Cocktail attire is difficult to replicate, as it is a strict balance between formal attire, casual attire, and elegant attire.
Cocktail attire is the most popular attire for weddings, but it can be incredibly difficult to know what to wear.
Cocktail attire is different from regular formal style, because it has more freedom and elegance than formal attire.
In this guide, we are going to be going through some popular cocktail attire looks for men, as well as a full dress code, and some relevant questions about the attire.
If you follow our guide, you are sure to be the best-dressed man at any cocktail event or wedding. Let’s get started!
How Is Cocktail Attire Defined?
We briefly said what cocktail attire is, but let’s look at the formal definition. It is strictly defined as a balance of attire between formal and casual, commonly including suits and times, and cocktail dresses for women.
Cocktail attire is the one dress code that you are most likely to see at the bottom of a wedding invitation, and it is mostly worn in darker colors, with pops of elegance and sophistication.
How Formal Is Cocktail Attire?
Cocktail attire is known as being pretty formal, but it also has some leeway with freedom in colors and accessories.
The most common places you will find cocktail attire are weddings, wedding parties, business events, and social events.
The attire will typically be worn in the evening of business and social events, because it offers a classy and formal look. You would not be able to wear jeans to a cocktail attire event, because it is too formal for this.
Saying this, you would be allowed patterned shirts and pops of color in your outfit to encourage individuality and expression.
The dress code is not as strict as regular formal wear, but more formal than business attire – confusing, right?
Does Cocktail Attire Mean A Suit?
Cocktail attire does mean a suit for men. It is traditionally a suit, with a choice of shoes, whether this is suit shoes or boat shoes, as well as a tie and suit jacket.
There is room to add some expression through your choice/pattern of tie, as well as shoes. Cocktail attire is simple and classy, but also pretty difficult to master.
When wearing cocktail attire to a wedding, you do not want to come underdressed, but you also should not come overdressed.
Weddings are formal events, and yes there is often a party in the evening, but the cocktail attire for a wedding should still remain pretty conservative and sleek.
What Is Acceptable For Cocktail Attire?
For women, cocktail attire is a lot more expressive and free, because there are many different styles and choices of dresses. However, for men, it tends to be a suit.
This is fine, but there are not many things you can do to look unique when wearing cocktail attire. For men, it is acceptable to wear a suit with a shirt, dress shoes, with a tie or a bow tie.
The colors are up to you, or the color themes at the wedding. Traditional cocktail attire styles may reach for formal chinos with a windowpane blazer and leather shoes, but this is not seen as much nowadays.
Never wear jeans or a t-shirt for cocktail attire, because you will be wildly underdressed.
How Should Men Wear Cocktail Attire?
Because cocktail attire is mostly worn at weddings, we are going to be looking at some style choices for weddings, firstly. A wedding is a joyful and celebratory event, so this should be reflected in your attire.
Firstly, let’s look at some suit options. As a man, wearing a suit will be the expectation when turning up to a cocktail attire event. The suit is not required to be super expensive, it just needs to be well-fitting and flattering.
A suit works by having suit trousers, and a suit jacket that matches the trousers. You can wear any kind of shirt tucked into the trousers, as long as it matches the desired color scheme.
A well-tailored suit is a good start for a wedding event requiring cocktail attire, and this could even be a work suit, as long as it is formal and stylish.
As we will cover later, you can always add accessories and brightly colored ties to spruce things up.
It is popular to opt for a darker colored suit when wearing cocktail attire. This is because it is versatile, and appropriate for any evening events. Dark suits are perfect for a modern, elegant and sleek look.
For darker suit options, try going for a dark gray, such as charcoal or stone. You could also opt for a modern navy blue suit, as these are very popular, and they work well with a lot of color schemes.
If you wanted to keep it simple, you could always go for a black suit, or very dark gray. This is not the most elegant, but it makes it easier to pair with shirts, ties, and shoes.
Light suits are not as popular for weddings, especially when cocktail attire is desired. This is not to say that you cannot wear a light-colored suit. Light suits will usually be cream-colored, as well as tan, or stone colored.
A light gray, light cream, or beige suit would be included in this, too. It is a fact that light-colored suits do not look as formal as dark-colored suits.
