Dating back to when clothes were worn by humans in the early ages of time, all societies have dress codes , most of which are unwritten but understood by most members of the society. It is a way to ensure that the event attracts the right caliber of patrons, and to instill a certain type of atmosphere. Many view dress codes as a good indication of what to expect that night, yet there are some that view it as a puzzle. Some are perplexed as to what constitutes as athletic gear or assume that no dress code means dressing like Bodie from The Wire. What you wear is a representation of who you are as an individual. With that said, we will guide you through the most common forms of dress codes and analyze them so that you are aware of what they actually mean.
Now before we begin, an important note to state. As the number one rule in fashion, everyone has their own unique style. This guide is intended to give you the basics so that you can take the spirit of the different codes, and interpret them to your own style.
Think: a slick black slim-fit tuxedo with a peak lapel, a satin bow tie, a crisp white dress shirt and black patent dress shoes or a midnight blue cotton fitted suit, a skinny satin tie, white dress shirt, silver cuff-links and patent black deck shoes.
A formal dress code is a good sign that the function will be sophisticated, elaborate and more mature. It involves the most easiest form of dressing in menswear, as the basis of your wardrobe is already decided for you. Please note that formal does not mean looking like you are at your high school prom, nor does it mean your suit being 5-times your size. Formal wear embodies elegance, slickness with a hint of coolness. A good model would be James Bond, as he represents a refined and sharp man. As mentioned in our earlier post, the suit does indeed make the man. To start, decide how formal you want to be, that will determine the style of suit. Now, if the function is a cocktail/gala, it’s best to be on the more formal side with a tuxedo. A white dress shirt is usually the norm for this dressing as well. Then, the rest is up to you. It is important to remember that in menswear, especially with a formal look, what will separate you from others are the details involved with your look. Whether it be the lapel on your blazer is satin lined, or the hint of colour in your pocket scarf…details are key to you looking elegant and unique. And remember, there is no one way a man can wear a suit, experiment and tweak it to your own style!
Think: a light grey suit paired up with a sleek pair of black oxfords or a navy blue blazer, a white dress shirt, multi-coloured tie and white slim-fit chinos.
One of the more confusing dress codes, semi-formal requires that the man dress formal, but not too austere for the function. It’s a fine line when dressing semi-formal. Semi-formal embodies a man that is well-traveled, relaxed yet maintains his luxe look. The easiest way to determine semi-formal is: do formal, but a notch down. Be it not wearing neck wear and unbuttoning the top button, or wearing a light-coloured suit with a patterned collared shirt. To start, a suit is usually the basis of a semi-formal look. From there on, it’s again, up to you to style. With this dress code, it is not required for you to dress to the nines (unless that is your mood). But be careful, you do not want to under-dress as well.
“Clean, Stylish & Sexy / Gentlemen, we ask that you keep it chic. Think collared shirts, designer denim & upscale shoes”
Think: any coloured collared shirt unbuttoned, sleek cardigan, rolled up slim dark denim paired with lace-ups or un-tucked plaid shirt, slim cut blazer, white chino with suede oxfords.
Part casual and part formal, this dress code allows you the freedom of experimenting with your pieces while giving you a certain direction. As stated in the requirements, you don’t need to wear a full suit, but what is required is the collared shirt and those upscale shoes. Upscale shoes include leather lace-ups, oxfords, loafers, deck shoes and depending on the establishment, simple and sleek sneakers (think Common Projects and Lanvin). With this dress code, the key is to keep it classic and simple. A simple dress shirt, v-neck sweater, dark denim jeans and lace-ups are the easiest pieces to wear. Now, depending on your style, you can also expand on the simplicity and add neck wear, cuff-links and other detailing if desired. As stated: clean, stylish and sexy. Think GQ meets Complex Magazine.
“Superfly and Sexy / No Athletic Wear, No Overly Baggy Jeans, No Baseball Caps / Dress Code Not Mentioned”
Think: black crew neck t-shirt, jean jacket, slim fit khakis, purple Supra Vaiders, G-Shock watch or Ralph Lauren polo, grey fitted chinos and Jordan 1’s.
This is one of the hardest forms of dressing, with no direction or requirements, the sky’s the limit with this. It’s harder to dress down than it is to dress up, as dressing up has a foundation already laid out for you (your suit). Sure, you may think that you can just wear your white t-shirt (and for some, your wife- beater), a pair of jeans and some sneakers. But as previously mentioned, what you wear is a true representation of who you are as an individual. And if you’re the “t-shirt and jeans” man, great! But if you want to appear that you care about your appearance, then this takes more effort in putting together a creative outfit than it does just putting on a suit and accessorizing it. With this dress code, there is no right or wrong way of dressing…but there are some points to take into consideration. Firstly, because there is no real dress code, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can go out looking like you just came from the gym. Hence why some functions prohibit athletic wear, which essentially defines it as anything you would wear to the gym (track pants, ball shorts etc.). Secondly, there are some who still think that wearing their jeans that are 4 sizes too big, is the way to go. When going out and socializing with others, while you may think that this look is appropriate, trust us, many think otherwise (actually, to be exact, they probably think that you look like you just came from the “corner”). Put a little more thought into the fit of your jeans and you’d be surprised at the sudden change of look. Now we are not expecting everyone to be in skinny/tight jeans, but fitted is always a classic and noble route. Thirdly, if you are planning on wearing sneakers, pay a little more attention to the condition that they are in. Yes, sneakers are meant to be worn. But that doesn’t mean that they have to have holes or stains on them. It takes all of 2 minutes to inspect and clean them…a little goes a long way. Finally, have fun with your look. This is a great opportunity to really showcase your personality and taste through fashion. Ensure that you pay attention to the type of function you are going to. That will determine what look you want to go for. Looking “fly” doesn’t mean wearing all types of colours, flashing logos until your eyes get sore or wearing a plethora of gold chains. It simply means looking unique and being confident in your look. It doesn’t matter if your style is more street-wear (Kid Robot, Stussy, Supreme, The Hundrerds, BBC/Ice Cream etc.), more upscale (Wings+ Horns, Play by Comme des Garçons, APC, rag & bone, nom de guerre etc.) or a mixture of both, as long as you are true to yourself and not wearing it for the sake of the brand. Be it a white v-neck t-shirt with a pair of De La Soul dunks, or a crew neck sweater with a slim fit khaki and a pair of Visvim FBT Lattice’s…it’s time to get creative!