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Men’s Guide To Dress Semi Formal

men's guide to dress semi formal

Men’s Guide To Dress Semi Formal

Men’s Semi Formal is the most confusing of all the dress codes. The term is in itself an oxymoron and therefore it is no surprise that people are often left bemused when it comes to dress semi formal. Many people come up under dressed when they receive invitations for semi formal events. If you, too, find this dress code mysterious, here’s a detailed guide to help you arrive not only in the right attire but to stand out in the crowd.

Contrary to the popular belief, semi formal is quite easy to follow. It is not as decorous as white tie or black tie events. Instead, men’s semi formal is a slightly more relaxed dress code.

But wait, it doesn’t mean you can wear a jeans or khaki for a semi formal event. Remember that it is still a dress code and you need to follow the dos and don’ts to pull off your look seamlessly.

What is Semi Formal Attire?

Semi formal lies somewhere in between formal and informal dress code and is often worn to events like dinner parties and weddings. It is still a strict dress code so don’t be fooled by the diminutive phrasing.

A nice dark suit is your best option for an evening event while some stick to lighter option (strollers) during daytime. Not matter what, wearing a jacket is imperative with this dress code. Here are a few examples to begin with:

  • Combine a plain light shirt with your suit
  • Tie is optional; but you should stay away from anything too loud
  • Wear a leather belt and a pair of leather shoes that matches the color of your suit. Combine your shoes with plain and dark colored socks.
  • As far as accessories are concerned, wear a watch and stick to a minimal look.

It is essential to look sophisticated, elegant and neat (like a formal event) in your semi formal attire. Opt for crisp, custom shirts and keep them and your ties on the traditional end of the spectrum. Shoes must be dressy and accessories need to be understated.

If you are still unsure of what to wear and what not leave at home, here are a few rules to follow:

Rule #1: Leave Your Tux at Home

good-guy-how-to-dress-semi-formalDon’t wear a tux for an event that’s daytime semi formal. Tuxedos are for formal events or black tie events and hardly have a place in an event with a more relaxed dress code. Though many think that overdressing is a better choice than under dressing, wearing a tuxedo for a semi formal event, especially if it’s in the daytime, is a social faux pas.

That being said, verify with the host in order to avoid confusion as certain black tie events mention semi formal dress code in the invitation.

Rule #2: A Suit is Your Best Bet

Suit Is Your Best BetOne rule of thumb of semi formal is that you should always wear your jacket. The trick is to keep it simple with a nice bespoke suit that fits your body perfectly. It should hit all the right notes, which means your suit must meet the formal requirements and at the same time be relaxed enough so that you don’t look overdressed.

You need to focus on the details, especially on the color scheme based on the time of the event. For example, opt for a lighter color like a cream or tan suit for daytime events and wear darker colored suits such as a midnight-blue or dark charcoal for evening events. You can explore other color choices too as long as you remain true to the Golden Rule, i.e. lighter color during daytime and darker shades for evening events.

In addition, wear a dress shirt and a tie (optional). You are free to experiment with patterns on your shirts, ties and handkerchiefs as long as they are not too bold. If done rightly, mixing different patterns and adding contrasting and complementing colors can help you add a more personal touch to your attire.

Rule #3: Never Underdress

Never UnderdressThis is, by far, the most fatal mistake many men commit when dressing for semi formal events. They believe that wearing a polo shirt is acceptable for semi formal events. Another idea that has worked its way into common knowledge is that jeans and khaki pants are acceptable for such events. These are definitely not true. Polo shirts, jeans and khaki pants considered acceptable for a semi formal event is nothing but a fallacy.

Another fashion faux pas many men commit is wearing sports coats to a semi formal event. Consider the fact that they are woefully out of place if the event is strictly semi formal. You can, however, wear a sports coat if the event you’re attending is an afternoon outdoor luncheon.

Sports coats essentially fall under the category of business casual or semi casual attire; a suit is therefore a better choice when in doubt. You can alternatively wear a blazer, especially if you are dressing for a daytime outdoor event.

How to Dress for Daytime Semi Formal Events

  • afternoon-semi-formal-dressIf it is a daytime event, stay away from looking too formal. The following are a few options to explore:
  • Combine a pair of dark blue trousers with a light-colored blazer and a solid/colored patterned shirt.
  • Wear black leather shoes and if you want to top it off with a tie, keep it slim.
  • Though you can wear lavender suits, cream, beige or tan suits are better options for daytime events.
  • If keeping the suit and your dress shirt simple, add a dash of texture and color with your tie to make a statement.
  • Add flair to your semi formal attire with pocket squares.

How to Dress for Evening Semi Formal Events

good-guy-swag-semi-formal-eveningThe later the event is, the darker and dressier your suit should be!

This is one of the Golden Rules you must follow when dressing for evening events. Combine the dark suit with a lighter shade shirt. You can even wear cufflinks along with a tie and a pair of laced up dress shoes.


Semi formal is a flexible dress code. As a result, there is enough room for experimenting with your look. Do whatever you like but don’t underdress. If you are caught between two items, it is better to err on the side of the one that’s more formal. Don’t worry about being overdressed; you can always tone down your look by simply removing the tie.


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