But, you can create nice cocktail attire by wearing a smart white shirt, with some tan or black suit shoes or loafers, as well as a smart tie. You could go for a tie with patterns, as long as it fits the look.
Colored suits are not typically an option, especially if you are sticking to cocktail attire. However, there may be an opportunity to wear a colored suit if the dress code is less formal or strict, and with permission of the wedding organizers.
You could wear a darker red suit, as this is quite complementary to creamy colors. This would look good with a white shirt, and a dark red, patterned tie.
You could also opt for a dark emerald-colored suit, but this would have to be styled very carefully and appropriately for the chosen attire of the wedding event.
Dress shirts are super important, and they can accurately formalize any kind of suit for a wedding. Try wearing a crisp white shirt for cocktail attire, as well as a baby blue or a pale pink to add some color.
You could wear a patterned shirt, but this will make the shirt a lot more casual, so you need to think about how you can keep it nice and formal. The shirt should be quite tight-fitting, but not uncomfortably tight.
You do not want the suit shirt to be baggy or too big, because this will not be an impressive look. A shirt that is well-tailored to your body type and suit jacket will create a sleek and formal cocktail attire look.
Ties are also one of the most critical parts of cocktail attire. Without a tie, your outfit is left looking casual and boring. A tie will show off your personality, as well as your style.
It should be respectful and relevant to the celebration, as well as consistent with the rest of your attire. With ties, you have a lot of room to play around with textures and colors, and you can become quite adventurous.
You could even opt for a bow tie, as this creates a really cool and modern look to your attire. There are many different styles and textures to choose from, from paisley patterns, to plain block colors.
You can also get them stitched, for that extra bit of texture and flair. This is the same for ties, and you can really add some cool patterns, with circles, floral, and stripes.
At the end of the day, as long as the tie works with the suit, and adheres to cocktail attire, anything goes.
One rule of thumb for cocktail attire is formal shoes. If you turned up to a wedding in boots or sneakers, this could not be a good impression for you.
The best shoe for any formal or dressed up look is a leather dress shoe or suit shoe.
One of the best options is oxford dress shoes, and they look extremely sleek and attractive with any outfit, but especially cocktail attire. They are conservative, sleek, and fashionable shoes.
The shoes must always match the color of your suit, and for this reason, black leather shoes are a good idea. You would not be able to wear tan leather shoes with a bright red suit and a green tie, as this would not make the attire look nice.
A high quality pair of leather or suit shoes will last you years, and remain a staple in your wardrobe.
Pocket squares are very classy, and very cool. In all tailored suit jackets, there is a pocket on the chest that is designed for pocket squares.
These little squares of fabric will sit in the pockets, and will create a really cool and defined look for you. It is a great way of putting a little splash of color and individuality into any cocktail attire.
You can buy pocket squares from most places, and it will make you look like a classy gentleman. They are perfect for cocktail attire.
You could even match the pocket square to your tie, or to the color scheme of your tie, but always make sure it does not clash.
Now, it’s time to accessorize your cocktail attire. There are many accessories that you could add to your outfit in order for it to be more formal and classy.
A watch is almost always a good idea when dressing in cocktail attire. Depending on your outfit, you could try a leather strap watch, and this color could match your shoes for extra consistency.
Make sure that the color and material of the watch matches your shoes pretty well.
A belt is always a good move for cocktail attire, too. A black leather belt will give a sleek and clean appearance to your outfit, but also make sure that this matches the leather or color of your shoes.
This is important, as you want the whole outfit to go well together. This is especially true if your belt is on display.
Now we’ve gone through some of the best formal cocktail attire options for weddings, why don’t we have a look at some more casual cocktail attire.
This does not mean informal, but it means you can wear this on a night out, to a fancy bar, or to dinner and around town.
Casual Cocktail Attire
As we said above, casual cocktail attire is better suited for something less formal than a wedding, such as a night out or a dinner out. Casual cocktail attire gives you more of a chance to express yourself and your fashion choices.
With casual cocktail attire, you are more free to express colors and patterns, as well as different shoes. But, you need to find out how formal the event is that you may be attending.
If it is less formal than a wedding or business event, then casual cocktail attire may be the way to go. There are still guidelines to follow when you are wearing casual cocktail attire, but it is more acceptable to let your outfit choice stand out.
