Semi-formal sounds like an easy dress code to master. After all, it is similar to every other formal dress code, right? Unfortunately, this is exactly why most men get semi-formal outfits wrong.
I know you don't want to make the same mistakes as everyone else. So here is a comprehensive look at the semi-formal dress code for men and some incredible outfit ideas.
What is a Semi-Formal Outfit?
A semi-formal outfit is a sophisticated dressy ensemble that's not on the highest level of the formality spectrum. That doesn't mean it's casual. On the contrary, semi-formal is anything but casual.
It's just more relaxed than the utmost formal black-tie attire, where you must wear a tuxedo and a bow tie.
The semi-formal dress code is pretty common for daytime and evening weddings and cocktail events. But despite the "semi" in its name, the dress code still requires a certain level of refinement.
However, with flexibility comes ambiguity, where people get confused about the semi-formal code. All you need to know is that it still inclines more towards formal than casual when it comes to the outfit's formality.
As for flexibility, it is open to experimentation and personal choice. This is why most men struggle to decide what outfits to wear for a semi-formal event.
The easiest way to do justice to the dress code is to stick to the following:
- Dark solid suit.
- Contrasting button-up.
- Vest is optional.
- Tie is optional.
- Formal shoes such as Oxford or Derby.
- Relaxed accessories (pocket square if it's a wedding).
Differences Between Formal and Semi-Formal Outfits
So, if semi-formal falls towards the formal side of the spectrum, how do we differentiate between the two?
Whenever you see a formal dress code for an event, know that it requires you to wear black-tie attire. This equates to a formal tuxedo coupled with a bow tie. You will hardly find anyone going against the standard tux and bow at the event.
Put simply, formal is the essence of classiness. No exceptions exist to the rules that apply to a formal dress code. As a result, it does not offer flexibility or much room to experiment.
On the other hand, semi-formal needs you to wear a suit, but there are no strict rules. You can experiment with various solid suit colors, shirts, and ties.
Moreover, you can skip the tie, wear the jacket and pants as separates, or any combination that reflects your personality. You also get a chance to play around with patterns and textures.
Just make sure while you play around with the flexibility of this dress code, you don't compromise the sophistication.
10 Stylish Semi-Formal Outfits for Men
Before we carve out ten stylish semi-formal event outfits for men, I want you to know two things.
Firstly, daytime events call for lighter shades, whereas nighttime events call for darker shades of attire.
Similarly, summer seasons call for lighter and brighter shades. Comparatively, winter and fall seasons resonate with darker, toned-down colors.
Let's see some good options to wear during different times of the day and year.
Navy Suit as the Standard Semi-Formal Outfit
The navy suit is the all-time classic semi-formal event outfit. Make sure it is a solid navy suit with no patterns or textures.
Keep the shirt simple as well. Your safest option is white, but since it's semi-formal, you must opt for either light blue or light pink.
The tie here is optional. It depends on where you are going and the given dress code. For instance, if it's a wedding, wear a tie. If not, you can skip it.
Keep the shoes formal and dark. Shoes under suits have to be darker than the suit color so that you can go for black or dark brown footwear.
Wear a Burgundy Suit at a Wedding
I have the perfect burgundy suit combination if you have been invited to a semi-formal nighttime event during the fall season.
Corduroy suits are a different class, especially when it is solid burgundy. It gives partial luxury vibes, all the while keeping things semi-formal.
Add a grey sweater vest to tone down the shine of the corduroy burgundy suit. This is where you can bring your A-game for neckwear. Play around with a few patterned ties to see what works best. Ideally, a patterned tie featuring shades of burgundy and grey would pair excellently.
And if you are confused about footwear, complete the equation with black leather oxfords.
Wear a Charcoal Suit for a Semi-Formal Cocktail Event
Not sure what to wear to your next semi-formal cocktail event? I understand how confusing it can get to wear the right combination.
Semi-formal cocktail events require you to look smart while keeping things dressy. As a result, a charcoal grey suit is the wisest choice to make. Pair it with a navy dress shirt to achieve a chic and clean look.
Since charcoal grey and navy shirt are already a sophisticated pair, you get some room to be flexible with footwear. Then, adding leather tassel loafers in dark brown offers a more laid-back appeal to the overall look.
Compliment the fit with accessories such as a matching brown belt, a brown leather watch, and a silver bracelet.
Pair a Navy Vertical Striped Suit for Winter
While winters are often gloomy and mellow, your semi-formal outfit doesn't have to be. This is the time of the year to use the semi-formal code to its full potential.
Get your hands on a vertical striped navy suit. The stripes add some excitement to the gloomy winter season. Pair it with a white dress shirt to keep formality in balance. Another way to keep the balance in order is to add a pair of brogues in brown.
