What is Cocktail Attire for Men?

Most men have a vague idea of what cocktail attire should look like. However, many are a bit fuzzy on the specifics. Let’s clear up any confusion and break down what cocktail attire is for men.

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What Is Cocktail Attire?

Historically speaking, cocktail attire first emerged around the 1920s when upscale communities began hosting evening and weekend parties. These were distinct from previous parties held by the nobility and upper-class, in that wealthier but still middle-class people could be expected to attend reliably.

As a result, cocktail attire can be thought of as a cross between formal clothing you’d wear at a black-tie event and less formal dress for office parties. Think of it as a step up from what you would wear to an office party, and you’re approaching the right idea.

Primary Pieces of Cocktail Attire

In the modern era, cocktail attire for men is dominated by a few major pieces:

  • Dinner jacket or suit. Blue, gray, or black dinner jackets are great choices. However, if you’re going to a wedding, you may want to avoid black so you aren’t confused with the groom. Additionally, your cocktail jacket should fit well, though you don't necessarily need it to be as tailored or upper-class as what you would wear to a black-tie event. Tuxedos are strictly off the table.
  • Dress pants. Make sure that you have a matching pair of dress pants that go well with your cocktail jacket and tie. Slacks, provided they are the right color, are fine choices. Shop Now.
  • Tie. Bow ties are generally considered to be more formal accessories for your apparel, so stick with a regular tie instead. It’s important to make sure is that it matches your jacket and dress shirt and that it’s of the appropriate fabric. Silk ties are great choices due to their feel and look, and they might elevate your overall cocktail attire appearance beyond the basics.
  • Dress shoes. These should be black or brown depending on the colors of the other parts of your attire. Oxford shoes are great for cocktail parties. This is a type of basic business footwear that allows you to look professional and elegant without feeling too fancy or formal.
  • An accessory. Lastly, consider wearing an accessory to accentuate your look or evoke a certain image. A metal watch is always a good pick, although you can go with a watch with a leather strap if it’s sufficiently high-quality. You might also consider a pocket square. This accessory perfectly toes the line between casual and formal.

Tips and FAQs

Here are some tips and frequently asked questions about cocktail attire:

Do You Need a Dedicated Cocktail Suit?

No, not usually. A good cocktail attire suit will be one that fits reasonably well and is of the three major colors: black, gray, or blue. A key point is to avoid black under certain circumstances, such as if you are attending a wedding or if you’re afraid it might look like you “dressed up” for the occasion.

Are Jeans Okay?

Never. Cocktail attire is more formal than a regular office party where you might be able to get away with jeans or cheaper slacks. Dress pants or dark slacks are the only ways to go, no matter what anyone else might say.

Never Wear Sneakers

Lastly, always wear Oxford business shoes or similar footwear. Never wear any sneakers, as these will immediately decrease the value and class of your overall cocktail outfit.

Shop Tailored Trousers from Berle

We hope you better understand what cocktail attire is for men. Now, it’s time to complete your look with tailored trousers from Berle. Shop any of our exclusive trouser collections, and enjoy complimentary hemming and free shipping on every order. With more than 70 years in the manufacturing industry, our team has perfected the art of delivering the best pair of trousers available today. Your upgraded wardrobe awaits!

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