Cocktail Attire for Men: How to Be the Best Dressed Guy in the Room

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cocktail attire guide men

What Is The Definition of Cocktail Attire?

Cocktail attire started in the 20s as an alternative to formal attire. In today’s world, the culture as a whole is entirely more relaxed, which makes dressing for “cocktail attire” that much more confusing. What is exactly acceptable? Well, to start, no tuxedo, no jeans, and no leather sneakers. Cocktail in essence boils down to wearing a smart suit, shirt and tie, but there are exceptions.

Men’s Cocktail Attire for Weddings

mens cocktail attire suit

Cocktail Attire Suiting Tips

Your cocktail attire suit needs to be tailored. You can definitely buy any suit off the rack, assuming it fits you well, but most guys need to bring their suit into the tailor. Tailoring a suit takes around a week, so make sure to save enough time before your event.

When choosing colors, black is acceptable, but a bit more conservative. Great color choices for all seasons are navy or grey. For summer cocktail attire, light grey and lighter blues or khakis look great. For winter, dark grey is an excellent choice. Summer also gives you a chance to wear more bold patterns and colors that go with the blooming flowers of the season.

For prints, make them subtle. Stay away from pinstripes, and instead opt for a windowpane or a herringbone to add some texture.

J. Crew, $425

Cocktail Attire Dos

  • Get your wardrobe tailored: from your jacket to your pants, and even your shirts.
  • Wear matching separates (blazer and suit pants that aren’t part of a suit).
  • Add personal touches like a unique pocket square, suede shoes or a tie clip.

Cocktail Attire Don’ts

  • Do not upstage the guest of honor. We know you have amazing style, but keep it subtle.
  • Do not wear sneakers or jeans, no matter how expensive they are.
  • Do not wear anything close to a tuxedo. Remember, this is meant to be more casual.

Men’s Cocktail Attire for Summer

cocktail attire shirting guide

Photos: @blackscott_, @menwithclass, Unknown, @tomaslasoargos

Cocktail Party Attire Shirting Tips

You don’t want your shirt to stand out too much, so stick with basic colors like white, blue or a muted gray.

Make sure your shirt collar is crisp, sharply pressed, and stands up. I like a spread collar, which really shows off your tie, but make sure the collar looks good on you as this is not good for guys with really big necks.

French cuffs can be too formal for daytime events, but feel free to dress them with a refined cufflink for evening affairs. If you’re looking for a great option when it comes to shirting, we reviewed Proper Cloth, which is by far the best custom shirting company we’ve come across.

Eton, $235

Do I Need to Wear a Tie?


When in doubt, wear a tie. Since this is a more casual event, you can experiment with prints, weaves, and less formal plain ties.

If you’re on top of your sartorial game, however, feel free to skip the tie. Just pair your suit with a shirt that’s designed to be unbuttoned, and you’re good to go.

tom ford loafer chain

Tom Ford, $890

Santoni, $1,050

O’Keefe, $530

Gucci, $620

Cocktail Attire Shoe Guide

Since this is a cocktail event, you can keep your patent leather brogues in the closet. A loafer is designed to be functional (for driving your race car), as well as comfortable, and it’s a perfect option for any cocktail attire.

Monk straps in suede bring a normally formal shoe into the casual realm. If you want to be even more wild, unbuckle the second buckle for more swagger.

A classic brogue with a beautiful patina can really class up any outfit. We like them in brown to be less formal than an all-black version.

Cocktail Attire Ties/Pocket Squares

For daytime events, if you don’t plan on wearing a tie, make sure to wear a casual blazer and pants (separates) along with a shirt designed to be unbuttoned. It looks sloppy if you just wear your work suit and shirt without a tie.

For an evening event, if you don’t want to wear a tie, it’s best to wear a dark suit, with a white shirt in a classic slim fit.

When choosing ties, try to incorporate textured ties with an interesting weave or crochet style. Patterns are also acceptable, and you can even wear wilder colors (as long as your jacket is more muted). Also be careful going too skinny on your ties, it’ll look too informal.

Pocket squares are a chance to showcase a little bit of personality if the rest of your attire is muted. If you are wearing a more adventurous tie, then pair it with a simple pocket square, and vice versa. When folding your pocket square, have the style of the fold match the personality of the rest of your outfit. If you’re going casual, then go for the four peaks pocket square fold.

How to Fold The “Rose” Pocket Square

  1. Lay the square face down flat
  2. Fold all corners in so they meet in the middle
  3. Pick up the square by pinching all 4 corners
  4. Fluff up the body by squeezing with your other hand
  5. Flip the square upside down so the corners are now facing down
  6. Roll the fabric and fold open the “petals” of the rose
  7. Gently place the bottom of the square into your jacket pocket

Keep reading: How to fold a pocket square 12 ways.

Tie Bar, $19

Tie Bar, $19

Tie Bar, $19

Tie Bar, $25

Cocktail Attire Accessories

Your wardrobe should consist of two belts. One belt in brown and one belt in black. Each belt should be well made, and designed to last a lifetime.

Do your best to match your belt to your shoes. If your belt doesn’t match your shoes, then skip the belt. It’ll make the outfit more relaxed.

Just like belts, your watch collection should be short and sweet. For your cocktail attire outfit, avoid wearing any watch with a cloth strap, and go for a leather or brushed metal band. If you’re wearing a gold tie bar, try to wear a gold watch, and apply this to any of your accessories.

When it comes to socks, match the sock color to the color of your trousers. If you’re more sartorial, then experiment with matching your socks to your tie, pocket square, watch etc. And unless the event is 90+ degrees, always wear socks that are calf-length, to avoid showing any skin.

To make an otherwise normal outfit dapper, a well placed tie bar or a pair of cufflinks adds an excellent statement piece that adds class without drawing too much attention.

A men’s outfit is never complete until he applies his signature scent. Go for a clean scent, something with a vetiver note in it.

Ray-Ban, $150

Prada, $290

Mondaine, $435

Luminox, $575

Foundwell, $875

Lanvin, $195

Missoni, $35

Bonobos, $550

Men’s Cocktail Attire Dress Code for 2017

  • Choose a well tailored jacket and pants, but avoid a formal tuxedo
  • Go for subtle colors and patterns and don’t upstage the host
  • Choose one statement piece, whether it be your tie, pocket square or shoes
  • When in doubt, wear a tie, but if you have the swagger, skip the tie
  • Never ever wear jeans or leather sneakers, no matter how nice they are

Bonobos, $750

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