The Newbie’s Survival Guide to Dressing Up for Social Events

How men should dress up for social events is a question that needs an elaborate answer. However, fret not because I’m here to teach you all about the gentlemanly matters — one of them being how to look the part.

This survival guide will help you dress up for any social event, so you’ll never have to worry about it too much again. Now that we’re acquainted, let’s get started!

Casual

So let’s talk about every man’s personal favorite — the casual style. There’s no need for your attire to always be looking ultra-sharp. Besides, sometimes, these events will only include drinks and mingling, maybe even some casual activities. You want to ensure you’re comfortable but still looking good. Let me tell you exactly what I mean by that.

We can break up casual into a few different categories. I’m mainly talking about things like smart casual, business casual, etc. In this part, I’ll stick to the casual casual but don’t think I mean you can go out wearing a hoodie. Your favorite shirt with a little stain that “nobody will notice” is out of the question as well.

So how to dress up for casual events, you’re wondering. All you need to do is invest in some staple items that will never go out of style. Plus, those are incredibly easy to dress up or down if you need to. Those include:

  • A good pair of jeans (preferably dark, without holes) or khakis
  • Bermuda shorts (because sometimes, it’s too hot for jeans)
  • Plain T-shirt with no slogans, polo shirts, turtlenecks
  • Casual button-up shirt, sweater, jean jacket
  • Loafers/boat shoes, sandals, classic sneakers

What you need to keep in mind is that it’s always best to stick to neutral colors, just so you can ensure that your entire outfit will be cohesive. This is definitely one of the easiest outfits that any gentleman can pull off.

Semi-Formal

This might be the most difficult attire to figure out, especially for fashion newbies. Why? Simply because semi-formal can mean different things to different people. That’s why you should always inquire about what kind of semi-formal the event host has in mind. If that isn’t possible, I’ve got you covered.

There is an array of events that can be considered semi-formal. Ultimately, it’s the host that decides. However, these events are mainly weddings, dinner parties, holiday parties, office parties, and such. Also, semi-formal attire is something you should be wearing when going to an upscale restaurant. Maybe now you understand what I mean.

Still, how to dress up for semi-formal events is the question at hand. To tackle it, all you’ll need to do is suit up. Investing in a quality suit is something that will last you a long time. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A business suit, with navy, black, and gray as your color options (keep the color dark)
  • A matching vest is optional
  • Plain white dress shirt (it can have subtle patterns)
  • A necktie is a must. Keep it in the same color scheme as your suit
  • Black or brown Oxford shoes
  • Accessorize with a belt (must be the same color as shoes), a watch, cufflinks, handkerchief, and socks

Keeping it dark is something you can never go wrong with. Well, unless the event dress code requires a certain color scheme. Whatever it may be, these pieces should be your base.

For Outdoor Social Events

This is the perfect opportunity for you to be creative, experiment, and apply what you’ve learned from me. Now, don’t worry. I know that being a newbie can be a scary thing. All you want is to stick to the rules and never stray. Being safe is always the best option, right? Sure, but going out of your comfort zone is sure to impress your special someone or your peers.

An outdoor social event can mean many things, and this is how you’ll know to dress accordingly. These events include — but are not limited to — office field days, cocktail parties, cook-offs, picnics, certain classes, etc. Plus, let’s not forget about the weather, which will play one of the biggest factors in how you’ll dress up for this event.

Go for anything that’s on the casual spectrum. That can be plain casual, dressy casual, smart casual, or business casual. Choosing wisely won’t be a problem here because you already know what plain casual looks like. So let’s find out what you can do to dress up your casual outfit. Here are the pieces:

  • A seasonal sport coat or a blazer
  • Button up long or short sleeve shirt
  • Sweater (which you can also use as an accessory)
  • Dark jeans, linen pants/shorts, khakis, etc.
  • Accessorize with an appropriate watch, a belt, and shoes

I told you that these items don’t seem that much different from a casual outfit. They just help you dress it up a little. Why? A gentleman should always strive to look as sharp as possible, no matter the occasion. That’s what I’m here to teach you.

Formal and Black-Tie Events

Many men won’t ever need to find out how to dress up for a formal event. People say they’re rare nowadays. They do sometimes include weddings. However, that’s not all there is to them. In layman’s terms, these events are the kind where you receive a special invitation that requires you to wear a certain outfit. Not only that, but only some VIP people receive these invitations. If you’re one of them, let’s take a look at what your options are.

Formal and black-tie outfits can be broken down into several groups. There are black tie, creative black tie, black tie optional, and white tie. Some consider black tie to be a semi-formal outfit, but I think it deserves a category of its own. The difference between black and white tie isn’t in the tie, no matter how much the name might suggest it. It’s in the waistcoat, which is either black or white. Also, a white-tie event is as formal as it gets.

All of that aside, let’s get into some specific pieces you will need to look sharp at any formal or black-tie event:

  • A tuxedo
  • A formal white shirt (piqué)
  • A black waistcoat/cummerbund (a low-cut vest)
  • Highly polished black shoes 
  • A black bowtie
  • Never forget to accessorize with black socks, cufflinks, shirt studs, a handkerchief, dressy braces (optional), etc.

For a white-tie event, you’ll need a tailcoat, white bowtie, white vest, and white gloves. So you see — dressing up for formal events isn’t that difficult. However, it might be a bit expensive.

Things to Remember

Aside from dressing gentlemanly, you also need to know how to act. There definitely is an etiquette when it comes to attending any kind of event, so here’s what you should keep in mind.

If your invitation requires you to RSVP (respond to it), you have to do just that. The invitation will have clear instructions for you to follow. Responding allows the host to know if you’ll be there, not only because of your presence but because of things like catering and such. Plus, if the invitation says nothing about the dress code, it’s your obligation to ask. Looking the part matters.

It’s essential to be on time. Some events have strict schedules, and if you’re not there — they’ll just start without you, and the host might be upset. All you need to do is be polite, clean up after yourself, and ensure that everyone that comes in contact with you has a nice experience.

Conclusion

Now you know men’s dress code for all occasions. Being a gentleman and dressing the part really isn’t that difficult. All you need to do is follow a set of simple rules. That’s all there is to it. You’re no longer a fashion newbie, and you don’t even have to thank me for it.