Holiday party invite? Think outside the Santa suit. Festive attire doesn’t have to jingle—it needs to mingle. Read on to catch yourself up on festive holiday attire and get creative black tie ideas.
First, some truth: most of us will never wear creative black tie attire. We’ll never be nominated for a Tony or score an invite (or even a plus one) to the Met Gala—two obvious occasions for CBT. But if you’re in that position, congrats! (And how did you do that?) We’re here for you, and we have some thoughts.
But if you’re a normal guy, chill. You still have opportunities to flex your style—in fact, your peacock party lasts an entire month and happens every year. It’s called holiday season. Maybe you need to figure out a men’s New Year’s Eve outfit before the ball drops. Maybe your company goes all out on the holiday party. To get your fit right, you’ll need to get familiar with festive cocktail attire for men.
For more information on dress codes, check out our full guide here.
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Festive Attire Dress Code Definition
With non-stop religious and cultural holidays stacked on the calendar, December is an uber-festive month. That’s your first clue—festive is celebratory, merry, and joyful. Festive is warm, bright, and welcoming. Your look should mirror that festive feeling if you get an invite requesting festive holiday attire.
So… a chunky sweater and call it a day? While some do celebrate a marled wool crewneck (hey, it’s cozy), that fit doesn’t exactly show the kind of enthusiasm you’d associate with a New Year’s Eve party, and you’ll probably feel underdressed. Better to aim higher and make a little effort.
If it helps, think of festive attire as a version of cocktail attire that’s unique to the holiday season. For men, wearing a suit—or if the occasion feels elevated, a tuxedo—will land you high on the party’s best dressed list. When it comes to festive attire, the biggest question is how you’ll work color and fabric pattern into your look. Will you keep it low-key or go bold?
Festive Attire for Men
Like skinning a cat (gross), there’s more than one way to put together a look. For our purposes, we’re approaching this from one of two schools of thought: pattern or color?
Festive Attire Inspiration: Color
Rich colors, like emerald and ruby, work well for for a festive dress code. There’s an argument to be made that you don’t want to go too stereotypically “red and green,” but they do feel on-brand for a holiday party. Events during the cold seasons are also great opportunities to use some varied texture in your look. What looks as cozy and warm (not to mention unique) as a plush velvet jacket?
Festive Attire Inspiration: Pattern
Patterns like tartan and gingham might seem a little intimidating, but putting together (and pulling off) any of these looks isn’t complicated, and the reward is high. Tartan has an especially festive vibe—those lovely Scottish intangibles. Go full pattern (see the Black Watch Tartan or Pinstripe tuxedos below), or combine a patterned jacket with solid pants (or vice versa, called a dinner jacket look). The two fits in the latter category below—Split Tartan Jacket and Black Velvet Gingham—anchor their patterns with solid black. This is a safe, classic choice, but read on for riskier moves.
Creative Black Tie Dress Code Definition
Here’s the pocket translator version of a creative black tie invitation: I want you to wear a tuxedo, but like… an interesting tuxedo. (And we’re all going to judge you. Good luck!)
That’s it. Showing your personality via tuxedo, shoes, and accessories is the name of the game. If this is a creative black tie wedding invite, this couple apparently knows what they’re doing, and they’re basically challenging you to outshine them at their wedding. Otherwise, we’re probably talking about some version of a red carpet event. Could be a gala, could be an awards show (or after-party). Whatever the case may be, you seem important.
Now you need to find the perfect, photog-friendly outfit, and in case this wasn’t clear, playing it safe with a classic black and white tux probably won’t cut it.
Creative Black Tie Attire for Men
Again, we’re going back to the basics to choose your outfit destiny: do you lean toward a flourish of color or a low-key pattern?
Creative Black Tie Inspiration: Color
If festive attire calls for rich color, creative black tie is the time for a more vibrant hue. That doesn’t mean your tux has to be loud… but, y’know, it can. Remember the classic dinner jacket looks above? The Marigold & Rose tux below starts with the same idea, but definitely makes a more vocal style statement by matching two contrasting, colorful pieces.
Otherwise, you only need to glance at recent red carpet best-of lists to know that a full tux in one unique color is an expert move. The Plum, Marigold, and Rose tuxedos below hold their own without the busywork of patterns.
Creative Black Tie Inspiration: Pattern
Then again, busywork isn’t all bad. In fact, if it’s coordinated, it looks damn good. You could argue the Velvet Leopard tux below has just as much to offer in its color as its pattern (and we won’t argue), but the pro move here is keeping the pants a simple black. Same goes for the Midnight Pin Dot tuxedo, though this is definitely a more restrained choice.
But you’ve got to remember, this is creative black tie. Crazy is encouraged—celebrated!—so why not celebrate in a crazy-coordinated look like the Grey Melange tux below (also see our full Split Tartan tuxedo for a similar effect). Too busy for you? Understood. You can still use pattern to your advantage in toned-down ways. Case in point: this full Gingham look.
Festive Attire & Creative Black Tie for Everyone
Now that you’re caught up on the outfits that festive holiday attire and creative black tie call for, try to imagine putting together a look for one of these events without a fashionable suit. What would you wear to turn heads? Without the hook-up from Gucci or Tom Ford, how would you make a statement?
You shouldn’t have to be cultural royalty to feel like a king on New Year’s Eve. That’s why we created our Holiday Collection, full of unique, unexpected looks for the nights when you need to light it up (without dropping a paycheck). Create your look now, here.