Cocktail Attire For Men

Cocktail Attire For Men – Dress Code Guide For Weddings, Parties & Events

When you receive an invitation nowadays, it may read Cocktail Attire, Black Tie Optional, or Formal, but what exactly does that mean? Back in the day, things were simpler: The Dress code was either Black Tie for less formal evening occasions and White Tie for more formal ones. The women’s dresses were chosen accordingly. Today, for many men the tuxedo is the most formal garment they will ever wear, and even then it is just rented. In the following, I want to explain what Cocktail Attire For Men is all about and what options you have for weddings, parties or events when you receive an invitation that asks for it.

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Video – Cocktail Attire For Men

If the invitation asks for Cocktail Attire, men should wear:

    1. dark to mid-gray suit
    2. dress shirt in white or a muted color
    3. necktie in subtle patterns or plains
    4. pocket square
    5. black dress shoes with leather sole
    6. Over the Calf Socks that match the trousers or something else in your outfit
    7. Of course make sure you are clean shaven and you have a proper hair cut
    8. Do NOT wear your tuxedo, that would be overdressed.
    9. For weddings: remember, this is the bride & groom’s day, so leave your pinstripe suit, bright colored ties, and flashy accessories at home – the couple should be the center of attention, not you.

Cocktail Attire For Men at a Wedding

Suit for Weddings, Cocktail Parties & Events

Suit for Weddings, Cocktail Parties & Events

Interestingly, most women understand the attire required for such an event due to the aptly named, short cocktail dress (often black), whereas men generally do not have a clue as to what attire they should wear to a cocktail party. Of course, these are general wedding instructions that will be appropriate in 95% of all weddings. If the bridegroom is a flamboyant artist or someone who wears shorts and t-shirt, no matter what, try to adjust your outfit so you will not be completely out of place: For an artist wedding, go with more colorful accessories and for a completely informal wedding, skip the tie and just wear a combination with a dark jacket and lighter colored slacks – again, it is their day so you should try not to catch much attention with your outfit.

What to Wear To a Cocktail Party?

Cocktail parties are supposed to be relaxed occasions, and although not wrong per se, a classic navy or charcoal business suit is probably a tad too formal. During the winter, you can wear flannel, with patterns, maybe a bow tie. Be more daring than with your business wardrobe and pay attention to accessories such as cuff links, tie bars, pocket squares, boutonnieres… but don’t overdo it and only use two accents at the most.


Madder Silk Bow Tie in Purple with Paisley


Cornflower Boutonniere


White Linen Pocket Square


Sunglasses are a must for an event outside. Click to find out what shape suits you best.

During the warmer months of the year, you can go with lighter colors, such as the light blue linen sport coat below. To learn more about summer sport coats, click here.


A knit tie in a two tone color is perfect because it is casual yet unusual.

Click to learn more about this tie.


A lapel flower boutonniere makes your outfit special & fun.

For a selection of boutonnieres, click here.

The following fashion illustration is from 1936 and shows us a nice mix of cocktail attire for men that would be perfectly adequate today. This illustration clearly shows the evolution of women’s dress since the 30’s, since these women are wearing hats and suits that were then considered everyday attire rather than business wear. If the party is during the day or in the afternoon, you can add more color and patterns to your outfit, although the basics mentioned in the list above apply here as well. In the evening, you can wear darker suits, fewer patterns, and more muted colors. Below: you will find a bunch of different examples of cocktail attire for parties.

Cocktail Party Suits

Cocktail Party Suits

The Stroller With Striped Trousers for Formal Day Event

Let’s start on the very left with the gentleman in the stroller. He leans by the fireplace, talking to the lady in red. Of course, this is an illustration, but note how neatly his coat fits around the collar, shoulders  and cuffs. There are neither gaps nor excess shirt cuff fabric to be seen. His stroller jacket is the typical single breasted, peaked lapel style with two buttons and jetted pockets. Instead of a pocket square, he opted for a red carnation that goes well with his buff waistcoat, white shirt and light blue tie. His trousers are striped but instead of the more common cashmere stripe, a special stripe for morning wear that does not really have anything to do with cashmere, he chose a wide stripe in black and white. This cocktail outfit used to be particularly popular for wear on Sunday afternoons and was often seen at the smartest cocktail bars. Today, the stroller is definitely the most formal of all the cocktail suits  yet different than another flannel blazer combination or a navy suit.

