Cocktail Attire for Men: A Dress Code Guide

Get expert recommendations for men’s cocktail attire, learn what cocktail attire means, and use this common dress code to choose unique looks for special events and more.

Mens cocktail attire dress code guide

Of all the dress code names, cocktail attire is possibly the most confusing, dropping zero clues on how to dress for these events. We can help, with a cocktail attire definition that’s easy to understand, and men’s cocktail attire ideas and outfit suggestions for every important event. Read on and you’ll be ready and wearing the right suit in no time.

This is part III of our dress codes guide. Learn about more dress codes ➝

Table of Contents

Cocktail Attire Definition
Cocktail Attire Ideas for Weddings
Special Event Cocktail Attire for Men
Unique Men’s Cocktail Attire Looks

Cocktail Attire Definition

On a spectrum of dress codes, there’s a formal end (think full tuxedos and lots of rules), and a casual end (ties optional and little context). For men, cocktail attire sits right in the middle of the pack. Choosing a cocktail attire outfit will require some decision-making on your part, but that’s good—you’re officially free to show off your own personal style and individuality.

Men’s cocktail attire can be simple, or you can take it to the next level with thoughtful colors or patterns. Either way, you’ll always need the following items:

✓ Dark Suit
✓ Dress Shirt
✓ Neckwear (necktie or bow tie)
✓ Dress Shoes (lace-up or loafer)

If you don’t have time to read on, this look has you covered:

Shop the Look: Grey Suit, White Dress Shirt, Black Satin Necktie, Black Leather Shoes

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Cocktail Attire Ideas for Weddings

As a wedding guest you should look good, but not too good. For example, aggressive colors, a Magic Eye mishmash of patterns, or an overconfident style choice may throw off the vibe or pull focus from someone else’s big day. While you can still be yourself, you need to pick your battles. Luckily, men’s cocktail attire provides plenty of opportunities to fight it out.

✓ Dark Suit
Suit colors like charcoal and navy are perfect choices for a conservative cocktail attire look. These low-key classics make it unlikely you’ll step on any toes or steal any thunder as a guest, and any shirt or tie looks great with these staples.

charcoal and navy cocktail attire suit ideas

Shop the Look: Charcoal Suit, Navy Suit

✓ Dress Shirt
Wedding parties will often be coordinated with white dress shirts, so a solid light pink or light blue shirt works well if you’re a wedding guest. Or, if you’re the one planning the wedding, check out this guide.

✓ Neckwear
Once you’ve nailed the basics, you’re free to spice it up. But making your tie the star of the show can be as simple as picking the right fabric pattern or texture. Choosing a colorful tie is also an option, but avoid colorful solids—wedding parties often wear a solid-color necktie in one of the wedding colors.

Pink shirt and grey necktie for cocktail attire guest

Shop the Look: Pink Dress Shirt, Grey Cotton Necktie

✓ Dress Shoes
You can’t go wrong with a simple leather lace-up in a rich brown or basic black. If you’re suiting up for a summer wedding or an event on a hot fall day, socks are optional. Going sockless is on the casual end of cocktail attire for men, so cover those ankles if there’s any doubt.

Shop the Look: Brown Leather Shoes, Black Leather Shoes

+ Pocket Square
Why add a pocket square to an already solid men’s cocktail attire look? Because slipping a square into your jacket is an easy way to drop a creamy dreamy dollop of white fabric into the mix.

Shop the Look: Black Quad Pocket Square, Linen Shoestring Pocket Square

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Special Event Cocktail Attire for Men

For a special event, you’ll need to feel out whether the event leans toward a modern, fashionable vibe, or a traditional cocktail attire tone (work event, etc.). If traditional, follow the guidelines laid out above for weddings with minor adjustments. For example, don’t limit yourself to the conservative options like white pocket squares or classic suits.

✓ Dark Suit
A grey suit isn’t flashy, but the neutral color will help your accessories to stand out. It’s extremely versatile, and also more traditional. If you prefer a colorful, modern base for your outfit, try this rich blue suit—just a shade lighter than the darker navy.

