Cocktail Attire For Men: A Dress Code Guide
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Cocktail Attire For Men: A Dress Code Guide

Make events dressing a breeze with our guide

Dress codes can feel like a bit of a mine field at the best of times, with the line between casual and formal events seeming blurrier than ever these days. If you find yourself with a party invite in hand, the dreaded words ‘cocktail attire’ printed at the bottom, fear not; we’ve put together the ultimate guide to a men’s cocktail dress code. 

What Is Cocktail Attire For Men?

When it comes to menswear, cocktail attire typically refers to a dress code worn for semi-formal or formal events, such as cocktail parties, evening weddings or upscale dinners. Straddling the line between casualwear and formal black tie, cocktail attire for men usually entails a good suit. Since this isn’t a business event, however, you need to step up your game a little – no work suits here.

Close up of man in a navy suit

Adeolu Eletu, Unsplash

Picking A Suit

Cocktail attire typically requires male guests to wear a suit jacket and trousers. The suit style is largely up to you (unless there are any specific dress code requirements on your invite), but some styles you might want to try include:

Dark Coloured Suit

If a classic getup is more your bag, opt for a well-fitted suit in a traditional colour palette – namely black, charcoal or navy. This style remains a classic for a reason, and will look elegant at any semi-formal occasion.

Patterned Suit

From Pharrell and Rami Malek to Harry Styles, male celebrities are switching out bland suit-and-tie combos for florals, diamonds, check and pinstripe. A patterned suit allows its wearer to show off their personality more vividly than a classic suit, while incorporating a splash of colour – which you can colour match either with your partner or, if applicable, the event theme.

Velvet Suit

Another look popular amongst celebs (especially former 007 actor Daniel Craig), velvet suits carry an old-school swagger. While it’s popular to see the colour adopted in shades of black, midnight blue, burgundy and forest green, it’s not uncommon to see the material take shape in orange and pink blazers. While you may not want to go full-velvet, a velvet smoking jacket can be paired with black slacks for an elevated cocktail attire look.


Now, this one depends on how formal the occasion is. Tuxedos are usually reserved for black tie and formal cocktail parties, but some wedding celebrations may ask male guests to dress up in tuxes to match a theme. For a classic tux, opt for black blazer with a satin lapel and pair with a white dress shirt and black bow tie.

Three-Piece Suit

Not vibing with your blazer and trousers duo? You can add a third element to your outfit with a waistcoat or vest – which simultaneously gives your suit a more formal touch – to make a three-piece suit. Your vest can match the shade of your suit, or be a complementary colour to add a bit more dimension to your outfit (and avoid making it look too texturally flat).

How do you accessorise for this dress code?

If in doubt, stick to a minimal selection of accessories when picking your outfit. A good watch, a pair of cufflinks and a belt that matches your shoes is a foolproof combo for a polished outfit.

Depending on the type of suit you opt for, you might also want to wear a tie. A tie isn’t always necessary for cocktail dress (although, again, this depends on the invitation requirements), but you can wear a necktie, bow tie or even a cravat, if you fancy.

Do I need to wear a shirt?

Again, not necessarily. You might want to wear a shirt if you decide to wear the aforementioned tie, but alternatively, you could also swap out your shirt for something more relaxed. Think roll-necks, knits, vests and waistcoats or even a polo.

Can you wear jeans with cocktail attire?

It’s probably best to avoid jeans when it comes to cocktail attire, since it veers more towards a formal than casual dress code. You might get away with black jeans, but they might make you stick out amongst other guests for being too casual. If slacks aren’t your thing, you can always wear a pair of chinos.

Men's formal clothes laid out on bed

David Lezcano, Unsplash

What shoes should you wear?

You can get away with wearing most shoe styles when it comes to cocktail dress, as long as they aren’t trainers. Some classic styles include oxfords and brogues, while trendier footwear finds include monk strap shoes, loafers and even slippers. Dress boots like Chelsea or chukka are also popular choices during colder weather.

How do you dress in cocktail attire during summer?

Let’s be honest, you’re not going to want to wear a velvet suit in August. You can keep your cocktail wardrobe in line with the warmer weather by opting for lightweight materials such as linin or thin cottons when it comes to your suit, and try out lighter colours that match the season. Formal dress codes aren’t usually upheld so much in hot weather, so you could also get away with more summery wardrobe pieces like loafers, short-sleeved shirts and sunglasses.

What does cocktail attire mean at a wedding?

The same general guidelines for cocktail attire typically apply to weddings, possibly with more lean towards smart and formal attire. The only differences would come from specific requests in the dress code from the bride and groom. Make sure to pay attention to the venue and location; a beach wedding will require a different wardrobe to a winter wedding in the countryside.

What is cocktail attire for women?

This is a different kettle of fish entirely. If you want to find out what cocktail attire entails for women, you can see our guide here.

Featured image: Jeremy Beadle, Unsplash