What to Wear For an Occasion or Event: Men’s Guide

by | Oct 28, 2016 | Wear It Right

We all have been in a situation where we need to attend an event but don’t know what to wear for it. This is perfectly normal, but still not a good place to be in. Showing up looking out of place is never a good experience and is to be avoided at any cost. But how do we know what to wear when there are so many different events and occasions out there?

The way to go is not covering each one (which will take a couple of books), but providing you with the knowledge how to approach them. Each occasion is different in some way and you can use those differences to point you in the right direction.

To do this we’ll answer four questions – what’s the purpose, who’s the host, where it takes place and when it takes place. By answering these questions the appropriate dress code will vary from a two piece conservative suit way down to jeans with a dress shirt or a t-shirt, also depending on your own style.

Before we start we must quickly define what formal means and how we’ll use it here.

Defining Formal

A formal dress code is considered a white tie or a black tie. The white tie is the most formal dress code there is and you probably will never have to dress like that. Well, unless you’re going to receive a Nobel price of meet the Queen.

The black tie is one step lower in formality. It’s for evening events and requires you to wear a tuxedo. While you might have opportunities to dress like that, there probably won’t be many.

For this article by formal we’ll mean black tie or a regular two piece suit. While the suit is not formal by definition, it’s usually considered as such. Because of this it will be much easier to refer to it this way. So when you see formal it will mean in first place a suit, and sometimes a tuxedo, when the situation specifically calls for it.

Determining What to Wear

 

Now let’s look at each of the four questions separately. Keep in mind that for some occasions one or more can be irrelevant. Also sometimes one of them will have much greater impact than the rest, or very little.

What – The Purpose

The purpose of an event can vary greatly from showing respect to just having fun and good time. This will also greatly affect the appropriate dress code. When it’s about showing respect a more conservative look will be required, while for having fun and good time it will be more relaxed.

If the occasion demands showing respect like attending a business meeting or a funeral the dress code will be on the conservative and formal side. Showing respect is always associated with formality and in most cases will require a suit. Conservative means no bright colors or anything too eye catching, but blending with the crowd (it’s not about you).

Occasions specifically about showing respect are: weddings, graduations, business events, funerals, ceremonies etc. They will almost always require a suit and tie.

On the other hand if the occasion is about having fun and good time things will lean toward the casual side. Going to a first date or a party with a suit and tie for example can be too much in most cases. It’s more appropriate to dress business casual to casual, depending also on the other factors bellow.

Occasions specifically about having fun and good time are: dates, parties, get-togethers, birthdays etc. They will mostly require you to dress casual up to business casual.

You should determine is the purpose of the event showing respect or having fun and good time. Sometimes, like when attending a wedding, it’s both. However one of them will always prevail and set the tone. As in the wedding example showing respect to the couple getting married sets the tone. The having fun part gives a hint that you have some freedom choosing what to wear in reasonable boundaries.

Who – Who’s The Host or About Who Is It

The person who hosts the event or about whom it is can dramatically change the tone. For example going to a party organized by a prominent business person you can expect the guests to wear suits. Also a birthday party organized for the same business person will have very different dress code from the birthday party of a construction worker.

Think about the person hosting the event or the person about whom it is. How does he like to present himself in society, what does he work and what are his interests. Based on that you can determine what type of people will be attending and how they will probably dress. This will give you great hints about what to wear so you can fit with the rest of the guests.

Also when it comes to first dates think about how the girl likes to dress. Does she prefers casual or is she more of a formal person. Big differences in the clothes you wear can create an awkward situation. Deciding in advance what you’ll do can help in determining the appropriate dress code.

Where – The Place

The place where the event takes place can change the dress code from the expected. For example having a wedding on the beach will call for a more casual look than the usual. On the other hand a party thrown in an antique building hall will highly increase the formality of the dress code.

As a rule outdoor events lean toward the casual side and indoor events toward the formal. Also consider the status of the place. Is it associated with formality and has a historical value, or is it more of an informal activities zone?

Another thing to consider is the city. The events in a big city tend to be dressier than the same events taking place in a small city. However this factor is not strong compared to the others and should not be a defining one.

When – The Time

Does the event take place during the day or the evening? Daytime events almost always lean toward the casual side. The evening, on the other hand, is the time to show class and calls for a more formal wear. Also the daytime is good for lighter colors, while the dark ones are good fitting for the evening.

How This Looks in Real Life Situations

 

Bellow we’ll look at two cases to see how the four questions can help us to determine what to wear.

Case 1: Going on a date

Let’s imagine you’re going to a date and the girl likes to dress a bit toward the casual side. The date is during the day time and you’re going to the theatre. If you were going to a coffee place everything would be telling casual, and you could just wear jeans with a t-shirt.

However the theatre has some formality to it, even nowadays. The easiest thing to do about it is swap the jeans for chinos and maybe the t-shirt for Henley. You can also keep the jeans and swap the t-shirt for a dress shirt. It’s almost nothing but still adjusts your look to better match the situation.

Case 2: Going to a party

Now imagine you’re invited by a friend to a party his boss organizes. The party will be in an event hall during the evening and there will be people from other firms. Well, the word party might sound casual, but the other factors scream in the opposite direction.

The event hall and evening swing the dress code toward the formal side. The people from other firms make the event a good place to start some business conversations and even deals. As it seems the so called party will be a cocktail event. All this sets the dress code to a suit with tie, and anything bellow that will be for the low-rank guys.

Wrapping It Up

 

There you have it – the four things to ask yourself before attending an event. While initially it may seem very unclear what to wear now you have information to work with. Analyze the situation and the answers will start to come up one after the other. In the end you’ll have pretty solid idea how you should dress.

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