"Cocktail, Black Tie, Lounge Suit, White Tie"—scratching your head? Ever wondered which of these requires a tux, your navy work suit or something more creative altogether? You're not alone—allow us to explain and remove any uncertainty around being under-dressed (or over-dressed, which despite your mum’s praises, can be just as bad) as we de-code the dress-code. It begins simply with good manners—correctly dressing to the dress-code is an important way of showing respect to your hosts. Here's our beginners guide to dressing correctly for white tie, black tie, cocktail, lounge suit and smart-casual dress codes.
The most formal dress code, it’s become increasingly rare these days. Think: diplomats and business leaders heading to a formal occasion where you can expect string quartets and lots of (very long) speeches. A standard tuxedo won’t do. You need to really dress to the nines: a formal tuxedo shirt worn with patent leather shoes, a self-tie white bow tie, and a dinner jacket with tails. A white waistcoat is also optional.
Keep it very formal and opt for a traditional tuxedo. Contrary to the ‘black’ in the dress code, a tux in midnight navy is perfectly acceptable, and in fact pre-dates the black in sartorial history. A velvet dinner jacket can also work (ideally in a dark colour like navy or black). Yes, inevitably, you may notice one or two people wearing a navy corporate suit to a black tie event—don't be that person. A self-tied bow tie or velvet bow tie will be the final flourish to separate the boys from the men. Shop all Tuxedos.
This translates simply to: a dark navy suit paired with a white shirt and tie. So potentially for this one, you could get away with your work suit and dress shoes, but we recommend adding some extra finishing touches such as a pocket square, a tie pin, an elegant silk textured tie, or another formal accessory—but make sure your accessories work together cohesively and stick to one hero piece. Classic is key here, it's not a day at the races (which is a green light to go nuts on colour and texture). If you’re attending a wedding, out of respect, you want to show that made an effort without taking the attention away from the Groom.
Think your Sunday best. In terms of the scale, lounge suit falls beneath cocktail dress in terms of formality, simply calling for a suit, shirt and tie—however you can afford to be a little more playful than with cocktail dress code. Try textured fabrics and earthy tones like this show stopping olive linen suit or a navy, charcoal, brown or black in a classic single breasted, two-piece classic design. Nowadays, the lounge suit dress-code is also becoming more and more relaxed—you could consider dropping the tie and keeping your pocket square, and match your look with some brown loafers or brogues for a more understated look.
A great opportunity to have some fun with colour and texture. The key is to think about the sort of event you're attending. Something rural? A pair of cream chinos, Chelsea boots and a navy blazer is perfect. Beach wedding? A cream linen suit and loafers will nail it. What about something European? Embrace some pastels and channel your inner Amalfi style icon in tailored separates. So long as you’re wearing trousers, a collared shirt and a blazer you’ll be fine.
So there you have it, gents, our summary for decoding the dress-code.
As a quick recap:
White Tie requires a formal tuxedo shirt worn with patent leather shoes, a self-tie white bow tie, and a dinner jacket with tails. A white waistcoat is also optional.
For Black Tie your safest best is to opt for a traditional tuxedo, in either Navy or Black.
Cocktail theme safely translates to a dark navy suit paired with a white shirt and tie—add accessories to differentiate your look, with classic styling being key here.
A lounge suit you can have some fun with, and choose to leave the tie at home for a more casual take and play with textures and patterns.
Smart Casual - Wear tailored trousers, a collared shirt and a blazer and you're on the money.
Why all the effort? Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that dressing to the dress-code is your way of showing respect to your hosts. Plan ahead, have your wardrobe ready for any occasion life throws at you and bundle up your look with our current bundle deals.