If you receive an invitation that asks cocktail attire, the proper thing to do is simply to adhere to it. But what does it really mean? Most of the time, this dress code is used for wedding invitations so let me go over what you should wear if the dress code is the cocktail attire for a wedding.
1. First do you want a dark grey to mid-grey suit? Preferably solid, you can also have a light pattern, a glen check or sharkskin but with solids, you’re always right. If you must, Navy works as well. Two, you should have a white dress shirt, maybe off-white, you can also have maybe a white collar shirt with a striped body but it should be somewhat formal. Do not wear brown shirts or a purple shirts turquoise shirt that just looks awful.
2. Next up come the neckwear; you should definitely wear a tie. Maybe a bowtie can get away with it but usually for the wedding, stick with the tie because you don’t want to take attention away from the bride and groom. Ideally, what you can wear is a colored tie with a small pattern like the one I’m wearing right now purple with some paisley or you can wear a solid necktie like the one here, you want some texture like a knit tie like this one is good or maybe you can also wear satin if it’s an evening event but I would usually stay away from that and go with something a little more textured. If you don’t know how to tie a tie, please check out our series on how to tie a tie. Since this is a more festive event, you want to go with a pocket square. If you have a white shirt, a white pocket square works. If you have a different colored shirt, use a different kind of pocket square. If you don’t know how to fold a pocket square, check out our video where we show exactly how to do that.
3. For shoes, you should preferably go with black dress shoes, that means leather sole and neatly polished black cap toe Oxford is ideal. If you must, you can also get away with burgundy; try not to go with tan shoes or anything like that. No sneakers, no trainers, black men’s dress shoes, please. What’s really important is that you wear over the calf socks because you never want to expose your hairy calves to the public so make sure you get over the calf socks that ideally match your trousers and then you’ll be just fine. If you want to add a dash of color, you could also use socks that are slightly contrasting, maybe taking up the color of your tie but that’s a little more advanced so it’s up to you. Make sure you have a good clean hair cut, trimmed the back. If you have a beard, of course, you want to be well groomed and it’s all supposed to look neat.
4. Never wear a tuxedo when the invitation states cocktail attire because that’s simply overdressed, it’s wrong and it’s not an option so if it says “black tie optional”, you can wear a tuxedo but when it says “cocktail attire”, stick with a suit. Weddings are a personal thing so if you go to an artist wedding, and he’s very colorful, of course, you can add more color as well. Just remember, this is their day. Leave the pinstripe suits at home; don’t use flashy ties or accessories. Just keep it simple, wear your suit, be respectful, and let them shine. If you go to a wedding that is extremely casual, don’t get all super dressed up, maybe, in that case, a blazer without neckwear and a pair of khakis is a better way to go because again, you do not want to outshine the bride and groom.
5. Now what you wear when it says “cocktail party” for a “garden party” or for an actual cocktail party, if it’s in the afternoon, maybe after work, you can certainly add more colors. If you come straight from work, maybe just bring another tie that you can exchange that’s a little more lively and maybe a pocket square or a boutonniere flower. Simply add that special character, you should never just show up in your regular business suit. Always try to create a little something extra. If it’s a cocktail party in the evening, you can wear darker suits, maybe try to go with darker ties and have white pocket squares in darker shades.
Again, no tuxedos but maybe a boutonniere to make the whole thing pop, if it’s an event during the day like a garden party, I think stroller suit will be extremely nice. If you want to learn more about this garment, check out this article. As a general rule, you should always keep in mind that more patterns, more colors make things stand out more so ideally, if you’re not quite comfortable yet, just start with one accent piece, either you have a bolder color jacket or you have a strong red or yellow tie. Don’t try to mix it all together, try to go one accent piece at a time and if you feel more comfortable, maybe you can add two but never overdo it.