Cocktail Attire for Men

Man in tuxedo

Deciphering cocktail attire for men can be a tricky thing, especially given that today's cocktail parties can be either semi formal or formal. Before making a final decision on what to wear, it's a good idea to have complete information about the event. This can mean the difference between going all out and perhaps buying something new, or simply making good use of a few items in your closet.

Basic Cocktail Party Attire

Cocktail party attire should be kept simple, but sharp looking. You will want to look polished and turn heads. This can be easily accomplished by wearing a stylish suit paired with a crisp white dress shirt and a tie in the season's hottest shade. Cocktail parties do not always call for a suit and tie, however. The type of party being held and details of the event can dictate what clothing is deemed appropriate for the occasion. Keep in mind that cocktail parties are never the time to pull out your favorite jeans and tee.

Choosing Cocktail Attire for Men

Men have many choices when it comes to choosing attire to wear to a cocktail party.

Formal Cocktail Party

If you know for a fact that the event in question is extremely formal, then you're actually in luck because you'll know exactly what type of clothes you should be wearing. Most formal occasions, such as charity dinners, association events or galas, require black tie dress. Don't veer away from this social norm; doing so will cause you to stand out poorly in a sea of smart suits.

Semi Formal or Informal Cocktail Party

There are cocktail parties that are more informal. The manner in which you were invited to the event can often tell you the type of party being held. Was the invitation emailed or phoned? If there was no formal print invitation, it's unlikely to be an extremely formal event. For more informal cocktail parties, a dressy sports coat and a pair of trousers is often fine to wear. To dress it up, add a dress shirt in a print or color paired with a trendy tie.

Having drinks

When In Doubt

If you're unsure about whether the event is semi formal or not, it's okay to ask the host. You can also ask the host what they prefer their guests to wear.

Some other elements to keep in mind when choosing attire for a cocktail party are:

  • Season: Spring and summer events call for lighter fabrics and more vibrant colors, while darker and more subtle tones work well for fall and winter events.
  • Time of Day: Evening events almost always require a suit and tie. If it's a daytime cocktail party, less formal attire such as khakis, a smart dress shirt and a crisp blazer will do.


Semi formal and formal events alike demand a lace-up or loafer-style shoe, so keep your boots and sneakers in the closet. You will also want to wear socks that match the color of your pants instead of white socks.

Shopping Options

Most clothing worn for a cocktail party can be found on the racks of men's stores and department stores such as Macy's or J.C. Penney. Wearing the season's hottest trends mixed with classic staples that you already own is a great way to show your individual style and savvy fashion sense. For those who prefer to shop online, check out men's retailers such as:

  • Ralph Lauren: This classic brand has a range of fashions for men to wear. From tailored sports coats to crisp dress shirts, men can choose an assortment of looks from formal to casual.
  • Brooks Brothers: Whether you are looking for a suit or a less casual outfit, this retailer has you covered. Choose from the latest styles as well as what is in for the season.
  • Banana Republic: From wool pants to slim-fitting dress shirts and great looking blazers, this retailer will have you looking smart and sharp. You can expect to find a selection of looks to suit any type of event you plan on attending.

Suit Your Own Taste

In general, cocktail attire for men consists of wearing a dress suit. You should not veer too far away from this tradition, but can take into consideration your own fashion sense as well as the occasion to tailor the look to your own. There is some leeway as to what is appropriate for cocktail wear and may be able to reinterpret the look to suit your own tastes.

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Cocktail Attire for Men