May, 26 2022

A Guys guide to Cocktail Attire

Close up of man sitting down Wearing Generation Tux Bright Blue Suit

A dress code on an invitation can cause some serious stress. After all, the last thing you want is to show up to an event dressed in the wrong attire. Some dress codes are easy to figure out— e.g. black tie always requires a tuxedo—others can be harder to figure out.

One dress code that leaves many guests in a state of confusion is cocktail attire. As it becomes increasingly popular, it’s a dress code you will want to become familiar with.

There's no need to stress about what to wear over cocktail events. In this article, we'll teach everything you need to know on how to wear cocktail attire.

Man Wearing Generation Tux Cement Gray Suit

What is cocktail attire?

When trying to define cocktail attire, the dress code can leave many guests scratching their heads—and for good reason. Cocktail attire for men is a formal way of dressing with a certain amount of freedom. And that level of freedom depends on the specific occasion. So the context of the cocktail event matters.

When attending a wedding, you will need to wear a suit and take note of the time of the day for the event. You can be more playful with your cocktail look at a daytime wedding. Feel free to incorporate lighter colors, patterns, and different textures into your attire. For an evening wedding, you’ll want to stick with darker hues and a more traditional look. Since you are attending such a special event, a tie is a must.

If you’re ever invited to actual cocktail parties, then you do have more leeway when choosing what to wear. Again, think about the time of day and venue of the cocktail party. But you can step out of the box a bit by skipping the tie if you want a more laid-back look.

Man at a cocktail attire event wearing Generation Tux Iron Gray Suit

Is semi-formal the same as cocktail attire?

Not exactly. Semi-formal attire falls between formal and casual, but cocktail attire for men tends to be dressier. But the men's cocktail dress code isn't considered a true formal dress code like what you would find at a white tie or black tie event.

Close up of a Generation tux Allure Dark Blue Suit

Are there different levels of formality?

Yes! There are different formal options for cocktail attire, including:

  • Business: This could simply be a suit that you would wear to the office, with or without your tie. But will be a bit more formal than business casual but a little less formal than standard business attire.
  • Formal: Formal cocktail attire for men should be more on the conservative side. Think a dark suit, a patterned necktie or bowtie, a pocket square, a dress shirt, and dress shoes.
  • Festive: This type of event allows you to get a bit more creative with your look. Think of a vibrant suit color or a bold tie.
  • Casual: This calls for a more laid-back vibe, so you should be able to show up in a blazer, slacks, or even a dark pair of jeans.

For weddings, you should plan your look to be in the formal or festive range—unless otherwise noted on the invitation.

Man In Generation Tux Cement Light Gray Plaid Suit throwing jacket over his shoulder

Does cocktail attire require a jacket?

Regardless of the level of formality, you should always wear a jacket when planning your cocktail attire. Of course, you should also make sure that the jacket is tailored perfectly so that you look your best.

Man Wearing Generation Tux Black Suit touching his chin in contemplation

What looks should you consider?

For a suit that will work at any type of cocktail attire event, look no further than a charcoal suit. This suit is a classic but looks more modern than your basic black suit. If you love gray but want something lighter for a daytime affair, take a look at our Cement Gray suit.

Of course, some guys want to stand out from the crowd. Blue happens to be the color for those who want to look bold and sophisticated at the same time. For evening events, you can’t go wrong with Navy, but be sure to also consider Allure Dark Blue, Slate, or even Mystic. Of course, we also have options for the day, such as Bright Blue, Postman Blue, and Indigo.

Man Putting on Generation Tux White Twill Spread Collar Shirt and Dusty Rose Pre-Tied Bow Tie

What type of shirt should you wear?

A button-down shirt is your best option with a suit. While we love the look of a crisp white shirt, you can decide to take your ensemble in a bolder direction. A light blue or pink would look great with a gray suit, while deeper colors work well with a basic black suit.

Close of of of Man Wearing Generation Tux Light Gray Plaid Suit

What about accessories?

The accessories you choose will put the finishing touches on your cocktail attire. As we mentioned before, you’ll want to wear a tie, especially if you’re attending someone’s wedding. We have a variety of bowties and neckties in colors and patterns to complete your look.

Since a tie is a must, you can add some fun with a playful pattern or coordinating color. Also, don’t shy away from a coordinating pocket square. Be sure not to overdo it with colors or patterns—when it comes to accessorizing, less is more!

As for your shoes, keep in mind that they can make or break an outfit. Although you won’t be in a formal tuxedo, you will still want to wear dress shoes to complement your ensemble. Save the loafers or sneakers (no matter how clean and cool) for another time. You’ll want to pair those shoes with a nice pair of socks. Generation Tux now offers Socks by Stance which come in a variety of fun looks.

Man Wearing Generation Tux Wearing Mystic Blue suit

How should a Cocktail Suit fit?

It doesn’t matter how stylish or expensive your suit may be; if it doesn’t fit well, that is all anyone will notice. With that in mind, your suit (just like a tuxedo) needs to look like it’s been tailored to perfection. Luckily, our technology allows you to find your perfect fit through just a few quick questions. And our Free Home Try-On gives plenty of time to adjust if needed.

Man Wearing Generation Tux Slate Blue Suit

Ready to start shopping for some cocktail attire?

Browse through our collection of suits, shirts, ties, shoes, and socks at your leisure!