What Is Semiformal Dress for Men?

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It's the details that often lead to confusion when guys are gearing-up for a special occasion. Dress codes like black tie and semi-formal don't offer much information on what exactly is appropriate to wear. While black tie and white tie are considered formal, semi-formal and cocktail attire are basically the same. Once you know the foundation of semi-formal dressing, it's easy to personalize your look for any occasion. Whether it's a summer wedding or corporate cocktail party, semi-formal guidelines clarify proper etiquette and ensure you look dapper at any event.

The Basics

Dress codes for a semi-formal event usually ask for semi-formal, cocktail or black-tie optional attire. While you do have the option to wear a tuxedo for black tie optional events, you can also stick with a semi-formal look. A dark navy, gray or black suit is standard, with a white spread-collar shirt. Add a long tie in a dark shade, preferably to match the color of your suit. Vests and cuff links are optional, but traditional shoes are wing-tips or cap-toed oxfords. Belts and shoes should be real leather in matching brown or black -- not both. A white pocket square and nice watch are other suitable accessory options.

The Black Tie Optional

While the black tie optional dress code doesn't mean you have to don a tux, dressing up your suit can't hurt either. For this type of event, stick with a black suit and matching silk tie. If you have a white collared shirt with French cuffs, opt for that style and choose an elegant set of silver or gold cuff links. Ensure the metal buckle on your black leather belt is the same tone as your cuff links. Keep the look a bit dressier by sticking with black patent leather cap-toe or wing-tip style shoes. A vest, suspenders and pocket square are optional.

The Event

Dressing for different types of semi-formal events allows you to show a bit more of your personal style. You may want to keep your look more classic for a corporate party, while you can have a bit more fun at the wedding of a close friend. Stick to a black or navy suit and matching tie for business functions with a white shirt and black leather oxfords. As a guest at a semi-formal wedding, show your personal style with a touch of print. Try a charcoal gray suit with your white shirt and a striped tie. Shoes can be matte or patent leather oxfords, while a vest is still optional.

The Season

Weather extremes can play a big part in your attire choices for a semi-formal event. The only major change to your winter semi-formal attire would be the addition of a pea or trench coat over your suit. When it comes to summer events however, comfort is more of an issue. You can opt for both a lighter color and fabric to suit summertime events -- especially if they're outdoors. A khaki or light gray suit in linen or a cotton blend makes a more wearable choice in the summer heat. A cotton-blend white shirt will help you keep cool, as well.

The Sizing

Dressing for your body type -- whether big and tall, slim or short -- helps create a more sophisticated and polished appearance. If standard suit jackets and pants are too short for you, try big and tall sizes. If you are heavyset or taller, stay with darker suit colors, as lighter colors can be less flattering. If you're on the shorter side, have pants tailored so the hemline is 1 inch from the floor when wearing your dress shoes. Try slim-fit suits if standard choices are too wide. Even if you're wearing an expensive designer suit, if it doesn't fit properly, it won't look right.