Guide To Wearing Cocktail Attire For Men

Guide To Wearing Cocktail Attire For Men With Style

With regards to night social events, cocktail attire is regularly the go-to clothing standard. A balance of exquisite and easy; this stylish style mixes convention with identity. In this way, while you can’t pull off simply tossing on your standard dark tux, you can get inventive. Still not certain what precisely to wear! From picking the ideal suit to improving it with the perfect adornments, we’ll demonstrate to you how dapper gentlemen do it. Here is your definitive manual for cocktail attire for men.

Let’s talk cocktail attire: suit obligatory? Or are jeans and blazer acceptable today? And, in our sportswear obsessed, luxury world, do clean white sneakers cut it? Wondering what to wear is a common concern. Why, there’s black tie, smart casual and business casual already putting you through your dress code paces. So relax, breathe deep. We’re here to put your mind, and wardrobe, at ease.

RELATED: Men’s Dress Codes Guide 

What is Cocktail Attire for Men?

Cocktail attire is a semi-formal style of dress for both men and women. Conceived in the ‘20s and ‘30s, this dress code has since become a regular stipulation for many evening social functions. Today, dressing for cocktail attire requires a blend of formality and modernity. So, while a suit is a general requirement, choosing one that is contemporary and fashionable is the trick to pulling off this code in style. As such, an event featuring this attire is the perfect chance to dress up and look sleek while embracing your unique style.

Cocktail Attire Do’s & Dont’s

While we’re not ones to set the style rules in stone, we are indeed big on learning the rules. Knowing the guidelines means you’re equipped to bend the rules a little (without looking like a sartorial mess). Appeasing your individual style, and mastering the cocktail manual, here are some do’s and don’ts to follow:

  • Do go for something tailored. A tuxedo is too much, but a suit or blazer/trousers combo is required.
  • Don’t upstage the guest of honour. If you’re attending a birthday or any other occasion in which the spotlight meant to be on someone specific, leave the bright colours and flashy accessories at home.
  • Do add personal touches, but consider them carefully. You do not want to be remembered as the “neon pink jacket guy” from your friend’s wedding.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re ever unsure about what constitutes appropriate attire for an event, ask the person hosting it. They are, after all, the most invested in avoiding confusion and uncomfortable situations.

If still in doubt it’s always safer to over-dress (but still, leave that tuxedo at home).

Men’s Cocktail Attire

Suiting & Blazers

A wonderfully tailored suit that’s easily adaptable or semi-formal blazers and trousers will complement cocktail looks. Darker suits are the traditional choice when it comes to cocktail attire; so keep things classic with dusky navies, subdued cobalt and muted greys. Stick to tailored suits that are fitted, but not too tight. Keep blazers figure-hugging, fresh and modern and alter pants to just skim the top of the footwear. Paying tribute to transitional day-to-night looks, keep cocktail attire adaptable with basic suits. Build up the look with pocket squares and inventive accessories, ensuring they enhance the classicism of your fitted silhouettes.

Cocktail Attire For Men - Suits and Tailoring


A fitted dress shirt is in order for cool cocktail attire and is classic and safe in whites or powder blues. That being said, modern or brighter patterned button-down shirts give a new edge to cocktail attire; provided not too over the top. Do not fear an introduction of patterned shirts for a traditionalist look with a twist. Build on the colour of your suit with complementary shades that will look presentable and well put together.

Wearing a plain blazer? Look to low-key checks or stripes or even floral jacquard for a romantic edge. Another chic style is a plain black shirt – no tie – or white for a summer daytime feel.

The biggest blunder made with shirting is the collar. Avoid floppy, limp shirt collar types and make sure it’s made from cotton and crafted from a formal fabric weave. It should feel and look crisp, and sharply pressed on the collar and cuffs. Speaking of which, avoid French cuffs for daytime events, saving them for dapper evening soirees where you really want to impress.

Cocktail Attire For Men - Shirts


As with all menswear, great dress shoes ultimately ground cocktail looks and should not be overlooked or underestimated. A traditional round-toe leather Oxford is timeless and generally, the shoe of choice for cocktail attire looks. Go for this style in authentic leather and switch things up with different textures like brogue punch holes. Loafers can also be considered if the event is less formal but keep them relatively classic with colours in brown, navy and black. Alternatively, monk strap shoes are fittingly formal and have secured themselves as a footwear mainstay.  Above all, invest in a new pair if it’s a special event or gives tired old leather a fresh polish. And be on your way.

Cocktail Attire For Men - Shoes


For quasi-formal occasions, no tie with a few buttons undone is a relaxed, favourable look that transitions excellently well from day to the night. This approach is undeniably popular, given it lends the desired effortlessness to cocktail looks. That being said, a slim tie can add dimension to cocktail attire. Try incorporating textured ties, like crocheted or silky versions but with more modern shaping. Do not fear a dash of colour with brighter hues of blues, reds and greens for a youthfulness that is not distasteful or gaudy.

RELATED: Guide To Suit, Shirt and Tie Combinations

Cocktail Attire For Men - Ties

Pocket Squares

For a classic look that never ages, pocket squares will add depth to cocktail attire, maintaining a gentleman-like sensibility. Consider it an excellent opportunity for personal touches to cocktail looks, so be creative and find interesting colours and prints. Great for that finishing touch to a well-tailored look, a pocket square will ensure a polished and sleek refinement to any look, reaffirming personal style.

Pocket Squares


When deciding on an appropriate belt for a cocktail attire look, stick to the classics. Invest in more expensive pieces that are not overly convoluted and will last for many years and countless occasions. Go for basic shapes in good-quality materials for a look that registers classic, and incorporate belts into unexpected materials for a more contemporary look. Leather and suede are a safe choice and won’t date, meaning they can be worn for years.


Fragrance & Cologne

Not to be forgotten as a pivotal component to noticeable cocktail looks is a great fragrance and cologne. Cocktail attire needs a great-smelling accompaniment and going for a clean, yet memorable scent will add depth to your quasi-formal looks. Keep things simple with minimalist scents that will provide a fresh edge to looks or accompany looks with stronger, potent scents for a grounding element to more basic or traditionalist cocktail attire.

Finally, finish the look off with calf-length socks; (long enough so if you’re seated your leg skin doesn’t show). Stick to socks that compliment your trousers or another colour in your outfits such as a tie, shirt or blazer. If you’re feeling brave, coloured or patterned socks could be an opportunity to let your personality shine through.

Cocktail Attire For Men - Fragrance and Cologne


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RELATED: Graduation Attire For Men

Cocktail Attire for Men

  • Keep your look clean and classic with a contemporary twist.
  • Select a tailored suit featuring a dark hue, such as navy, subdued cobalt or muted grey.
  • Opt for a fitted shirt in a classic colour for a smart style or a bold print for a fashion-forward appearance.
  • Keep your outfit polished with dress shoes, such as oxfords, brogues or loafers.
  • Complement your outfit with a bold tie, pocket square or unique accessories.
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