What is a Formal Dress Code

by Jamie Wilson
What is a Formal Dress Code

Reviewed & updated: October 19, 2022 by Jamie Wilson BA

Many men become confused when it comes to dressing formally. However, we’re here to disband any rumours or myths that you might be encountering and show you how to nail the formal dress code for men every time; from a formal outfit to a casual suit, we’ve got it covered.

What is a Formal Dress Code?

The term ‘formal dress code’ can be a little wooly from time to time. Unless its specifically stated on the invitation or you’ve been told what the dress code is, then you can become a little confused as to what you need to be wearing.

First, let’s break down what formal dress code actually is. When a lot of us think of the term, we normally go straight to the image of a tuxedo, and you wouldn’t be wrong. A classic piece of menswear that hasn’t really changed in the last 100 years, the tuxedo will suit almost every man out there. Satin detailing on the blazer and the trousers make is visibly different from its casual counterpart; add a personal touch with a coloured cummerbund or pocket square and you’ll be good to go.

Black Tie

What is a Formal Dress Code
@Manav Sharma via pexels

Black tie is the most commonly seen style of formal wear. Usually reserved for formal events such as weddings or galas, the black tie will always be a wardrobe essential for every man. The simplest form of black tie is the suit jacket and trousers with the noticeable difference of the satin trim to the lapel and down the side leg of the trousers.

It’s pretty difficult to get the classic black tie wrong, but one thing I must implore on you all is that it should fit you like a glove. Even if you’re buying a tuxedo from the high street, make sure that it fits you perfectly. If you’re buying from the high street and you can’t find a tuxedo that fits you perfectly, then take it to a tailor or even a dry cleaners; these will take up a sleeve a couple of centimetres, or nip it in at the waist a little bit so it will fit seamlessly.

Mens Velvet Tuxedo

Mens Velvet Tuxedo
@RODNAE Productions via pexels

If you want to add something different to your look or stan out from the crowd a little bit, then why not try out a velvet blazer. Formal attire for men has come a long way, we’re no longer restricted to a certain type of dress, we can experiment a little more with colour and texture.

A velvet blazer is the perfect option. With a nod to the classic smoking jackets from the 1920’s, it adds texture and detail to a normally bog standard look. However, you don’t want to go overboard and team it with a pair of velvet trousers, this scan look a little too much, so just stick with the jacket for now.

White Tie

White Tie
@Mohamad Khosravi

White tie is probably to most formal as it gets when it comes to mens formal dressing. Usually reserved for the most high profile events and circumstances, white tie isn’t too dissimilar from black tie. The suit jacket will change as the cut is different; shorter in the front with a longer tail at the back, think more of a wedding suit. The trousers are the same with the satin detailing, but the shirt has a higher cut collar, allowing the tie, which is now white, to be more prominent.

Your shoes must always be patent, never go for a dull leather shoe as this will throw the whole look off. Go for a patent leather derby or brogue as these will work best for you.

Mens Suits

Mens Suits
@Mohamad Khosravi via Unsplash

Definitely an easer dress code to crack the simple dress suit is an achievable and easy-to-wear item that every man can fall back on. Always stick to classic colours and cuts when it comes to suiting, as these will see you through a plethora of situations and occasions that require you dressing a little more formally.

If you wear a suit everyday to work, you’ll know only too well the importance of it fitting perfectly. As I’ve said before, making sure your suit fits you is probably the number one factor in looking good. We’ve all seen when a suit doesn’t fit a man properly, they look dishevelled and unkept and this is not what you want.

Casual Suits

Casual Suits
@Mohamad Khosravi via Unsplash

Another dress code to add into the mix is the casual suit. Although the name suggests something a little more dishevelled, a casual suit can still be very formal and presentable. More intended for summer events and functions, a casual suit is another element to a man’s wardrobe that he can always fall back on if the occasion arises.

Go for a lighter neutral tone such as beige, tan, navy or even a light grey as these will be better suited for the occasion as black will be a little too formal. Again, make sure that the suit fits you perfectly, as casual suits can look very dishevelled very quickly if you’re not too careful.

What is a Formal Dress Code

  • Black tie is the easiest form of formal dress code to get your head around.
  • Always stick to classic cuts and colours, but a little difference never hurts.
  • White tie is the ultimate in formal dress code for men.
  • Suits and casual suits are a step down, but still make sure they’re well fitting and sleek.

On That Note

The question ‘what is formal dress code for men’ should be placed well and truly in the resolved pile. Black tie is normally your go-to when it comes to formal dressing as it usually encompasses the entirety of formal functions. If you’re lucky enough to be invited to a white tie event I suggest you do your research, find out what other people will be wearing and go from there, but always stick to the bog standard requirements of the specified dress code.

Formal dressing for men isn’t limited to black and white tie, you can always wear a formal suit in a neutral tone to a formal event. Again, stick to neutral colours and classic suits as these will be the most reliable pieces in your wardrobe arsenal. A casual suit is a relatively new phenomenon to the formal dress code world. Stick to lighter tones and loosen up the shirt; don’t be so restrictive in the way that you wear it, loosen up and you’ll nail it every time.

Feature image from Unsplash

You may also like