This creates a wonderfully innovative and exciting outfit for the winter. A navy paisley tie can take things to the next level, just as a navy print pocket square does.
Also, since you are adding brown contrast to the shoes, compliment them with a brown leather watch and brown sunglasses.
Wear a Black Suit for a Night Wedding Party
If you don't want to use much of the flexibility that comes with this dress code but still belongs to the semi-formal spectrum, black is the way to go.
Black helps you achieve a polished look that no other color can offer. As a result, pair a white dress shirt with your black suit since we keep things minimal and simple here.
Since the suit and shirt a pretty monotonous, it's an excellent opportunity to add more casual shoes to your outfits. Black leather derby-style footwear is a safe option, but you can also opt for brogues.
Since it's a wedding, don't forget the tie. Plain black tie-in silk would complement the ensemble just right.
Match Blazer and Dress Pants as an Alternative
Wearing a suit as separates is a great way to do justice to a semi-formal dress code. All you need to keep in check are the colors. As long as you are playing with solid dark colors, you are good to go.
Opt for a navy blazer with charcoal suit pants. Of course, you can also do the opposite with the colors, but my favorite is the former. You can always go for a pair of sleek chinos or wear jeans instead.
The whole ensemble will come together when you complement it with a pair of black suede loafers. And if you want to come off as a gentleman, a navy leather watch on your wrist is all you need.
Pair a Light Dress Shirt with Trousers for Summer
When I say light dress shirt, don't get confused. However, if you get confused, know that white is also a light color and the safest option.
Therefore, pair a white dress shirt with navy dress pants. Make sure the shirt is a well-fitted button-up, and keep the collar button undone.
Brown derby-style shoes, brown belts, and a brown leather watch are all the accessories you need to make this look a success.
Wear an Overcoat with a Turtleneck and Dress Pants
Adding a turtleneck to the outfit makes sense if you want to play around borderline semi-formal.
This is especially true if you have a thing for overcoats. Here, bring together a combination of a navy overcoat and a white turtleneck. Then, complete the look with navy dress pants and watch the women go weak in the knees.
Can you think of the best shoes to wear with this ensemble? Yes, you are right. Chelsea boots have the perfect style to complement an overcoat outfit. Make sure the shoes are brown with matching accessories.
Wear White Button-Up Shirt with any Dark Suit
Another simple yet successful semi-formal look is any dark suit paired with a white button-up. Again, I recommend you wear the classic navy or charcoal grey suit.
Even though I am inclined towards charcoal grey, you are free to experiment with colors as long as they are dark and formal.
Keep the footwear simple as well. Black derby-style or oxford-style shoes would work. In addition, wear a silver metal watch and skip the tie.
Add a pocket square for some class, preferably in burgundy or brown, depending on the shade of the suit. Burgundy works if it's a navy suit.
Match a Printed Shirt with a Beige or Tan Suit
Beige or tan suits are incredible choices for summer wear. And given the exciting vibes of the season, pairing them with a printed shirt makes even more sense.
A beige suit over a floral shirt with a navy background would look absolutely stunning. Skip the tie altogether but wear a light shade solid pocket square, preferably featuring a color from the floral print on the shirt. Wear black suede loafers to bring the outfit together.
The Standard Parts of the Semi-Formal Attire
The ten stylish semi-formal outfits above might confuse you about what clothing elements make up this dress code.
As a result, here's a quick breakdown of all the elements in the semi-formal outfits to make things easier to understand.
The Semi-Formal Suit
The semi-formal suit is what defines this dress code. It is the backbone of semi-formal attire and must be done right to make it a success.
You must know by now that you can wear a coherent suit or separates. Make sure the colors are formal and dark, especially for nighttime and winter events. The most common choices are navy and charcoal grey semi-formal suits.
Button-Up Dress Shirt
The next element that defines the semi-formal dress code is a classic button-up.
The button-up must be in contrast with the suit. Again, solid shirts are preferred, but you can always play around with patterns as long as the hosts and event setting allows.
While semi-formal is all about flexibility, footwear is one aspect where you need to be extra careful. You can wear shoes that fall a bit on the casual side, but there's a condition.
You have to ensure that formality is balanced, and shoes are the best way to keep it in check. If the rest of the outfit is too formal, play it down with more casual shoes and vice versa.
Ties that Match the Suit and Shirt Color
No matter what dress code you follow, the standard rules of wearing a suit apply.
As a result, your semi-formal outfit requires you to match the tie with the shirt and suit colors. However, that is if you are wearing a tie because the semi-formal code offers you the room to skip it altogether.
Other Acceptable Accessories
Other acceptable accessories popularly worn with these semi-formal outfits include:
- Pocket square
Just make sure the strap of your leather watch and belt must match the shoe color.