Cocktail Attire for Men [What to Wear to a Cocktail Party?]

How do you choose a cocktail attire for men?

The notion of cocktail dresses for women has always been simple and versatile enough for any gal to master the art of cocktail dressing before you snap your fingers. The truth is, the famous little black dress is the go-to choice for most women, whether it’s a long dress or a midi one of asymmetrical lengths, too. Spruce up an LBD with a string of pearls and ankle boots, and you have a perfectly assembled, feminine, cocktail-friendly look.

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For men, however, things can get a bit
complicated. Should you emulate Richard Gilmore, Harvey Specter, someone from
the Mad Men gang, or aspire for a Colin Firth-worthy outfit? You don’t want to
attend the event overdressed or choose something too casual.

Cocktail attire has adapted to become more suited (pardon the
pun) for the modern man, but also to reflect some of the more recent trends that have reshaped the
fashion industry. Then again, cocktail attire is also meant to be timeless in
essence, letting a man have his go-to ensemble. Does it mean that you always
must wear a snazzy suit? Not necessarily. Would classy, haute jeans work?
Sometimes. Knowing when to wear what makes all the difference in crafting your
unique style without stepping out of what cocktail attire entails for a man.

Whether you’re attending a winter wedding, a Christmas party
with your colleagues, or a cocktail evening in the city, you can rely on the
following advice to add some effort into your look and prevent many a fashion
faux pas.

The cocktail attire boundaries

Modern fashion is all about pushing boundaries, in most
situations, but some occasions call for a specific dress code that you need to
follow. Much like women should never outshine the bride when attending a wedding,
the same golden rule of thumb applies for men’s cocktail attire: do not steal
the spotlight from the guest of honor, or the groom, depending on the event.
Leave the neon hues, the fanciest combinations, and other flashy add-ons for
another time.

A typical dress code varies from one event to another, and it
doesn’t hurt to ask the host for guidance on what is expected, in case the
invitation doesn’t clearly state the necessary attire. Most daytime events
accept dark jeans with a collared shirt, while evening events require a suit. A
tie is often not mandatory, but still expected.

Although a classic suit that you’d
wear to a business meeting will suffice and is often required, try
to avoid the all-black option that would be more fitting for a funeral. Then
again, a suit is indeed enough, so you can leave the tux and the penguin suit
for another, more formal occasion.

You’re always invited to give all of your cocktail ensembles
that personal touch, be it a unique tie, a watch, or cufflinks, but make sure
you stick with one or two choices that are subtle and sophisticated.

Go for a tailored look

While a tux or a penguin suit isn’t necessary, and it’s
actually advisable to avoid it unless the invitation specifically states you
should wear one, a tailor-made suit is a must. Slim fit is the best choice when
tailoring your look, but make sure your ensemble isn’t too tight or too loose.

A two-piece suit in muted tones of grey, navy, and cobalt is a
standard pick, although summer weddings, for example, can leave room for softer
tones such as creamy linen suits. The fabric and the hue will perfectly fit the
event, and make you feel comfortable at the same time.

Smart and semi-casual options

Less formal occasions leave room for more than a suit, so you
can opt for dark-coloured jeans (no distressed denim, mind you), and a blazer.
However, most cocktail events still don’t call for a pair of chinos, so let’s
stick to fitted pants and jeans instead. You’re looking for the kind of dark,
navy jeans that will allow you to pair them with a smart collared shirt and a
jacket, and of course, a pair of elegant dress shoes.

The shirt is, in fact, what makes your less formal jeans
elegant enough to be considered acceptable for a cocktail event. Even when it’s
a crisp white shirt and steals none of the spotlight, it’s the piece that ties
in the whole look together, and while a tweed blazer is a solid addition for
cold-season events, the shirt is a must-have for cocktail parties.

When you choose a single-hued suit, then you can opt for a
bolder, more colourful shirt to give your ensemble some zest. Monochrome in
lavender is a frequent choice, while a shirt with vertical stripes in a couple
of bolder hues can make your suit more festive and fun for a holiday event.

The key differences between a standard suit jacket and the blazer as your
second-best option for a more casual look are the fit and the match. The former
is made of the exact same fabric as the pants you’ll wear, and it will be
slightly tighter, whereas the latter uses other fabrics and has a slightly
looser form, hence the casual label for it. Both combinations are perfectly
acceptable in most situations, but when in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to level up
and stick with the suit, or just call the host and ask for guidance.