Windowpane Overplaid Sharkskin Suit – Great For Most Cocktail Parties

One of the highlights in this illustration is certainly the suit in the middle, featuring a large rust brown subdued windowpane overplaid on a grey sharkskin suit. Worn as a 3-piece suit with an ivory colored shirt and navy-red club tie,  the proportions of this suit are very moderate. It has a normal lapel width and gorge, round quarters and a fairly long jacket. In my opinion, windowpane suits are one of the most underrated outfits in menswear and hence, they are an ideal chance for you to differentiate yourself without being overly loud. As a general rule, you should keep in mind that the more patterns and colors (other than navy and grey) you have in your outfit, the less formal it will be. All of the suits shown here would be appropriate attire for 95% of cocktail parties.


Blue Cornflower Boutonniere Buttonhole Flower Silk Fort Belvedere


Orange Golden Fritillaria Silk Boutonniere Buttonhole Flower Fort Belvedere


Edelweiss Boutonniere Buttonhole Flower Fort Belvedere

Wide Stripe Worsted Flannel Suit – An Option for Evening Events

On the very right, we have a gentleman in a suit with yet another large pattern: the wide-spaced colored stripe. The red stripes inspired the rest of his dress, choosing a red boutonniere and Bordeaux tie. This three-piece flannel suit with stripes benefits from the peaked lapels, which provide a little more formality. If the lady in blue were to step aside, you would see that the trousers of this suit are without cuffs, which raises the formality bar by another notch.

Striped Worsted Flannel

Striped Worsted Flannel

In combination with a white crisp shirt collar, this outfit would be almost bank appropriate, expect for the wide colored stripes.

Nevertheless, I think it is a fantastic stripe and hence I wanted to provide you with a picture of an authentic cloth sample. As you can see, the stripe is more subdued than in the illustration, which makes it even more appropriate for a cocktail suit that is different yet elegant.


At a wedding, try to be properly dressed without being too flashy and always keep the bride and groom in mind. For cocktail parties and receptions, leave your business navies and grays in the closet and add a splash of color. If you have a vest – even a contrasting one – wear it if it pairs well with the suit. I hope I provided you with some food for thought for cocktail attire for your next reception – have fun and enjoy company and drinks! For a recap, watch the video Cocktail Attire For Men.

Cocktail Attire For Men - Dress Code Guide For Weddings, Parties & Events
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Cocktail Attire For Men - Dress Code Guide For Weddings, Parties & Events
Your invitation reads: Cocktail Attire but you don't know what to wear? This guide to cocktail attire for men provides the answers for you.
Gentleman's Gazette
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3 replies
  1. Divya says:

    Hi Raphael,

    Hope you are doing great! Absolutely amazing videos, so much to learn. I would like to know what should be the attire for the groom on a cocktail party ? It would be great if you could write back to me. I am the bride and I am planning to make a surprise suit for me on that day.

    Look forward to hear back from you soon.

  2. Eduardo Aguirre says:

    Dear Raphael I need your advice.

    I live in Venezuela, in this country wearing suits or jackets (even the sport ones) it is not very common, I’ll get to the point, this weekend is my brother’s wedding, it’s not going to be a huge fancy wedding but we were told to go formal, for us here, formal means suit, the tux is only for the groom, the thing is, I have a dark gray jacket that I’d like to use with a back vest, black pants and a white dress shirt with back tie (I don’t have a black suit and to be honest neither have the money to get one right now) the thing is, my friends keep telling me to not to use a white shirt with back tie because that’s what waiters use here. So would it be ok to use it anyway? or what other color shirt would you advice me to use?

    Waiting for your reply.

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  1. […] Superior craftsmanship is marriage of skill, proper tools, and quality materials.  Well-made cocktails are no exception.  Although the caliber of your ingredients may be the most important factor in a fine drink, bar equipment is essential for giving the drink the proper temperature, proportion, consistency, and appearance.  Beyond substance, cocktail tools also impart essential style to the mixing experience.  A cocktail, after all, is more than simply a beverage.  It is also a performance, a gift uniquely created for an individual.  By making drinks for your guests, you are practicing one of the highest forms of hospitality and it’s even more fun if you put on cocktail attire. […]

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