Well, gents: ‘tis the season! Summer is upon us and I’m willing to bet that party invitations have been piling up in your in- and/or mailboxes. And for each of these special events, a specific dress code is required, implied, or expected.
Formal, black tie, cocktail, casual, I could go on and one and on. Not to worry, we’re going to demystify the secret code behind dress codes once and for all! Oh, and when in doubt - just shoot the host a quick text, why don’t you?
Also known as: no dress code
Not to be mistaken for the lack of an explicitly defined dressed code in an invitation, no dress code or casual dress code means you can wear pretty much whatever you want, but don’t see this as an excuse to show up in ripped jeans or loungewear. Use your judgement based on the type of event: is it a garden party, Saturday evening barbeque or a friend’s birthday at a local restaurant, night time versus daytime, etc. Jeans are acceptable as well as polos or sports jackets. Neckties of any kind are not necessary. As long as you look put together, you should be good to go.
The perfect D&S shirt: a nicedenim shirt
Also known as: business casual or smart casual
This is probably the easiest dress code to pull off. You know that show, The Office? That’s business casual. It’s exactly in the middle of formal and casual - dressed up, but not too much. Not many events will actually ask for business casual, so this one will likely have to be a judgment call on your part. Business casual is appropriate for special daytime events like a baptism or wedding shower. The easiest way to go business casual is to wear a suit, dress shirt and jacket with no tie. You could also wear a lighter colored pant like a kaki paired with a navy jacket, for example.
Cocktail attire is one notch dressier than informal. Think Harvey Spector in Suits: that’s cocktail or business dress. Basically suit jacket and tie are required. You could pair with a vest and a pocket square if you prefer. Cocktail attire is normally reserved for evening events and most weddings require cocktail dress. In terms of the color of the suit, darker is usually better. As for collars, your options are wide open so why not try something a little different?
The perfect D&G shirt: thecontrast collar
Also known as: Full-dress or black tie
There’s no way around this one: it’s tuxedo time! If you really want to get it right, prepare in advance and go rent one somewhere. Now, renting a tuxedo can be a pain, so there is a way around it. Pair a dark colored suit (black, charcoal grey or navy are all acceptable choices) with a crisp white shirt. Although a black bow tie is generally preferred, you could wear a black tie instead if that’s more your style. Also, try out a French cuff, it’ll tie everything together.
The perfect D&S shirt: a crispwhite shirt
It doesn’t happen as often, but you may receive an invitation that shows a Black Tie Optional, Black Tie Creative or Black Tie Alternative dress code. Here’s the rule of thumb:
Hosts are trying to be gracious by offering you a way out of whatever dress code they would prefer you wear. My advice: ignore the wordoptional altogether. If they prefer black tie, just go in black tie. It’s the polite thing to do.
“Creative” or “Alternative”
Because a lot of these dress codes are traditionally quite restraining in terms of style and color, sometimes you’ll seecreative oralternative to soften up the rigidity of the expected dress code. Your best option here is to play with bolder colors or patterns. In fact, it’s probably the best time to break out anextreme cutaway collar.
So there you have it: the mystery of the dress code. Oh and one last thing: if you’re not sure and the host never answered your text, use your best judgment and go a little dressier than that. After all, according to a very wise Oscar Wilde: “You can never be overdressed or over overeducated.”