November 7, 2018

How to REALLY Dress the Part

Knowing what to wear and when to wear it

Published by Brent Kraus

Picture this. You get a new Facebook notification (Because this is just how the world works these days). Its an invite to what looks like a fancy event. How exciting. But damn, the dress code suggests cocktail attire. WTF is cocktail attire?

I get it, we have all been there, as men, sometimes it can be very confusing on how exactly to dress to all these different types of events.

Not to worry ELLA BING is here to help. If you read no further than this. Remember this point. I always aim to be the best-dressed man in the room. Regardless of recommended attire. We are going to cover four most common dress attire option you will probably come across: Black Tie, Cocktail Attire, Black Tie Optional & Business Casual. We've also thrown in a bonus section of what not to wear as well. Let's get started!


Black Tie

In its simplest form, think business attire. What do I mean by that? Think of a dark to medium gray suit. A navy suit will also work well here. As far as the print goes, keep it simple, perhaps sharkskin or glen check. Remember, with solids, you can literally never go wrong.

As far as your shirt goes, keep this simple and formal. A clean, crisp white shirt is your friend. If you are feeling a little dangerous, you could always opt for a white collar shirt, with maybe a nice blue stripe. What we certainly DO NOT want to see is a bright shirt, run away from turquoise and purple shirts. With that said, pastels are perfectly fine here.

When it comes to neckwear. You could really go either way, a necktie is perfectly fine here. And so is a bow tie. The important piece to note is that you ARE wearing neckwear.

There is importance here in the details, so remember to wear a pocket square, if you also opt for some sort of lapel pin. But be warned. You DO NOT want to overdo it here. If you opt for both a pocket square and a lapel pin. Ensure your pocket square is folded and tucked correctly. Do not peacock your pocket square when wearing a lapel pin. Its just not a good look and comes off as if you are trying too hard.

With your shoes, if you opt for the gray suit, you should certainly go with a black leather shoe. Me being me, I would still opt for a more fun dress slipper (NO SOCKS!). To me, wearing light brown or cognac dress shoes is a bit too casual for Cocktail attire.

black tie event tuxedo

Cocktail Attire

In its simplest form, think business attire. What do I mean by that? Think of a dark to medium gray suit. A navy suit will also work well here. As far as the print goes, keep it simple, perhaps sharkskin or glen check. Remember, with solids, you can literally never go wrong.

As far as your shirt goes, keep this simple and formal. A clean, crisp white shirt is your friend. If you are feeling a little dangerous, you could always opt for a white collar shirt, with maybe a nice blue stripe. What we certainly DO NOT want to see is a bright shirt, run away from turquoise and purple shirts. With that said, pastels are perfectly fine here.

When it comes to neckwear. You could really go either way, a necktie is perfectly fine here. And so is a bow tie. The important piece to note is that you ARE wearing neckwear.

There is importance here in the details, so remember to wear a pocket square, if you also opt for some sort of lapel pin. But be warned. You DO NOT want to overdo it here. If you opt for both a pocket square and a lapel pin. Ensure your pocket square is folded and tucked correctly. Do not peacock your pocket square when wearing a lapel pin. Its just not a good look and comes off as if you are trying too hard.

With your shoes, if you opt for the gray suit, you should certainly go with a black leather shoe. Me being me, I would still opt for a more fun dress slipper (NO SOCKS!). To me, wearing light brown or cognac dress shoes is a bit too casual for Cocktail attire.

The Black Tie Optional

Black tie optional is interesting as it gives us the option of wearing a tuxedo, in which it is more than likely requested. But also, gives us the option to wear a dark suit as well. This option for dress code is a rather generous one at that. It alludes to a judgment-free zone. We get it, not everyone can afford or has the REAL need for a tuxedo. But having a nice black suit is never a bad option.

With this option though, let's assume you opt for a black suit. For the most part, the same rules apply. Black tie optional gives you a bit of wiggle room with neckwear. As you can opt for a DARK bow tie or necktie.  

A white shirt is probably the way to go, but in a pinch, you could opt for a light blue shirt, you certainly want to avoid patterns though.

Keep your accessories, ie, pocket square, lapel flower, belts, shoes in the monochrome range. Choosing pops of color here would be a poor choice.

What NOT to wear to Black Tie, Cocktail Attire & Black Tie Optional events

What NOT to wear to Black Tie, Cocktail Attire & Black Tie Optional events

Now that we have covered what you SHOULD BE wearing to these events. Let's cover what you certainly SHOULD NOT be wearing to these events.

  • With all three event dress codes, you should most certainly avoid light-colored suits. A Khaki suit just will not cut it, in any of these situations. The same goes for a crazy patterned suit. We get it, you LOVE floral and you're THAT guy. But these events are formal and classic. Save it for business casual settings. Or your next conference.
  • Odd Jackets & Trousers: Khakis and a blazer to a black tie optional event is a HUGE no-no. If you think you are being smart casual, that is brilliant. But you will be brilliantly mistaken at any of these three types of events. Save your Bonobos Merlot Chinos for another day.
  • An outfit without neckwear. Just don't. If you do not know how to tie a bow tie, learn. If you do not know how to tie a necktie ask your dad.
  • Crazy socks: I get it. Men LOVE those crazy socks. But for the love of all things classic. Please do not wear these funky feet warmers to any of these types of events. They are great for the office, or a date or even a crazy sock convention, but for black tie they are not. Keep your socks the same color as your slacks.

Business Casual

What exactly does Business Casual mean? Essentially it means, no suit & no jeans. Obviously, there is a lot in between here. So let's cover this topic. Remember, business casual can be interpreted 100 different ways.

Let's cover the basics: The blazer is your friend. REPEAT, The blazer is your friend. Navy should be your anchor blazer. But really, the sky is the limit here, just stay away from black or dark gray. If you are a pattern guy, opt for the patterns, in the classic sense. Stay away bright floral blazer guy.

As for your shirt: Oxfords work great here. Whites, blues, pastels, big checks, small checks. Let your little heart go crazy here. For you neckwear haters out there. Business casual is your jam. Not wearing neckwear is perfectly acceptable here. If you still want to opt for a necktie or bow tie you most certainly can. Sometimes I will wear a necktie slightly loose around my neck, this look certainly accentuates the business casual attire. If you do decide to not go with neckwear. PLEASE ensure you cannot see your undershirt. PLEASE!

The Pants: I am personally a HUGE fan of colorful chinos. I'm not talking about bright ass colors, but more muted colors. Such as burgundy, forest green, shades of blue, you get the idea. Anyways, here is where those bad boys can shine. You can get super creative here. Pair a sweet pair of burgundy chinos with a nice fitted blazer, hell, you can even opt for a navy and white check shirt. Really this is where you can get super creative and take risks.

Shoes: Wear anything in the brown family. Tans, reddish brown, dark brown. Brown is where it's at. Oxfords work great, as do Brogues. In some instances, I can see wearing a very clean pair of white sneakers.  

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