Recently I was invited to my first professional cocktail party at my university. Clearly marked on the invitation were the ubiquitous words ‘cocktail attire.’ I did a quick search of the Internet to discover what exactly cocktail attire for men entails. Little did I know, there are several unspoken fashion rules for men when attending a function where cocktail dress is required. Simply stick to these guidelines ,and you will have the perfect (and simple) cocktail outfit together in no time. Do not let this annoyingly vague dress code get the best of you.
No suits allowed. Where formal occasions call for suits, cocktail outings do not. Rather than wear an entire suit, simply put on a nice blazer with a pair of trousers. A suit will not only look far too dressy, but it will have others at the party question your ability to schmooze in professional settings. While this is not a casual event, wearing a suit is a definite ‘no.’ Blazers can be very expensive if bought at top designer stores, but they can be found for around $30-50 at fast fashion stores like H&M. While $50 may still seem steep, a blazer is a necessary and useful clothing item for men of all ages. Think of it as an investment in the future.
Match the Pants. The above advice suggests wearing ‘trousers.’ This does not mean that wearing normal jeans is appropriate. In fact, wearing jeans may be cause enough for the host to dismiss you for inappropriate apparel. Try coordinating a nice pair of grey or khaki pants with a well fitting blazer, and you will be well on your way to a fashion success. As with blazers, trousers may be quite expensive if purchased at fashion retailers; however, if purchased at a less upscale or outlet store, trousers can be found for anywhere between $25-50. Again, men will get much use out of these pants, making them well worth the price.
Keep Shirts Simple. Purchase a fitted dress shirt without any crazy color or patterns. While subdued tones and patterns are the go to, cocktail parties may also be the place to show off your creative side with the addition of a pocket square. Keep in mind that ties are not recommended for cocktail attire.
Shoes and Socks. Perhaps the most often misguided items of clothing at a cocktail party are the shoe and accompanying sock. A glimpse of a normal white sock with a dress shoe is sudden fashion death. Avoid this faux pas by purchasing nice dress socks in neutral colors or that match with the particular cocktail outfit. As for dress shoes, toned down leather dress shoes are the way to go. Flashy dress shoes will bring the attention to you, while street shoes will have a similar, more damaging effect.
Overall, the main point to remember is that cocktail attire suggests that the event is not casual, but is also not fully formal. Try to look professional, but with a little creativity.