A common source of anxiety for many men is that dreaded invitation to a wedding or formal party with only a vague suggestion as to what to wear. To demystify what these different dress codes could possibly mean, we’ve collected a list of the most important dress codes for men to know so that you can prepare for whatever occasion comes your way.
One of the most important dress codes for all men to know is for truly fancy events. The strict black-tie dress code. Nothing less than a full tuxedo is appropriate, making sure to stick to neutral tones like black or midnight blue. Your shoes should match the suit’s color and be polished to a glossy shine. A formal white shirt is going to be your safest bet for under your suit, paired with a solid black bowtie. If you have long hair, make sure to tie it back with something appropriate.
Black Tie Optional
Slightly less formal than black-tie, black-tie optional is still a fancier dress code. You can opt out of wearing a tuxedo and just wear a formal suit with a regular tie, but keep the color of the suit and tie neutral. Your shoes still need to match the suit and be polished as well. Usually, when someone uses black-tie optional as the dress code, they want it to be formal without coming off as too picky. Lean on the side of too formal when it comes to this dress code—you can always take certain items off if you find out you went overboard.
A little lower on the fanciness scale is business attire, which allows for a little more personality. A black suit is a little too formal for business attire, but the suit is still important. Don’t be afraid of dark grays or dark blues for suit colors. You can also get a little creative with tie patterns—just keep them muted, nothing too loud. A good rule of thumb is to never have more than two different colors or patterns anywhere on you.
A suit is still your best bet for business casual. However, you don’t necessarily need to wear a tie at all. If you are unsure, keep a spare tie in your coat pocket in case things get a little more formal. Your color options broaden again, but stick to neutral grays, charcoals, or blues. Business casual can be different, depending on who is recommending the dress code, so it’s good practice to dress yourself up a little more than you think you need to, just to be safe.
You can now personalize your outfit a good deal. Nice, ironed slacks and a button-down shirt, jeans and a blazer, or even a sweater over a tie are all good choices for smart casual. Keep the shoes more formal, and wear a nice belt. You’ll have this down, no problem.