Menswear Memo: How to Decipher Holiday Party Dress Codes

Words by Candace Longfellow | 12.7.16
Party season is now in full swing. From ugly sweater parties to New Year’s Eve galas, you’ve no doubt received piles of invitations to holiday soirees, requesting the honor of your presence — and telling you what to wear. These days, it’s not just a question of formal or casual; whether it’s “creative black tie” or “business casual,” there are shades of grey to every category. With that in mind, we’ve crafted our own  handy guide to demystifying modern dress codes with tips on how to look your best on the holiday party circuit.
Semi-Formal (For The Fancy Fête)
menswear memo: how to decipher holiday party dress codes

Tom Ford Three-Piece Suit, $995; Brioni Button-Up, $95; Lanvin Velvet Bow Tie, $45; Valentino Pocket Square, $65; Christian Louboutin Loafers, $725


While “black tie optional” is really just a thinly veiled request that you wear a tuxedo, a semi-formal dress code is slightly more lax. For a fancy New Year’s Eve party or an evening at the ballet, opt for a matching colored suit, polished dress shoes and formal accessories like a pocket square and bow tie — go with velvet for an especially festive feel.
Smart Casual (For The Office Function)

menswear memo: how to decipher holiday party dress codes

Comme des Garçons Button-Up $75; Alexander McQueen Silk Tie, $65; Burberry Leather Jacket, $1,525; Bally Messenger Bag, $355; Thom Browne Boots, $825


Master “smart casual” with the right mix of refined and laid-back pieces. For an after-hours work party, swap your usual blazer for a cool leather moto jacket and trade your oxfords for a rugged pair of lace-up boots to offset the more traditional button-up and tie. Once you’re there, if you feel overdressed, you can always lose the neckwear.
Festive Attire (For The Cocktail Bash)

Tom Ford Blazer, $995; Prada Belt, $145; Roberto Cavalli Smoking Slippers, $275; Calvin Klein Pants, $50

When it comes to festive dress codes, cocktail attire is expected, but make sure to add a fun holiday twist by incorporating seasonal pops of color and experimenting with patterns. Ditch your usual solid-colored suit and try something a bit more unexpected like a dark gingham blazer and embroidered velvet slippers in rich jewel tones.
Come As You Are (To The Not-So-Ugly Sweater Party)
menswear memo: how to decipher holiday party dress codes

Givenchy Shirt, $345; Illesteva Sunglasses, $145; Gucci Denim Jacket, $400; Tom Ford Boots, $895


Also referred to as “casual” or “informal,” this is of course the loosest dress code of them all, but that doesn’t mean you should show up in gym shorts and a ratty t-shirt. Be the best dressed guest at your next white elephant exchange with a plaid button-up in holiday colors and a sharp dark denim jacket.

Ready to own the holiday circuit? Shop our edit of men’s party looks here.

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