So, you’re invited to an exciting event, want to impress with your outfit, and you’re counting down the days till you can strut your stuff. But the invitation has left you puzzling over the Cocktail Attire dress code. Before you get too hot under the collar, we’ve created the ultimate style guide to help you perfect the cocktail dress code for men. Read more Men's Style Guide features and check out our store.
Gone are the school disco days when simply turning up in the latest Nike trainers gave you ultimate street cred. Now, Idle Men everywhere are left staring at invitations in dismay. Dress codes: ambiguous words designed to inform you on what to wear for that special occasion. Although, most of the time we have no idea what the words actually mean.
The most important thing to remember (regardless of which dress code you’ve been assigned) is that you should always adhere to the given dress code. If an invitation specifically states you should be wearing men’s cocktail attire, do it. Don’t turn up in your tracksuit bottoms. That’s the easy part. But now for the question we’ve all asked ourselves at some point: what is cocktail attire?
What is Cocktail Attire for Men?
The term 'cocktail attire' is a dress code for a semi-formal, more relaxed occasion. As a result, you should be looking to avoid anything too dressy. Even though the event is somewhat formal, you will look out of place in anything fancy. So keep those tuxedos and business suits locked away in the depths of your wardrobe for now. Consequently, you want something understated and classy, maybe with a small accent or a statement piece to add a little character. The formality of the occasion generally determines how extravagant or subdued you should be with your patterns, colours, and accessories. You want to be remembered for all the right reasons. Don’t go for anything too attention-grabbing, especially if you’re at a distant relative's wedding.
What to Wear to a Cocktail Party
To define cocktail attire in a simple way, the style basically consists of:
However, all of these options can be adapted to suit the occasion.
Cocktail Attire for Men
Formal Cocktail Attire
Men’s cocktail party attire is a timeless and charming style often requested at weddings or other big celebrations. To help you pull off this sharp and dashing look, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favourite cocktail party attire style options below.
The Formal Cocktail Suit
For more formal occasions, you will want to stick to dark coloured suits. A dark grey, navy or even light grey suit will help you look subtle yet stylish here, whilst also avoiding any unwanted attention.
Whilst it may seem as though there’s a very fine line between formal cocktail attire and looking too dressed-up, the best way to avoid any confusion is to steer clear of black suits. As previously mentioned, a cocktail attire dress code is based on a semi-formal style. If you choose to wear a black suit you risk coming across as overly formal. Muted colours are most effective at pulling off a formality without going overboard.
Formal Cocktail Suit Pattern
In terms of pattern, you should try to keep it minimum by opting for a light pattern or simply sticking with a solid colour. If the solid colour is a little too bland for you, look for patterns such as Glen Check, Windowpane, Shark Skin or Herringbone. Again, bear in mind you don’t want the look to be too eye-catching. If you’re going for patterns, keep them light. When it comes to choosing your suit, it’s vital to ensure that it fits you correctly. This is particularly important if you choose to wear it as part of your cocktail attire, as a smart clean-cut look is imperative. Handy tip: it helps if you only do the top button up on your blazer. This creates a V-Line effect, by making your shoulders look broader and drawing attention to a slimmer waistline.
The Formal Cocktail Shirt
For your shirt, a white collar shirt is always a safe option. Otherwise, an off-white shirt or dress shirt will do the trick. As with our suit advice, if you’re looking to incorporate a pattern or colour to your shirt, keep it toned down. Less is more when it comes to contrasting cocktail attire for a formal occasion. Be sure to choose a white shirt that has stiff collars and keep the colour or pattern in line with that of the suit.
Formal Cocktail Neckwear
Neckwear is fairly straightforward. If you’re feeling brave and can keep it looking subtle, a bow tie is a good alternative to the humble tie. Otherwise, a solid coloured necktie with an interesting texture (such as satin), or a small patterned neck tie (such as paisley), will be a successful choice. Adding texture or patterns to your tie will also help lift a suit if you feel it looks a little dull.
Formal Cocktail Shoes
Men’s cocktail attire works best in formal situations with a nice pair of dress shoes. These should be neatly polished and in darker colours. Naturally, trainers will create the opposite effect to what you want your formal style to achieve here. So avoid casual footwear (no matter how comfortable) and stick to a pair of dashing Oxfords, Monkstraps, or Brogues.
Cocktail Attire Socks
It might sound daft, but choosing the correct pair of socks is an absolute must when it comes to men’s cocktail attire. No hairy pins should be on show when the setting is formal, so it’s important to invest in a pair of over-the-calf socks. When you come to choose your socks, match the sock colour to your trouser colour to play it safe. But, if you’re a little more fashion forward and looking for some contrast, you can try matching your sock colour to the colour of your tie. As your socks will be on show at some point, this is probably best left to the more confident Idle Man.
Cocktail Attire Accessories
When it comes to accessories, the classy pocket square will help finish off the look. Match your shirt or tie colour to a similarly coloured pocket square and you are good to go. If you’ve never worn a pocket square before but you’re tempted to invest in one, now is the time to do it. Begin with a simple white one. A white pocket square can be matched with practically anything, so it won’t be an investment that resigns itself to the depths of your drawers. You might also like to add some cufflinks or a smart watch. Overall, to be successful in this formal attire for men, keep it simple. Nothing too flashy, yet nothing too casual. Match your outfit to the occasion and you’ll fit right into this handsome and timeless style.
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