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A Man’s Guide To Confusing Dress Code Terms


Wear what now?

Every self respecting man has been here. You’ve been called upon to represent at an important after work event with some of the company’s biggest clients. You’ve got your spiel, banter and charm on trigger…and then you look at the official invite. ‘Dress: Summer Chic’.

Rock, meet Hard Place. And also, what the hell is ‘Summer Chic’? Fear no more you stylishly resilient bastard. This is your one-stop guide to all of man’s most pressing issues in the world of style and fashion terms. Pay attention and you may never need to fall short of dressing a fool for a social gathering again.

Cocktail/Black Tie

The term ‘cocktail’ for a man is all about dressing formal and dapper. That means a suit, tie, a nice watch and no baggy tees or jeans.

Summer Chic

This is fancy speak for classy summer attire. Think a linen garments or chinos paired with a nice shirt with a sports jacket. Brighter colours are also permitted to reflect the season.


This one is also commonly known as ‘informal’ and means you have free reigns over what you wear. Do keep in mind what company you’re with though as rocking up in your PJs and Crocs is a big no-no in any soiree.

Smart Casual

Keep it cool, keep it clean. For men, that means dressing up in fitted chinos, trousers or jeans paired with a blazer. Polo shirts or dress shirts are also permissible in this scenario as are white leather sneakers (think Stan Smiths) or dress shoes.

Business Formal

As the name suggests, this look is no play, all work so leave those ties on for now. The dress code is designated for business lunches and conferences so bright and loud colours should also be avoided in suits (unless you’re a drug lord holding a meeting). Conservatively patterned ties are also fine and be sure to wear a watch and don’t over do it with the accessories. You’re going to a business meeting not to get wasted at a horse race. Shoes should also be polished.


Think breton striped tops, lighter shades of navy paired with white or lighter coloured pants. Boat shoes or loafers are highly recommended. Throw in a pair of classic sunnies to complete the dress code.

Beach Formal

Think wedding in Hawaii and you’re on the right track. A linen suit or lightweight suit in brighter colours will suffice.


Do not dress to party like it’s 1999. Festive takes the cocktail dresscode but adds a splash of colour without diluting the formalities. In other words, leave Nan’s knitted x-mas sweater at home.

Black Tie Optional

Think of this look as slightly less formal than Black Tie. It infers that a tuxedo isn’t necessary but a darker suit with a tie is to retain the classy atmosphere. As it is still a formal night time event, keep the bright colours at home and be sure to wear a classic watch.

Creative Black Tie 

This one is where the Black Tie gets a bit loose with the option of more colour and patterns across the garments. Tuxedos are still the go here but with a bit less restraint in terms of hue.

White Tie

This one’s a rare one but when you do see it, make sure you’ve prepared. It’s a step above Black Tie making it the ultra formal dress code. Think Golden Globes awards night and you’re on track. White bow ties, black coat with tails, a vest and dress shirt are all mandatory requirements here.


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