Home > Fashion > Men’s Semi-Formal Attire: What It Really Means

Men’s Semi-Formal Attire: What It Really Means

By Georgiana Grama


Updated on

Men’s Semi-Formal Attire

When it comes to fashion, men tend to be less preoccupied with what they wear than women. But, at least on certain occasions, they do have some rules they have to abide by regarding their attire.

For example, a wedding or a work event. Most of the time people organizing these events specify the dress code, but a simple rule of thumb is that when in doubt, it is always better to be more overdressed than underdressed.

The formal dress code is pretty self-explanatory, but with the semi-formal attire, the rules can get a little blurry. We will do our best to try to clear things up for you, so you’re ready for your next event. Even if in the near future these events seem like a thing of the past, they will happen again, guaranteed! Better to get prepared from now.

The Difference Between Formal and Semi-Formal Attire

Semi-Formal Attire

The formal dress code is the most rigid of them all. It entails a white tie and a black-tie attire, and the tuxedo is considered the norm. The semi-formal code, on the other hand, is a little bit less strict, but it’s still far away from business casual.

Think dark suit and tie, and you’re all set. You can always get creative with the accessories, as long as you don’t overdo it.

What is Semi-Formal Dress

What is Semi-Formal Dress

The semi-formal attire is a dress code that characterizes a sophisticated style. Semi-formal events mostly take place in the evening and on occasion during the daytime, and those are in general work-related. Weddings are generally semi-formal events unless otherwise specified.

With the semi-formal style you can show some personality, as it is not as rigid as the formal style, but do keep some rules in mind.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Semi-Formal Dress

The Do’s and Don’ts of Semi-Formal Dress
@johanneshuebl by Phil Taylor
  • A well-fitted suit is a must, but the tuxedo is strictly for formal affairs. Opt for dark colors and great quality materials. Light colors can work in the daytime.
  • You can opt for a tie, but no bow tie. Try to keep the colors simple, and preferably no patterns.
  • A pocket square is a nice touch.
  • You can make a statement with a dressy watch, but do not wear loud jewelry. Preferably none other than your wedding band, if you wear one.
  • Dressy shoes are a non-negotiable option. Absolutely no casual shoes here!
  • No matter what your partner says, do not show up matching. It is cute at prom, but as adults, not so much.
  • Always shower before an event, smelling clean is always attractive.
  • Shave or clean up your facial hair, and wash and comb your hair.
  • You can apply some aftershave or cologne, but do not overdo it.
  • It should be implied, but better safe than sorry!

Now that we explained the basics when it comes to what semi-formal constitutes, let’s give you some concrete examples of each item, so you can see the different nuances we made reference to.

The Suit

Semi Formal Suit

The suit should always be in a dark color unless it is a summer event and it is really hot outside, or it is a daytime event. Then you can get away with a lighter color such a light blue or light grey. No casual, loose, or A La Don Johnson linen suits, please!

Dark blue or grey is always best, so keep the black suit for a formal event. Materials such as wool or cashmere are great options, so you will always look classy and elegant. Both single-breasted or double-breasted jackets are appropriate here, but leave the cummerbund at home.

The fit is important, so if you don’t find a suit off the rack that fits you perfectly, get a tailor. Do not wear that boxy old suit that was sitting in your closet for the last decade. Time to invest in at least one great quality suit which you can always count on. You never know when you need it, and as the last year was proof enough, you might not always be able to go to an actual store for a fitting.

When you get more confident with your style, you can go with separates. An example is a very formal dress pant in a darker color with a well-fitted jacket in a lighter shade of the same color palette. When you can get away with it, you can reverse the color scheme, but that is more appropriate for summer.

The Shirt

Ralph Lauren Beckham
David Beckham for Ralph Lauren

Do not get carried away when you hear semi-formal. The shirt should always be dressy and well fitted. Here, and we cannot stress enough, absolutely no loud colors, patterns, or casual shirts.

Turtlenecks and light sweaters will not work here either, so at least this piece of clothing should be an easy enough option. It can feel limited, but you have some room to play with some of the accessories.


men’s custom lapel pins
Men’s custom lapel pins

Lapel pins are like jewelry for suits. Your semi-formal attire can be completed with a nice custom lapel pin that adds even more class and style to it. These bespoke lapel pins can be customized according to the suit material, color, occasion, and status.

Embrace your favorite elements and taste in the design of your lapel pins. Custom lapel pins would certainly draw compliments and start a conversation wherever you go. 

IWC Portofino
IWC Portofino

The watch should be understated, preferably a nice leather band. If you prefer metal, leave the bold one at home. A thin metal one should be fine.

The tie, if you choose to wear one, is better in a solid color. No bold colors here either, sorry. But you can get a little creative with some patterns, as long as they’re not too big and bold. But you can opt-out of wearing one, entirely up to you.

The pocket square is appropriate for semi-formal wear, and you can go with any color you choose, but here you can match with your other accessories for a cohesive look.

The socks should be dark in color and thin, not the tube sock you use when you go to the gym. Patterns are acceptable, as long as they’re not too bold either. You do have some room to play, but try to remain as discreet as possible.

The shoes

Scarosso dress shoes
Scarosso dress shoes

Once again, the shoes do matter. You can make a statement by opting for your preferred style, just as long as you pick a nice leather one, and cleanliness never goes unnoticed. Some acceptable styles are oxfords, loafers, or monk straps, always in dark brown or black. Polish them and you’ll be good to go.

This sums up our guide to the semi-formal attire, we hope you’re more enlightened about what it means. And never be shy, it is always ok to ask the host of the specific event what the appropriate attire is expected, so you will always avoid a faux-pas.

Avatar photo
About Georgiana Grama

Part time fashion blogger, part time influencer, Georgiana brings a touch of style to Luxatic. Before she joined our team she used to contribute to renowned fashion magazines like Elle, Marie Claire or Glamour. For the most part she focused on beauty, fashion and lifestyle, but that was just a few drops in the bucket of content that she spread over the years. Learn more about Luxatic's Editorial Process.

Leave a Comment