Shop the Look: Grey Suit, Blue Suit

✓ Dress Shirt
If you the event leans traditional, a white dress shirt will serve you well, especially with patterned neckwear. Otherwise, a solid blue dress shirt will complement just about any tie or pocket square.

Shop the Look: White Dress Shirt, Blue Dress Shirt

✓ Neckwear
Unique textures and patterns (knit silk, linen, and seersucker, for example) are well suited to men’s cocktail attire, especially for less formal events. If you’re feeling it, throw us some curves on the color wheel, or shake up the status quo with a bow tie. Live mas!

Shop the Look: Navy & White Seersucker Necktie

✓ Shoes
How do you make traditional black or brown shoes more visually interesting? Much like your neckwear, you can simply choose a pair with a little texture. These wood sole and suede examples both work well with the grey and blue suits mentioned above.

Shop the Look: Brown Suede Shoes, Black Leather Wood Sole Shoes

+ Pocket Square
Both of the suits we recommend would look great with a pop of yellow or orange, and likewise, paired with the bold print of our banana leaf pocket square.

Shop the Look: Banana Leaf Pocket Square

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Renting means more options for mens cocktail attire

Unique Men’s Cocktail Attire

Be honest: does this invite feel like a frivolous excuse to gather and look incredible? If yes, you’ll need something extra, be it oomph, chutzpah, drip, etc. That could mean a vibrant suit color or an interesting pair of shoes—a loafer, perhaps. Show up in cocktail attire men will try to emulate at the next party and show you understood the assignment.

✓ Bold Suit
We’ve established this is the right moment to make a bold choice, and these two suits are designed to shine. Well, a rose shawl suit is nothing if not bold. If you’d prefer stylish-yet-subtle, try this emerald suit with a shawl collar.

bold men's cocktail attire suits

Shop the Look: Emerald Suit, Rose Suit

✓ Dress Shirt
Keep your shirt simple and give your suit the visual space to make a statement. For a seamless look, our seemingly buttonless fly-front shirt is elegant and modern. As a bonus, you won’t need cufflinks, as this shirt comes adorned with black silk knots. Or, stick with a classic white dress shirt.

Shop the Look: White Dress Shirt, Fly-Front Shirt

✓ Neckwear
Don’t ask your tie to compete with your suit—ease up on the tie color, and opt for a simple pattern. Or, to make things very simple, skip the tie altogether.

Subtle cocktail attire neckwear for men

Shop the Look: Ivory Silk Pindot Bow Tie, Black Pindot Silk Necktie

✓ Dress Shoes
Celebrations mean dancing, so we recommend some of the most boogie-ready shoes out there: loafers. While both offer a luxe texture, you can make the choice easier by thinking seasonally: velvet loafers in colder months, patent and grosgrain for warm weather.

black velvet and grosgrain patent men's cocktail attire shoes

Shop the Look: Velvet Loafer, Grosgrain Loafer

✓ Pocket Square
This is one of the rare occasions in which you must add a pocket square to your look. There is no choice. Reach for a funky printed pocket square, or find one that creates a monochromatic palette with your cocktail attire outfit (mint green square with an emerald green suit).

unique green and black print pocket squares

Shop the Look: Green Quad Pocket Square, Champagne Bottle Pocket Square

The perfect look, delivered to you.

If you’re like most people, you have one suit you’ve worn to every wedding or party in the past five years. It’s practically a uniform at this point. But half the fun of men’s cocktail attire is changing it up, showing a new side of yourself, and doing something unexpected.

Light blue shirt grey pants on modern bed

On the flip side, it’s not practical to have more than a few unique suits in the stable. Still, you still need to find a way to stand out, and while renting hasn’t always delivered, that’s in the past.

We’ve created 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 compliments, we’ll handle the sizes—take a few minutes and find yours entirely online.

This is part III of our dress codes guide. Learn about more dress codes ➝