. Remember, tuxedos are too formal for cocktail dress codes while a sports jacket-and-chino combination is too casual. So, stick in the middle with a smart suit.

Is cocktail casual a thing? ›

Cocktail: A mid length or shorter dress that you'd find in the evening wear section of the department store. Not a gown, though. This isn't your senior prom, people. Cocktail casual: Like above, only not super fancy and definitely no black leggings or yoga pants.

What is spring cocktail attire? ›

WHAT IS SPRING COCKTAIL ATTIRE. Spring cocktail outfits are generally lighter than what you might have worn to a winter event: lighter in terms of fabric, color and overall feel. Instead of velvet, wool and cashmere, spring cocktail attire is usually made from fabrics like silk, satin, cotton and linen.

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