Everybody has their honest advice for what to wear and how to wear it, and naturally there are various myths surrounding formal wear. Do you know that black tie optional means you can even wear a black shirt without a tie? It is important to understand these traditional definitions beforehand to prevent embarrassment later on.
But contemporary fashion is not so rigid and all sorts of weird combinations can be observed. A prudent man, however, makes it a point to appear proper even when the event is a little informal. Let’s check out the different types of formality and the dress code that it entails.

Formal Wear

This means that the event is exclusively formal. Without exceptions, people dress up to these events. Ties, shiny oxford shoes, cufflinks etc. are all part of the get up. But people also like to use varying colors of ties and shirts to stand out from the herd.

The Black Tie and Optional

Black ties define the real formality of the event since they are always worn with a tuxedo. Such invitations should always be followed with cummerbund (vest), black bow tie, satin-stripped trousers and a jacket. In the case an event is black-tie optional you can let go of the tuxedo since it is not required; instead a formal dark suit will do.

Day Wedding

For this type of event you may want to dress in a gray morning coat with gray or black matching trousers, a grey double-breasted vest, pinned ascot, gray tie and pearl cufflinks. You can also opt for a less hectic option by wearing a simple light colored suit.

White Tie

If black ties are formal then white ties are ultra formal or galas. Expect to wear a black tailcoat, black trousers with satin seams on the outside, black or gold cufflinks, white boutonniere, white bow tie and gloves.

Semi-Formal Events

Semi-formal still means partially formal and it is a good idea to ask the host whether the event is casual or actually informal. It will not do if you appear overtly dressed for a casual party or the other way round.

Evening Semi-Formal

Weddings and such events happening in the evening fall under this category. Go for a tuxedo with black trousers and one satin seam, black tie, black vest and gold or black studs.

Semi-formal Wear

In these events a tuxedo is not required but a dark suit will still be required. You may also want to avoid wearing a tie.

Cocktail Wear

These events are open for creativity and interpretation when it comes to dressing up. Do not wear a tuxedo but a dark jacket is always a safe bet. If the crowd is trendy you can let your imagination take over you; of course, with common sense.

Casual Wear

The term casual was invented with the creation of the sports shirts and sports jacket in the early 20th century. Bermuda shorts, leisure suits and turtle neck shirts, like those worn by the late Steve Jobs, define the term casual.

Business Casual

Can be synonymous with the preppy look. If you pair a suit jacket with a sweater and a pair of khakis and tucked in polo shirt you are all set. However, the aim is to be classy not trendy so avoid looking like a rap star on a round of Sunday golf.


This is another term for wearing whatever you are most comfortable in. Flip flops, sandals, Bermuda shorts, jeans pair with a t-shirt or a fold shirt will do fine. There are no guidelines for dressing flexibly here.