A Basic Guide to Cocktail Attire for Men

Men’s cocktail attire can vary from a very laid-back and informal affair to something much more formal such as attending a wedding or an evening party. What you should wear and what the dress code means will always depend on the location and occasion for you to be requested to wear cocktail attire. But, it isn’t that simple to pull off this look.

Cocktail attire for men isn’t always easy to pull off because there are various elements that should be followed in order to dress the part. A lot of people think that cocktail attire dress code shares the same elements with business wear and only adds on a few shiny accessories, then you’re good to go.

Cocktail attire for men isn’t as straightforward as wearing a suit that shares the same elements with business wear with a touch more expression. Keep in mind that the most appropriate cocktail attire have equal parts of elegance and effortless that blends formality with your personality to create the most fashionable style.

For you to be able to pick the perfect suit and intensify your style with the ideal accessories, here is a basic guide to cocktail attire for men.

The History of the Cocktail Party and Attire

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Cocktail attire is appropriate clothing worn in social events or gatherings with a notable semi-formal or formal look that came to be in the 1920s and 1930s. During the 1920s and 1930s, wealthy men and women who were leisure enough to always spend a cocktail hour or more, enjoying plentiful alcohol between lunch and evening.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the American version of the cocktail party was attended by the wealthy and leisurely people to loosen everything up by drinking cocktails. Further, men’s outfits during that time included jackets in fancy silk brocades, which inspired what the cocktail attire for men is today.

Although a lot has changed since many decades ago, the cocktail attire dress code then has taken cues from what can be seen to the styles of the cocktail attire today. However, even though the style has changed a lot, the intention of the cocktail party remained the same, which is a way for you to dress up and show off your wealth.

What is Cocktail Attire for Men?

The cocktail attire is a dress code that has no set definition due to the various styles, embroidery, and culture of different countries that adapted the cocktail party. Some still perceive the cocktail attire to be worn on largely formal, officious event that happens mostly on businesses. But, the basic elements of the cocktail attire that should be kept in mind is that it’s an invitation to dress up.

The cocktail attire is an invitation to dress up for evening drinks, parties, or soiree as a preparation for an anniversary or an expensive dinner. The cocktail attire can also be worn for big celebrations such as a wedding bash or even Valentine’s Day. The purpose of this clothing is to have a freer but flashy style with a touch of more color than evening wear.

In addition, wearing cocktail attire is more than about being elegant but also being slightly decadent in style. The traditional cocktail attire circled around being respective with regards to rigid rules. But, the essence of wearing a smart jacket and trousers is still present with the cocktail attire, but without the tie.

Nowadays, you can wear cocktail attire without a tie because you’re certainly not going to work. But, you’re wearing cocktail attire because you’re given the chance to look your finest, in some finery while looking relaxed but super-luxe.

What You Need to Consider in a Cocktail Attire

There are various elements that you need to keep in mind before you pick the perfect cocktail attire that fits your style and personality. Here are the elements you need to consider.


Fabric is an important element that you need to consider in cocktail attire because flat, woven clothes may seem to work because it’s traditionally smart. However, flat, woven clothes appear and feel more appropriate if you wear it in a more conservative environment, and not for a cocktail event.

Instead, it’s best that you choose clothes of interest with a distinctive sheen or texture such as silk or velvet. You also have to consider the patterns that can’t be typically seen in working environments such as glen checks, herringbone, sharkskin and windowpane checks.

Limit the Casualness of Your Cocktail Dressing

Being casual is acceptable in cocktail dressing because it’s more about being precise than being stiff, but, you have to limit looking casual in a way that you don’t look too casual. For instance, you can never wear denim on cocktail dressing, however, you can wear a t-shirt, but only under a blazer.


Color is also an essential element to consider in cocktail dressing because wearing the wrong color can be a disaster. A British fashion designer who emphasizes on bespoke tailoring said that you’re better off accessorizing with color than wearing it in your clothes. He also added that you can go bold on accessories colored pink or turquoise.

Keep Everything Clean

Your cocktail attire needs to look fresh since you’re attending a special occasion or a big celebration. To keep everything clean, you have to look fresh by having your cocktail dress neatly folded, polished, and properly ironed.

Keep in Mind of the Season and Take Note of the Time

Cocktail attire looks better when worn at the most appropriate time of the year, the cold season allows for the wearing of richer shades and layering. For the summer, lighter colors and fabrics such as linen may feel more fitting as well as keeps you cool. Likewise, the time of the day is also essential, a rakish attire looks better on an evening cocktail event.

Essential Cocktail Attire Pieces and How to Wear Them

The best thing about cocktail attire is that there is always room for creativity and personal interpretation, without losing the relatively formal dress code. Here is what you should be wearing in cocktail dressing.

Suits and Tailoring

Tailored suits can transform your look, and for cocktail dressing, it needs to be notched or peaked lapel number in a slim fit. The most suitable color for suits is black because it appears more elegant and luxurious, or contemporary such as navy or grey. For weddings, however, dark grey looks best to look more sophisticated during the winter while light grey to look fresh for the summer

Another good thing about wearing tailored suits because you can have it adjusted to fit you not too tight, but just about right that it’s figure-hugging you. You also have to alter your pants to skim just at the top of the footwear. Taking your suits tailored shows people how well you carry and take care of yourself.


Similar to your suit, a cocktail occasion allows you to wear a more sophisticated style of shirt that has a cut-off the cuff and a distinctive collar shape. That being said, you can easily pull off a dress shirt if you wear it with a restrained jacket, and if the shirt is colored white or black.


Wearing the most appropriate shoes helps complete your cocktail attire and should never be overlooked or underestimated. The best shoe of choice for cocktail attire is a traditional round toe leather Oxford since they fit well with the suit. If you want to top your suit off with authentic leathers and have different textures, you can also wear brogue with punch holes.

However, if you want to keep things semi-formal and you’re going to a more casual cocktail event then you can wear loafers. But you have to keep the colors of the loafers relatively classic such as navy, black, or brown.


Accessories are the statement maker for any formal attire and are an opportunity for you to express yourself without going overboard and ruining your entire outfit. Accessories can be considered as a cherry on top, which also allows you to display a subtle hint of wealth.

The best accessory a man can wear to complete their cocktail attire is a watch. Apart from watches being the only genuine piece of jewelry a man should wear, it can also significantly impact your personality and style. Wearing a Bell & Ross Vintage timepiece to pair with your cocktail attire provides you with an understated confidence that will show everyone at the party your sophistication.


Wearing an appropriate cocktail attire helps you go through a cocktail event with the right attitude because it brings out your style and personality, thus, giving you more confidence. But, keep in mind that you should always respect the formal dress code and to keep creativity and personal interpretation within your comfort zone.

Overdoing your cocktail attire by looking flashy as a Christmas makes you look uncharacteristically garish, which doesn’t show and highlight who you are. Attempting to out-dress the other guests can also make you look desperate for attention. Thus, it’s vital that you follow the basics so that you can be happy with what you’re wearing.

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