Suit Or Blazer?
With casual cocktail attire, you can choose whether you want to wear a blazer or a suit jacket. If a suit is not mandatory to a particular event, then you can definitely wear a blazer to your event.
A blazer would be good with a pair of tailored trousers, with a crisp shirt underneath. A cream-colored blazer and trousers would look great with a light blue shirt underneath, and you could wear more informal shoes, too.
These are the kind of outfits you could wear to a work celebration, or a slightly more formal dinner party. Cocktail events are not typically as formal as weddings are, so you can think outside the box a bit more than usual.
A blue suit would be good, and you could wear a patterned shirt underneath, with some boat shoes or leather shoes.
When it comes to shirts, you can go a lot more casual when it comes to casual cocktail attire. A touch of color to a shirt is great, as long as it is not a huge patterned shirt.
You could stick to small checkers or florals/paisley, as this is a really refined and classy look, whilst still remaining slightly casual.
It may be better for you to wear a solid colored shirt, or a plain white one. By doing this, you can put more effort into expressing yourself through patterned and colored ties.
The fit of the shirt is super important too, as it is likely that you will end up taking your jacket off later in the evening. So, you need your shirt to be quite tight-fitting and well-tailored, similar to what you would wear to a formal cocktail party.
You do not have to wear a tie for casual cocktail attire. It may be safer for you to do so, but only if it fits the feel of your outfit. You could always remove your tie if you do not want to wear it anymore, or to free up your outfit later in the evening.
You can also play around with bow ties, customizing the different colors and textures that you might like.
Now, let’s talk about shoes. When it comes to shoes, you can’t go wrong with a pair of brown or black leather suit shoes. You could go for brogues, because they have a cool pattern on them.
You could even look at boat shoes, because they can add a cool casual look to any formal outfit. Try pairing brown boat shoes with a blue suit, or black boat shoes with a cream-colored suit.
Loafers are similar to boat shoes, and they look just as nice with casual cocktail attire.
Again, accessories are super important for any formal outfit. Watches are a great idea because they can make your look appear a bit classier than it is, and you could wear a leather strap watch, or a metal strap watch.
This will give more of a contemporary and modern style to your cocktail attire. You could even wear metal bracelets, and these add a sleek and hip look to any suit or formal outfit.
Belts are a staple again, and you should keep the belt pretty simple. However, you could wear a patterned or brogue style belt, as long as it matches your shoes pretty well.
The belt should always be versatile enough to be worn with other suits and outfits.
What Should Men Avoid As Cocktail Attire?
As you can see, there is actually quite a lot of freedom when it comes to picking out cocktail attire. Although this is great, there are a few things that you should always be aware of.
If you do any of these things, you may be breaking the dress code, which may not go down too well with the hosts. So, let’s look at some things that you should avoid when wearing cocktail attire for casual or formal cocktail events/weddings.
- Try not to wear a black suit. Although you may be of the impression that a black suit is the pinnacle of formality, it will actually have the opposite effect in cocktail attire. Black suits are easy, but they are not appropriate as cocktail attire. They are only suited for extra formal occasions such as work, or a funeral. They are not expressive, and they can be difficult to customize. However, dark suits like navy and gray are still good as cocktail attire. This is because there is more room to customize them with accessories and shoes, whereas you are always limited to black accessories when you wear a black suit.
- Never wear casual clothing. This is a sure proof way to get kicked out of an event! Jeans and shorts are always a no-go at any kind of formal event, but especially as cocktail attire. Cocktail attire is supposed to be formal, yet expressive.
- Don’t be afraid of color! The whole idea of cocktail attire is to give a pop of originality and smart fun to any look. If you want to add a colored shirt or tie, this is totally fine, as long as the outfit is consistent.
- Always wear socks! You should always be wearing socks to any formal event, even if you do not want to. The only exception may be loafers or boat shoes, but these are mostly worn to more casual cocktail events.
As you can see, cocktail attire can be quite complicated! However, when wearing cocktail attire, there is a lot of room to spruce up your outfit and look. With our helpful tips and tricks, you will be sure to look the part at your event!
Thank you for reading!