A Beginner’s Guide to Men’s Formal Wear

Summer is upon us, and that means it is also the season for important corporate events, weddings, reunions, and all manner of occasions that request formal attire. For some men, switching their outfits from a relaxed, casual look to an ensemble fit for the cover of GQ is a simple thing that involves little thought or process. For others, it is just a matter of pulling their old suits out of the depths of their closets and taking them for quick dry cleaning.

However, for many gentlemen, this may be their first foray into formal events. Looking at the list of items and options regarding everything from a suit cut or color to the style of cuff-links can seem overwhelming.

Making this complex process more simplified is a matter of taking some time to educate yourself on the variety of options, as well as which type of event they are best suited to. Luckily, we’ve compiled the perfect beginner’s guide to men’s formal wear for you to help get your fashion journey started.

A Beginner’s Guide to Men's Formal Wear

Decoding the Dress Code

The first step for any affair is determining what style of dress will be required. Most people use “formal attire” as a blanket term for any event requiring above-average dress. However, there are many different levels of formal attire, and understanding what each one involves will go a long way toward helping you to become a style master.

Receiving an invitation stating it is “white tie” means you should expect to shell out money for some top-notch designer duds. White tie events are often extremely important occurrences like a royal wedding or state dinner. For these events, the time of day plays a large part in the level of dress, and the dress code itself will be strictly enforced.

Black tie-style parties are much more common and, generally, when hosts are sending out invitations for formal events, they expect semi-formal dress. Black tie events, like a white tie, do ask party-goers to wear a tux, but it does not have to be designed with all the trimmings.

Most of the affairs you attend will only ask for a business dress code. Luckily, the majority of what this type of dress is asking for most people already have in their closets. Also, unlike black or white tie, you have much more flexibility regarding business dress.

Talking About Tuxedos

Speaking of black tie, you may be thinking of tuxedos and picturing a sea of black and white, but that does not have to be the case. While you may prefer a more traditional black tux, the possibilities for creating a unique yet fashionable tux are endless. Adding in trim or lapels in an interesting texture, pattern, or color is a fantastic twist that will bring a classic suit into the modern era. You can also opt for a tuxedo in a non-traditional color, like white or navy, to give your ensemble that extra boost.

A Beginner’s Guide to Men's Formal Wear

Suit Up

One thing every man needs in his closet is a well-cut suit. Suits are incredibly versatile and can be easily dressed up or down, depending on the occasion. The first step in purchasing your perfect suit is researching your local retailers. Having an associate who is not only knowledgeable but who makes you feel comfortable is essential in helping you to find the perfect outfit that suits your frame and which highlights all your best features.

Suits are also a great wardrobe staple because of their adaptability. Dressing a suit up for a corporate event can be as simple as adding an interesting vest, tie, and cufflinks. For a more casual affair, like an outdoor wedding or first date, pairing a nice suit with a simple polo creates an effortless style guaranteed to impress. Even cheap men’s polo shirts can be dressed up, if you’re on a tight budget.

Stylish Suits

One of the most difficult aspects of selecting the perfect suit is determining which types of pieces will work best for your build. Many people believe all suits are the same, but that is definitely not the case. The three most common cuts for a suit are American, British, and Italian.

Balanced British

British-cut suits tend to be the most universally flattering. By providing a sleeve hole that sits higher than both the American and Italian suits, it creates the illusion of a longer torso. Most also have a 2-button closure on the jacket that sits lower on the jacket, further reinforcing the idea of a longer, leaner core.

The jacket itself also tapers in at the waist and has one vent on each side for increased mobility and to help the suit jacket sit properly. When professionally tailored, this type of suit elongates the frame, helping you to look stylish and fit.

Traditional American

Wearing American-cut suits can be more challenging. The boxier style paired with some of its other common features goes a long way in making this suit the most difficult to stylishly wear. First, the sleeve hole begins in a position lower than both the British and Italian styles.

Add in a looser and more relaxed fit throughout both the jacket and trousers and 3-button closure, and you can easily have your jacket overwhelm your frame. Due to the more relaxed shape of this suit, it can easily give the illusion of your being heavier-set than you actually are, so ensuring you have an expert tailor is necessary if you feel an American suit is a cut for you.

A Beginner’s Guide to Men's Formal Wear

Impressive Italian

Italian suits are known for being very slim and form-fitting from tip to toe. The jacket fits very snugly against your body and nips in at the waist, and the pants are slim fit. There are no vents on the jacket, and, while it does use a 2-button-close like the British version, they sit higher than they would on the traditional British suit. This type of suit is excellent for those gentlemen who already have a slimmer frame, by its being both stylish and flattering.

Creatively Customizing

Once you have finished selecting the cut of your suit, now it’s time to create a suit that fits your personality. Playing with fabrics and colors is an excellent way to let your personal vibe shine through your upgraded attire. Bringing in pops of color by choosing a colorful button-up oxford shirt or a uniquely patterned tie will elevate the average suit and make it eye-catching.

Adding an undershirt, like a plain white t shirt beneath your oxford is also highly recommended to help keep your look seamless. Finishing off your outfit with a pair of personalized cufflinks will keep you looking sharp, no matter the occasion.

Final Thoughts

Attending a formal event can feel like a daunting task, especially if you’re newer to the world of formal dress. Yet, with a bit of understanding and research, you can easily fit in and stand out at any event you may attend. Just remember to always double-check the style of attire that is requested, and know that hiring an excellent tailor will make sure you look flawless every time.


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