What Is Semi-Formal Attire?
When it comes to decoding all of the different dress codes there are, it can get a little confusing – especially when it comes to semi-formal attire. In fact, if you’re reading this, you’ve probably already asked yourself what “semi-formal” actually means, including just how formal it is, how casual it is (if at all), and what you can get away with wearing to events and occasions that call for semi-formal attire.
While there are many factors to take into consideration, including the location of the event, the time of the event, the season, and more, we’ve laid out a general guideline that’ll help you put together the perfect look for whichever semi-formal event you’ve got on your calendar.
What Is Semi-Formal Attire?
Simply put, semi-formal attire falls in the middle of black tie attire and business professional attire; it’s not as dressy or traditional as black tie, but it’s a little more formal than what you would wear to a traditional office setting (i.e. not a creative office, which typically has a more lenient dress code). Semi-formal attire for men usually consists of a well-tailored two-piece suit and a tie, however, depending on the event or occasion, you may not need a tie at all.
Additionally, if the event is at night, you’ll typically want to wear a suit in a dark color, however, if your event happens to be a daytime one, you can usually get away with wearing a lighter color suit – again, it all depends on the occasion, the setting, and more.
What Not To Wear to a Semi-Formal Event
Pay close attention here, folks – there are actually a lot of things you should never wear to events that require semi-formal attire. First, you should never sport a tuxedo to a semi-formal event, as tuxedos are way too formal and you’ll look wildly out of place, even though you’re dressed to the nines. Remember that scene in Step Brothers where Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly wear tuxedos to their job interview? Yeah, you want to avoid looking like that.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s nothing worse than being completely underdressed at an event that requires semi-formal attire, so steer clear of khakis, shorts, and denim, along with polo shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts, sneakers, sandals or slides, and outerwear like denim jackets, leather jackets, or bombers.
Which Occasions and/or Events Can You Wear Semi-Formal Attire?
As far as which occasions or events you can wear semi-formal attire too, it depends on what the dress code calls for. Weddings, unless otherwise specified, are typically a safe bet for sporting semi-formal attire. Other events like museum or art gallery openings, business conferences, or red carpet events typically require semi-formal attire.
When it comes to choosing the right top for a semi-formal event, you can never go wrong with a white, long sleeved button down, however, depending on the occasion, you can definitely get away with wearing a variety of colors, like grey, back, blue, or even light pink. Try the Banana Republic Slim-Fit Non-Iron Dress Shirt, which comes in light blue or white, for a go-to dress shirt that will work with most suits. In addition to your long sleeve button down, if you’re feeling extra snazzy, you can add a vest that matches your suit coat and pants.
Speaking of suits, every man needs at least one go-to suit that’ll work for a range of smart casual to semi-formal events, so it’s important to invest in one if you haven’t already. Remember, suits are not suits unless both the trousers and the jacket are made of the same material; you should never wear your suit trousers with a different jacket, and you should never wear your suit coat with a different pair of trousers. For a classic suit with a modern fit, try the Calvin Klein Men’s Slim Fit 2-Piece Wool Suit, which comes in four different colors (blue/gray, dark gray, blue, and black) and is perfect for any semi-formal event.
As far as suit colors go, it all depends on the time of the event you’re attending; if you’re going to a daytime event, you can wear a suit in a lighter color, like grey or khaki, and you won’t look out of place. If you’re attending a nighttime semi-formal event, stick with darker colors, like navy, black, or oxblood.
Sometimes you can get away with not wearing a suit to a semi-formal event; in this case, you can put together a sophisticated dress pants and blazer combo and play around with the colors and patterns a little bit, however, if you don’t know if you’ll be underdressed by putting together an outfit like that, it’s best to stick with a classic suit and tie combo. Try the Bonobos Unconstructed Italian Wool Blazer, which comes in 10 different colors, if you’re looking for a blazer that’s semi-formal attire worthy.
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As previously mentioned, most semi-formal attire requires a two-piece suit, which means your suit pants should be made out of the same material as your suit coat. If you’re opting for a dress pants and blazer combo, be sure that your dress pants are well-tailored and fit properly; if they’re too big or too small, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb, look sloppy, and look like you didn’t put any thought into your outfit.
Check out the Bonobos Stretch Weekday Warrior Dress Pants, which come in a whopping 21 colors and offers a slim, tailored fit that’ll flatter any body type.
As previously mentioned, you should never wear casual footwear, like sneakers (even designer ones), boat shoes, slides, or tuxedo shoes to a semi-formal event. Oxfords, brogues, or even dressy loafers are suitable options for semi-formal footwear.
For a classic dress shoe that you can wear year-round and will go with anything in your closet, check out Allen Edmonds Fifth Avenue Cap-Toe Oxford in Walnut, which will look great with suits of all colors. If you want to switch it up and go the loafer route, try the Versace Collection Men’s Brown Polished Leather Loafers Shoes, which add a sophisticated and classy element to any semi-formal suit.
As far as accessories go, most semi-formal events will call for wearing a tie, however, a tie is not always required. That said, when in doubt, wear a tie, as you can always take it off if you feel a little too stuffy or formal. You can never go wrong with a solid color tie, although a subtle print is an easy way to add a bit of pizzazz to any semi-formal look. Try the Michael Kors Neat Tie, which comes in five different colors and offers a subtle yet eye-catching pattern, for a fresh update on an otherwise classic necktie.
If you opt for the no-tie route, you can always add a pocket square to your suit coat – check out the Gucci Printed Silk-Twill Pocket Square for a luxurious semi-formal accessory that won’t break the bank and will have you looking dapper as hell. You can also wear an understated watch with your semi-formal outfit, like the 1844 Chronograph from About Vintage.
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