These two little words have usually amazed well-dressed men on countless occasions. The main reason is that the vague definition leaves some uncertainty as to how formal or informal it should be adopted. Some dress codes in the menswear world can be ambiguous at best, but perhaps no more than cocktail attire. After all, you don’t want poverty to be the only guy showing up in a costume. In this article, we will let you know the best cocktail attire for men.
The truth is, cocktail attire isn’t as challenging to master as some people think. In fact, with the right knowledge, it could become your dress code of choice, whether or not you have a whiskey sour in front of you. There’s more leeway than with the black tie but more sophistication than smart casual or business casual. Simply put, it offers the best of both worlds.
To help you head to your next event in style and confidence, we’ve thrown ourselves in the water to update you with everything you need to know.
What Is Cocktail Attire For Men?
The truth is that a cocktail dress’s precise definition is murkier than White Russian. But to figure it out, think about dressing up for a big party and keeping things fun and formal in equal measure. As the name proposes, it’s not about sobriety.
Whether you choose casual tailoring or something more, your outfit should have an element of the occasion. That means no prom costumes, but it also means more effort than a typical Saturday night. Your alternative dress shirt will not suffice. It’s a justification to be festive, glamorous, colourful or, dare we say, extravagant. Likewise, it could also mean understated elegance if that’s more your thing.
Unlike black tie, it’s not a very mandatory dress code. It is perfectly acceptable to leave the full suit separate in favour of the jacket and pants. You can forego black altogether and experiment with colour, texture, and pattern. The standard poplin shirt can be secondhand for turtlenecks, patterned shirts, etc. Just keep it interesting. Keep the fun but stay classy.
When To Wear Cocktail Attire
1950s Manhattan and cocktails are (unfortunately) no longer a part of our social life. When exactly should a man attire cocktail attire? It might not say so on the invite, but we’d say that one of these events is worth highlighting:
- wedding receptions
- business receptions
- openings and galas
- networking events
Important birthdays, anniversaries, and other occasions
Of course, just as you don’t need an excuse for cocktails, you also don’t need one for cocktail clothes. Grab your velvet jacket and hit the streets if you want to spend one evening looking and feeling your best.
Male Cocktail Attire Key Pieces
The ideal cocktail costume ensemble has several essential components, like all outstanding ensembles. You can’t go wrong if you adhere to them.
If you poverty to play it safe, a dark suit should be your first port of call. But avoid plain grey or boring navy, i.e. anything that could be mistaken for office clothes. Instead, try bolder, pastel blue or jewel tones like green or burgundy. If you don’t want to stray from the safety of neutral colours, opt for patterns like window plaid, stripes or houndstooth.
Forgoing a traditional suit creates an opportunity to be more creative regarding your jacket. As long as your pants are neat, you can wear something more extravagant than usual over them.
Your jacket is your ticket to expressing a specific personality through your outfit, so it deserves a lot of thought and consideration. Think bold colors, textured fabrics like velvet and corduroy, and whimsical details like contrasting fabric lapels. It doesn’t have to be a tuxedo, but it can’t hurt. Pair it with a formal button-up shirt with a high or v-neck.
Clothing styles with minimal details work best for work. Where the jacket types a statement, your pants should do the opposite. However, if you want to keep things cool, you can opt for something with pleats or a relaxed or shorter leg.
The Chinese are not left out, either. Just be sure to choose a neutral colour like grey or navy blue. Combine it with traditional business casual shoe models. Stay away from beige, especially if you’ve opted for a double-breasted jacket; the last thing you want is to walk into the evening looking like Alan Partridge.
An elegant pointed or high collar shirt is the gold standard for cocktail attire. An open collar is also suitable as long as you wear a tie. Forget your shirt; forget your OCBD.
But as this is the dress code for pomp and personality, you can also do a bit of rock ‘n’ roll here if you wish. A polka dot shirt under a black blazer or a statement shirt with a 70s collar in 70s colour adds retro-cool flair for the right occasion.
The cocktail shoes of choice are loafers or loafers. If they are leather, make sure they are clean and have a good shine. Of course, this should be a no-brainer for every dress code. In general, you should avoid overtly casual shoe styles here, and that includes desert boots and brogues.
All in all, it’s one of the few dress codes where your shoes aren’t the first thing people notice if you’re rocking your cocktail attire. So if you want to clothe your oxfords because they match your suit, your Chelsea boots, or even a pair of clean, minimalist sneakers, go for it.
Accessorizing a cocktail dress code is an opportunity to be more creative than you otherwise would. A pocket square, striking cufflinks and a quality watch are essential, but that’s not all. Here is an opportunity for a peacock hunt.
Now is the time if you’ve ever wanted to try a handkerchief or tie instead of a tie. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, wear nothing around your neck.
Cocktail Attire Pros And Cons
All of that info can be a lot to digest. So, to reiterate, here are a few key things to remember regarding cocktail wear.
Express some character through your outfit and accessories. The goal is to be sophisticated and stylish, not ever airless.
Feel free to change out an entire outfit in favour of splits.
Let your jacket do the speaking if it’s a statement piece. Keep all else pared spinal accordingly.
Wear slackers, monk strap shoes, Oxfords or Derbies.
Wear bright, pressed trousers and feel free to experiment with cropped length or subtle details like wrinkles.
Swap the shirt out for a roll-neck, woollens or even a T-shirt if the mood takes you.
Adhere to the dress code. Because it’s not a black tie, it does not stretch your carte blanche to go up in your work outfit.
Allow your outfit to be stuffy. You’re rejoicing, not headfirst in the hall.
Wear a black suit.
Go too casual. Cocktail attire may have enough money to give you more liberty than some additional formal dress codes, but this shouldn’t be busy to extremes.
Underestimate the importance of accessories. The minor details can have the most significant impact on your appearance in general.
Wear shoes that could be careful too casual. That means no canvas running shoes, no suede boots and no pronunciations.
Be scared to veer away from the old style. Wear a roll neck in the home of a shirt or a neck scarf in place of a tie.
Wear jeans. Come on, guys, make an effort.
A Brief History Of Cocktail Attire
As you’re aware, cocktail attire today is all about dandiness, a smattering of eccentricity and personality. But, in years gone by, things weren’t relatively so casual.
In the early twentieth era, the upper classes often indulged in alcohol-fuelled, mid-afternoon socializing. That was a chance to dress up in one’s finery and show off.
Although it is debatable whose country the idea of the cocktail party originated in, we are sure it did so in the middle of the 1920s. According to one school of thinking, the concept came from a well-known socialite from Missouri who hosted 50 visitors for cocktails at her home. Cocktail parties quickly spread throughout the western world after that, becoming a tradition in the United States.
Since the clothing code has been in place, it has, to some extent, adopted tailoring trends—flares and large collars in the 1970s, for instance—but has evolved into something considerably more casual. For example, a tuxedo would have been the ideal cocktail attire in the 1920s. Maybe the Roaring 20s are set comeback after spending so much time in the early 2020s away at bars dressed in jerseys from head to toe. With that in mind, some experts anticipate a decade of debauchery following the pandemic. We will toast that.
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