When you receive an invitation that specifies a dress code, it shows the mark of a gentleman to respect the conventions requested by the hosts.
Some dress codes allow more personalisation than others and it is always best to first understand the rules before deciding to personalise your outfit.
Consider this guide to the most common event dress codes for men, and what they mean in grades of formality:
White Tie / Cravate Blanche Dress Code
An uncommon dress code these days, but if you are fortunate enough to be invited to an event of this distinction then it is expected you dress to the standard.
This dress code does not simply mean adding a white tie to your tuxedo. Other male guests will be wearing a black tailcoat, white waistcoat, wing collar shirt with a white bow tie and a pair of patent shoes.
Morning Dress (also referred to as Formal Day Dress) is the daytime equivalent to White Tie. This requires a morning coat with tails, waistcoat, grey striped trousers, double cuff shirt with turn down collar and a tie or cravat.
Black Tie Dress Code
Also referred to as Evening Dress, Black Tie is the most popular formal event dress code and calls for a dinner suit or tuxedo (in single or double breasted) with contrast silk lapels and a bow tie. You cannot simply wear a black business suit.
If choosing a single-breasted tuxedo, it must always be one buttoned and for double breasted the classic 6 x 2 button positioning is expected.
Dinner Suit collars require some consideration. Always choose a peak lapel or shawl collar - but never a notch lapel. Shawl collars were traditionally reserved for a white coat with contrasting black trousers, but this has relaxed a bit over time and it is now safe to choose this style in black or midnight blue. A shawl collar dinner suit should only be worn with a wing collar shirt, while the peak lapel can be worn with either collar styled shirts.
Dinner trousers feature braiding down the leg and are designed without belt loops. They should be worn with either a cummerbund to cover the white shirting that will be seen between the button and trouser, or braces are also an option to hold up the trousers and enhance the formality of the suit.
The ideal shoe choice for this dress code are patent pumps or highly polished plain black Oxfords.
Most men don’t have the opportunity to frequently wear a dinner suit or tuxedo, so it may last decades. It is therefore best to choose a design and colour that is timeless and avoid any trend that may be out of style when you next get to wear the garment.
Cocktail Attire Dress Code
This is a semi-formal dress code designed to take you from day to night. A well-tailored, modern two-piece slim fitting suit in a dark colour with some interest or sheen in the fabric is ideal for this occasion. Pair with a double-cuff white shirt, tie and polished black shoes.
Although still quite formal, there is room for something a little special in this dress code. You want to avoid looking like you’ve come straight from the office.
Business Formal Dress Code
This dress code is self-explanatory. Dress in a notch lapel 2-buttoned single breasted suit, shirt, tie and shoes that would be suitable for a well-dressed day in the office.
Lounge Suit Dress Code
The dress for this occasion is very close to the Business Formal standard but suggests a slightly more relaxed approach. Although you are still required to wear a modern single-breasted suit, you can choose from a lighter colour palette and accessories to match. This is the dress code for a daytime wedding or an extravagant lunch event.
Business Casual Dress Code
This occasion calls for a sport coat or blazer worn with a button-up shirt (ideally a button-down collar), trousers or chinos and a more relaxed style of leather shoe like a pair of tan Brogues.
This dress code allows for personal expression in colours and patterns. Wearing a tie is acceptable but not usually mandatory.
When pairing a sport coat or blazer colour with your trousers, look for a contrast and don’t clash with competing patterns.
Smart Casual Dress Code
The main differences between this dress code and the Business Casual are that a tie is not expected and you can consider more casual shirts like a polo. You can also wear a pair of quality denim jeans instead of trousers with your sport coat or blazer.
Casual Dress Code
This dress code does not mean come as you are. Although there is plenty of room to personalise, it is respectful to put some effort into looking smarter than usual. Consider a quality pair of jeans, an unstructured jacket, casual shirt and boots.