The Dos and Don’ts of Semi-Formal Men’s Wear

image of the dos and don'ts of semi-formal men's wear.

As you’re probably aware, semi-formal events are those where the dress code falls somewhere between casual and formal. Such occasions include dinner parties, brunches, date nights, and other activities that occur after work but before the party really gets started. In order to know how to dress appropriately for semi-formal events, it’s important to understand the event itself as well as your role within it, whether you’re hosting, attending, or both. With that in mind, here are some of the dos and don’ts of semi-formal men’s wear you should keep in mind before stepping out the door.

Do Know What your Event Is

The last thing you want to do is show up underdressed or overdressed for your event. For example, a black-tie affair calls for a tuxedo or at least a dark suit with French cuffs. It’s better to err on the side of caution by being overly dressy, rather than wear an outfit that is not as formal. So, take note of these dress guidelines below so that you can always make sure that you are wearing semi-formal men’s wear that fits every occasion

Do Wear Suit Separates

Having multiple components to your outfit is always a smart move. Suits that use separate pieces are an excellent way to be able to mix and match, allowing you to change up your look on a dime. Picking different patterns with complementary colors is a great way to have fun with separates. The ability to combine so many elements means that you can easily play around with new looks in no time at all! Whether it’s pinstripes with floral or plaid next to houndstooth, there’s no wrong combination when choosing stylish suit separates.

Do Go for Some Color

The traditional semi-formal suit looks black, but the color is actually an important aspect of a high-quality suit. A mix between solids, patterns, and even piping is a great way to incorporate color into your look without making it too bold. In fact, stripes are one of my favorite ways to do just that. If you opt for a stripe or striped suit, I would avoid anything above two tones.

More than that looks childish rather than classy. Semi-formal men’s wear can range from reds, greens and blues so there is plenty of room for creativity here. Do make sure you stay with solids where your shirt meets your pants; small pinstripes or geometric patterns here can be acceptable but should be kept minimal or they may overwhelm your look.

Do Make Sure Your Clothes Fit You Well

Taking care of your formal wear is important, but there’s nothing worse than donning an ill-fitting suit. In general, a suit should fit you well in all places—neither too tight nor too loose. Your pants should allow one finger to slide comfortably between your thighs and your waistband. Try on different sizes; tailors can hem pants or take in a jacket that might be too big.

You also want to make sure there’s no extra fabric bunching under your arms; if there is, find out if it can be taken in or let out so you won’t have to roll up your sleeves during dinner. If you plan on wearing cufflinks, they should stay closed when fastened and shouldn’t dig into your wrists.

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Do Pay Attention to Accessories

If you’re heading to a semi-formal event, odds are you don’t want to show up in a tuxedo. But that doesn’t mean you have to wear anything uninteresting. There are plenty of options for men who want something more stylish than a suit, but less formal than a tuxedo. Shoes are one place where it’s easy to get carried away—men who don’t wear suits on an everyday basis sometimes forget how important they are.

If you’ve got a business event coming up or even just have an important work dinner or reception planned, stay smart with brown or black lace-ups. They’ll add a touch of class without going overboard with shiny buckles or distracting prints.

Do Dress Like a Man

It’s important to remember that semi-formal attire is basically a bridge between formal and casual wear. This means that you still want to dress like a man (not like someone trying out for Julliard). Keep your tie slim, shirt collar wide, suit well-tailored. Accessories can include cufflinks or pocket squares if it makes sense for your outfit, but don’t go overboard. It’s not about being flashy—it’s about looking pulled together.

Don’t Look too Casual

 

To put it simply, semi-formal events call for semi-formal clothes. Even if you show up to a black-tie gala wearing jeans and a dress shirt, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb, so it’s important to pay attention to what other people are wearing in order to avoid that embarrassing moment. There is also a difference between formalwear and semi-formal wear – don’t forget your jacket.

If you’re unsure whether your outfit is appropriate for a semi-formal event, play it safe by dressing on the more formal side (i.e., more formal than whatever someone else might be wearing). It might feel a little uncomfortable at first (it did for me), but if done right you can make an impression without feeling overdressed.

Don’t Forget your Shoes and Socks

Nobody wants to see your bare ankles at a semi-formal event, so be sure to wear socks that match your shoes. While it might be business casual enough to skip socks altogether during a day at work, they’re not appropriate for a semi-formal night out. Also remember: One style doesn’t fit all. Flannel/cotton dress socks may be okay with one pair of shoes but clash with another; make sure to pay attention to what you’ve paired them with before you leave home (this goes for ties, too).

Don’t Over Accessorize

First dates often involve a lot of first impressions, so it’s important to be conscious of your accessories. Be mindful not to over-accessorize (and look like you tried too hard), or under accessorize (and look unprepared). The right amount of accessories will complete your look in a subtle way. You want to aim for something that makes you stand out without drawing too much attention. If you’re unsure how to do that, stick with classic accessories like leather shoes or a leather belt—they’ll never go out of style.

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Don’t be late!

Nowadays, being late for work or an event is unacceptable. However, if you are attending a semi-formal event like a wedding, it is acceptable to be 15 minutes late. It’s important to remember that tardiness is frowned upon in any situation, but it’s especially rude at formal events because you’re making other people wait on you. Making them wait on you does not give off a good impression when trying to make connections with people there. So always plan ahead when attending events and be on time!

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