We’re diving into the deets of cocktail attire for men, a sort-of specific and common dress code for weddings and special events.
Invited to a cocktail attire wedding or celebration? The dress code’s name alone doesn’t drop many clues about what you’ll need to wear. That’s probably why you’re here: for a cocktail attire definition, and examples of cocktail attire men should wear for a variety of events.
Whether you need help putting together an outfit for a party, or want to know what appropriate men’s cocktail attire for wedding guests looks like, you’re in the right place. We’ll show you how to put together a cocktail attire look that’s right for any event.
For more information on dress codes, check out our full guide here.
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Cocktail Attire Definition
Cocktail attire is all about individuality. While some dress codes focus on specific garments (black ties for black tie), cocktail attire for men is a little more nuanced—a mindset more than anything (and that mindset is “I must celebrate”). While it takes a little more effort than the other dress codes, choosing cocktail attire doesn’t have to be like choosing a college major.
If you’re familiar with some of the other dress codes, cocktail attire sits between business attire and black tie optional—somewhat formal, but not stuffy. Actually, men can have more fun with cocktail attire than with those “color by numbers” dress codes like black tie, because you get to show a little more of your own style.
Men’s cocktail attire can be as simple as a dark (or dark-ish) suit, an interesting shirt or tie, a pocket square, and dress shoes. For some events, it’s cool to show a little more flair with a bold suit that stands out.
Wedding Cocktail Attire for Men
Let’s say you get an invite to a wedding requesting cocktail attire. Unless you definitely know this couple wants to see some high-fashion realness, your outfit—in this case—should be on the conservative side. That means a dark suit, a patterned necktie (or bow tie if that’s your thing), pocket square and dress shirt with some dress shoes.
Charcoal or navy suits fit the traditional approach to cocktail attire. These low-key classics make it unlikely you’ll step on any toes as a guest (don’t steal the wedding party’s thunder), and almost any shirt or accessory looks great with these staples.
A solid light pink or light blue shirt works well if you’re a guest, because the wedding party will often be outfitted in a white dress shirt. If you’re the one planning a wedding, don’t be afraid to add a little color to the groom or groomsmen suits with a colorful shirt.
When you nail the basics, your tie is the star of the show—everything else is just supporting your grounded outfit. Pattern and texture can turn a few heads when combined with an otherwise simple outfit. Think a knit tie in a muted color, a patterned bow tie or a bold black and white necktie.
Back to the basics. Add some color to your look with a solid color pocket square (this one gives you multiple options depending on how it’s folded), or keep it classic with black and white.
Cocktail Attire for Special Events
If you’re invited to a special event with a cocktail attire dress code, you’ll need to decide whether you think the party will have a fashionable vibe or a traditional tone. If you land on “traditional,” follow most of the guidelines we laid out for wedding cocktail attire above, but with a few adjustments. For one, there’s no worry of upstaging anyone on their wedding day, so don’t limit yourself to “conservative” options (e.g. plain white pocket square, dark suit).
This grey suit isn’t flashy, but it lets your accessories shine, so it’s an extremely versatile suit. If you liked the look of the navy suit above but want a somewhat brighter, more colorful base to your outfit, try this rich blue suit.
You’ve got options. If a colorful or detailed patterned tie sounds like your jam, a white dress shirt will serve you well. Otherwise try a solid color shirt like this light blue number—it will complement just about any tie or pocket square.
Unique textures and patterns (knit silk, linen, and seersucker, for example) will cover your neck the right way if you need men’s cocktail attire for a special event. You can even make some moves on the color wheel.
Fashion-Forward Men’s Cocktail Attire
If this invite feels like more of an excuse to get together and look awesome, you’ll need extra oomph, chutzpah, etc. That could mean a vibrant suit color, a tie that plays well with that bold suit, or an interesting pair of shoes—a loafer, perhaps? In this case, you’ll arrive in the cocktail attire men will try to emulate at their next party.
To be fair, this attention-grabbing rose shawl suit isn’t for everyone. It’s bold, but if the event you’re attending is fashionable this suit makes an appropriately bold statement. If subtle moves are more your speed, try this emerald suit with a shawl collar.
When your suit is doing the talking, let it be heard—keep your shirt simple. For a seamless look, try this hidden button, fly-front shirt. (Bonus: you won’t need cufflinks, as this shirt comes with silk knots.)
Same story—you don’t want your tie to compete with your suit, so either ease up on the tie color or skip the tie altogether (see the “air tie” option in the center below).
Celebrations mean dancing, which is why we recommend two of the most dance-able shoes out there: loafers. Both offer a luxe texture, so if you’re having trouble choosing, think seasonal: velvet loafers in colder months, patent and grosgrain for warm weather.
A Better Way to Celebrate
If you’re like most guys, you have that one suit you’ve worn to every wedding or party you’ve been invited to over the past five years. Half the fun of the cocktail attire dress code is showing up feeling your best—getting dressed up kind of the point.
You want to stand out, but how often do you think you’d wear a rose suit? Sure, you could drop a paycheck on an outfit you’ll wear a few times, or you could—hear me out—rent it. Sound a little batshit? It’s true, renting hasn’t always delivered, but there’s finally a better, more fashionable way to rent a suit (and yes, we deliver). Owning it more your style? We do that, too.
If you can handle the attention, compliments, and dance floor invites, get started by finding your sizes now.