Elevate your look with accessories

By far the most effective way to craft a unique, personal style
even out of your most formal suits is to utilize various subtle accessories.
They are every man’s best friend to express your preferences and make your
appearance as elegant and exquisite as you are.

Let’s start with selecting a tie or a bow tie
that matches your suit or your smart, but casual pants-plus-blazer combination.
When you like wearing single-hued, no-pattern suits, this is your perfect
opportunity to play with colours and patterns, since interesting, unique
neckties and bow ties are a brilliant way to add some whimsy to your formal
ensemble. Sometimes clashing patterns (think: stripes and dots) can add a fun
note to your look, whereas complementary colours are always a safe option.

In case you’d like to combine a necktie with a pocket square, make sure to choose a
secondary colour of your collared shirt or your tie so as to avoid a monochrome
look. Select a pattern that isn’t too dramatic or overly pompous, but that adds
some playfulness to your outfit. Finally, make sure to learn how to fold your
pocket square according to the occasion, and you can expect some impressed nods
at the party for sure.

Next, you need a timepiece such as a stainless steel watch that will
complete your entire cocktail ensemble. Such a powerful material adds sleek
ruggedness to your look without depriving it of luxury or opulence. In fact,
steel is often combined with wood for a balanced approach. This accessory pairs
the best of what style and function have to offer a man: a watch serves a
purpose while it simultaneously enhances your personal look and confidence.

Pick the right pair of shoes

Treat your shoes as the foundation of your outfit, not just
another accessory, because they can make or break your entire look. Just like
women reach for ankle boots as their primary cocktail-friendly footwear for any
season, men also need a classic pair, be it for a holiday, or another business
event. For instance, Oxford shoes in classic leather brown or black
are the go-to option for these formal occasions, and they are the perfect
choice to elevate even the more casual outfits. These shoes are the
personification of style for men, so they are a no-brainer for any season and
any situation.

However, you can give yourself some style space and opt for
less formal shoes such as loafers, provided that the occasion is not as haute,
especially if it’s a summer wedding at the beach. Make sure to check this with
the host, though, since you don’t want to be the worst-dressed guest there when
you have the chance to show off your finest Oxfords.

When to reach for a fragrance

Sometimes the accessory you cannot see or show off is your greatest ally in assembling the perfect cocktail attire for the evening. To put it straight, a good aftershave can give you the perfect final touch to complete your stunning look.

Just be aware to pick a scent that goes with your style. Of course, the occasion and the season should affect the choice of your cologne, as well.

Fresh and citrusy scents are generally adaptable for any kind of situation, but you don’t want to choose something the entire room will notice as soon as you enter.

Look for long-lasting fragrances that won’t wear off in an
hour, but that will linger with you for the duration of the event, and that
will solely depend on the quality of the ingredients used in the cologne you
select. That’s why it pays to invest in names such as Davidoff, Azzaro, or

Playing with hues, patterns, and texture

Some men like the minimalist approach and they stick to a
navy-blue suit for any event that calls for formalwear. As safe as this option
may be, you have so many other options at your disposal, it would be a pity not
to look for an alternative and express your personal sense of style. When
you’re ready to ditch that monochrome comfort zone, you can start with something
easy and fun to combine and low-maintenance such as pinstripes.

Eager to try something more playful? Then perhaps something
plaid is in order, although that will be more challenging to combine. When
you’re about to attend a slightly less formal event, tweed-based houndstooth is a great,
visually-appealing option.

For more conservative men who like the classics but still want
to steer clear of simple single hues, you can go for a sophisticated glen plaid
pattern that will give you plenty of room to accessorize. Although the most
common variety comes in white or grey, there are options that include a single
accent hue for the boldest among you.

Much like with any other fashion choice, there’s no
one-size-fits-all solution for your cocktail event. Depending on the location
and the occasion, as well as the season, you’ll need to craft an outfit to suit
the blend of all of those factors. However, you can always give yourself plenty
of leeway to get creative with personalizing your look with accessories, and
still live up to the cocktail attire expectations that the event in question
calls for. These tips can help you stay within the dress code rules, and master
the art of cocktail dressing for your next event.


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