Next up in our three-part series: the ubiquitous and ever popular cocktail attire. Whilst the term appears to be loosely thrown around on old school paper invitations, the laziest of Facebook events and everything in between, most men struggle with defining exactly what this dress code means. Is it a suit? Is it a blazer and trousers? Is anything cocktail attire, as long as you have a cocktail in your hand whilst wearing it?

When Do You Wear It?

Gaining popularity in the 1920s, cocktail attire emerged out of necessity of defining a semi-formal look to sport for events that occurred during the transition between day and night. Thus, a cocktail dress code bridged the gap between casual daywear and formal evening attire. Nowadays, cocktail dress may be required at an actual cocktail party, however, it is frequently spotted at other events as well. Weddings, anniversaries, business dinners, job interviews, special events and formal birthday celebrations are all typical events which require slightly more refined dressing, where ‘cocktail’ is generally the preferred attire.

What Do You Wear?

The best (or worst depending on your mindset) about cocktail attire is that there are no strict rules, allowing your individual style and creativity to run wild. However, cocktail generally means a tie and jacket are necessary. As long as your suit is well tailored, it is not imperative to wear the standard black, navy or grey suit and instead, let your personality shine with a textured or bright jacket. A slim fit burgundy velvet jacket or a textured grey wool-cashmere blend suit are two unexpected, yet incredibly stylish options.

Keep the shirt simple. A solid colour is the easiest option, but low-key checks or stripes are also appropriate as long as the suit is not patterned. Regardless, it is crucial that your shirt is crisp, clean and well pressed. In certain circumstances, a less formal cocktail event may dispense the need to wear a tie, but most times it is a requirement. If you opted for a simple shirt and suit, you can reach for a bolder tie. If your shirt or suit has a pattern, it is best to choose a simple tie in a complementary colour.

Furthermore, distinguish and spice up your look with trendy extras such as a tiepin, unusual cufflinks, coloured or patterned socks or even a silk pocket square. While a pair of simple, polished black or dark brown oxford shoes is the most obvious choice, there is flexibility to wear a formal loafer or a buckled monk strap shoe if you want to make a bigger statement. Nonetheless, always remember to never attempt to dress down your suit with a t-shirt, jeans or casual footwear.

Buy or Rent?

Investing in a quality suit is irrefutable and with correct care, will last for many years. The most versatile option is a navy or black two-button, single-breasted suit in a fabric that matches your lifestyle and the climate you will be wearing it in. Invest in the best possible suit within your budget and have it tailored to fit better and avoid any old-fashioned, boxy cuts.