‘Social Dress Code’ as the name suggests must be pretty known to people. After all, they are socially set standards being followed for quite some time now. But, the reality is quite the opposite. Most people get confused when they see a dress code on the invitation. When you think about it, the purpose of mentioning a dress code on the invitation was to make it easier for the guests. Well, with time and the evolution of fashion, this system has become counter-intuitive.

Unfortunately, our modern education has left out valuables like these and many of us end up looking like complete fools at social gatherings. If you have been in a similar situation or just want to be more informed then look no further. In this post, I shall talk about various social dress codes for men and the occasions they are worn to.


The word ‘Formal Attire’ is deeply misunderstood in today’s society. Most men associate formal attire with suits and ties. In reality, formal attire is a substantially higher dress which requires pieces of clothing most men do not even own. Having said that, the code has slight variations depending on the time of the day they are worn, i.e. during the day, the Formal attire is essentially a tailcoat and vest while during the night it is ‘White tie’. White tie is one of the strictest dress codes,  a level up than the black tie in formality. Most white tie events are diplomatic events or high gentry formal gatherings like those of royal families.

So, unless you are a regal or a very rich guy getting invited to gathering only reserved for the regal, chances are that you will not need to dress up in one of these.white tie



The name is misleading, do not believe what it says. There is nothing ‘semi’ about the semi-formal dress code. In fact, it is still quite formal. To put it simply, it is one of the strictest dress code most of us get to wear in our lifetimes. Again, like formal wear, time of the day plays a role in defining the appropriateness of the dress. Tuxedos are the go-to ensemble for the evenings while Strollers are considered appropriate during the daytime.

Black tie events include high-end weddings, fundraising events and similar formal gatherings.black tie



Simply put ‘Business’ code for men means you ought to match your suits. To be on the safer side opt for darker suits and pair them with a light coloured shirts and throw in the accessories that you want. You can opt for slightly lighter shades during the daytime. Some invitations mention business attire as ‘suits and tie for men’. To sum it up, a Business code is the formal end of men’s suits.

This dress code is most often seen on invitations to church outings or formal brunches or interviews and board meetings.business-dress


When it comes to smart casuals, context is the key. Smart casuals for work are formal and at an outing with friends are informal. To put it in layman terms, you do not need to wear a suit. A blazer with button-up shirt is advisable though. You do not need a tie either, but sometimes depending on the event and the hosts, you might have to wear one. If in doubt, wear one. you can always take it off if required.



A casual invitation is open-ended but you are expected to dress up for a social gathering. You do not require a tie or a suit. A jacket may or may not be worn depending on your choice. If you are wearing jeans, it is expected that they be darker shades. It is still advisable to wear leather shoes and collared shirts. Well, to put it simply, you should be comfortable with your choice but at the same time show that you made an effort. It is just polite!


That’s that for the dress codes, but in case the invitation does not mention a code, what to do then? 

The best practice is to ask the host. If you are not comfortable doing that, ask fellow attendees and if both these do not work out for you, follow the time rule. Evening occasions call for darker and simpler attires than morning ones. Also, outdoor settings are more casual than indoor ones. Whenever in doubt, always go for being a bit over-dressed. As I said earlier, you can always take off a necktie or a jacket and make the look more casual but you cannot do vice-versa if you do not have a jacket or a necktie on you. Better safe than sorry. 

Signing off 

Yours Truly

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15 Responses

  1. Tara Pittman says:

    This is needed info for people here in New Mexico. It bugs me that people wear shorts and tee shirts to fancy restaurants.

  2. jplagens says:

    This is really helpful. I never knew there was something called a white tie. I guess that means I am not royal since I don’t even know about this. I thought black tie was as formal as it gets.

  3. GiGi Eats says:

    Ha! I should forward this to my husband!

  4. Victoria says:

    As a girl, I never knew things could get quite complicated and tricky for men regarding the dress code. This was really interesting to read about!

  5. Andrea says:

    this is something I feel a lot of guys should see. i mean I agree with Tara, there are so many people who show up to nice places in as t shirt and flip flops.

  6. tia mckinzie says:

    This is very informative. I work in a dry cleaners and I am still fairly new to it. I see a lot of casual to business but i never understood the difference between white and black tie affairs!

  7. Cris says:

    This is amazing! I will have to show this to my boyfriend, he has some issues about what he should wear to a wedding 🙂

  8. Hannah says:

    This is awesome! Definitely referring my husband to this post!

  9. Jojo Hua says:

    This was super useful. I didn’t know there was a more formal attire than the semi-formal! I’ll be linking this for my fiance to have a read over!

  10. Apolline says:

    OMG, thanks for these amazing tips. I didn’t know that a man should never button up the tailcoat. I need to show this to my brother.

  11. Heather says:

    I love this! I’m going to have to show it to my husband.

  12. I know a lot of men who could learn a thing or two from this. Style is something to take seriously in many cases!

  13. THIS IS PERFECT! Sharing with all the men we know 🙂

  14. Nicole says:

    This is a really good code to the different dress codes for men! I know sometimes it can be confusing formal and semi-formal. I’ll defiitely pass this along, thanks for sharing!

  15. Charli Bruce says:

    This is such a good guide for men, shall be passing along to my partner

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