Semi Formal Dress Code For Men: Our Full Guide With Outfit Ideas And Inspiration

Step into your next special occasion knowing the rules of sartorial engagement

Semi Formal Dress Code For Men: Our Full Guide With Outfit Ideas And Inspiration

Semi-formal is another of those enigmatic dress codes that need untangling. We explain what it is, what to wear, and where to get it.

Once upon a more sartorially inclined time, men regularly attended events at which black tie and white tie were worn. In those more decorous days, formal meant white tie and tails while semi-formal referred to dinner clothes, tuxedos and other iterations of black tie.

Fortunately, such uptight days are behind us. Now, both formal and semi-formal are a lot less formal than they used to be, but this change of standards has left many confused as to what ‘semi-formal’ actually means.

Fear not: we’ve compiled this comprehensive guide of what ‘semi-formal’ means, what you need to wear and even some recommendations on where to buy your key semi-formal pieces.

Short For Time? Here’s What You Need To Know

What is the ‘semi formal’ dress code for men?
Either a suit or a blazer with shirt, trousers, and maybe a tie. It’s smarter than smart-casual but less formal than black tie. It’s less colourful than cocktail attire but more colourful than black tie.
Is ‘smart casual’ the same as ‘semi formal’? What is the difference?
No, semi-formal is a little smarter than smart-casual. Focusing on darker, business-friendly colours is an easy way to distinguish between the two.
What is semi-formal in Australia and hot weather?
Suits or blazers with a shirt and trousers are still the mainstays, but lighter fabrics like linen and lighter colours will be more acceptable and commonplace.
Is a sport jacket semi-formal?
Yes, a sports jacket/blazer with a shirt and trousers is fine, just keep the colours business-friendly and save the colours for ‘cocktail attire’.
Do men need to wear a suit jacket for a semi formal wedding?
Yes, either a blazer with trousers or, ideally, a full suit.
Is a polo shirt considered semi-formal?
Not really. You could probably get away with a polo under a smart blazer/suit, but a shirt is preferable.
Can a jean jacket be semi-formal?
Can I wear a hoodie for semi-formal?
Are chinos semi-formal?
Yes, dark chinos with a smart blazer are OK for semi-formal.
What is too casual for semi-formal?
Jeans, trainers, and T-shirts are all off-limits.

What Is The Semi Formal Dress Code?

Difference Between Formal And Semi Formal

The main difference between formal and semi-formal can also be likened to the difference between formal vs black tie. Formal dress refers to a two or three-piece suit, with a shirt and tie. Black tie is far more specific: a tailless jacket, black cummerbund or waistcoat, and a black bow tie.

At its most basic, contemporary formal dress generally encompasses both white tie and black tie dress codes. Semi-formal, as the name implies, is slightly more relaxed – think a dark suit and a tie, or anything you’d refer to as “cocktail” dress.

Get To Know Men’s Semi-Formal Attire


A tuxedo would not be appropriate for a semi-formal event, but it’s still important to remain elegant, sophisticated and neat. A dark suit and tie are expected for semi-formal events in the evening. During daytime semi-formal events, lighter suits are acceptable (but keep shirts and ties towards the conservative end of the spectrum). Shoes should remain dressy and accessories, like pocket squares and wristwatches, should be understated.

At the end of the day, there’s one DO that matters more than anything else: if you’re ever unsure of what your host expects, do ask. You can rest assured that you’ll look the part, and they’ll appreciate your effort to get it right. Other than that, these do’s and don’ts will get you by:

Semi Formal Do’s & Don’ts


Do wear the right suit.

A tuxedo is too much. A summer seersucker suit is too little. A dark wool, gabardine or cashmere suit is just right. If the event takes place during the day, a lighter suit is an option.

Don’t be afraid to ditch the tie.

These days, it’s ok to go tie-less at semi-formal events. If you prefer the polished look that a tie provides, steer clear of anything too loud. Save the novelty neckwear for your office Christmas parties.

Don’t underdress.

Note that semi-formal still includes the word “formal”. Dress accordingly. Khakis, jeans and shorts have no place at semi-formal events. Neither do polo shirts. Neither do sneakers. You get the picture.

But do follow the Golden Rule.

When in doubt, it’s better to overdress than underdress. If you’re deciding between two items, err on the side of the more formal option. If you happen to show up to an event overdressed, you can de-formal-fy your outfit with little tricks like removing your tie.

So there you have it. Now you can boast to your far less fashion-savvy friends about the clear difference between formal and semi-formal. Remember, if you’ve been asked to rock up in formal attire, go for a tuxedo and don’t improvise or neglect the importance of fit.

If you’ve been asked to go semi-formal, however, dark suiting is your best bet for en evening event, while conservative lighter-coloured suiting is more appropriate for the day. Don’t be afraid to ditch the tie, but most importantly, have fun with your look and remember the golden rule: when in doubt, it’s better to overdress than underdress.

  • Blazers & Jackets
  • Casual Shirts
  • T-Shirts
  • Casual Pants & Jeans
  • Shorts
  • Shoe & Sneakers
  • Accessories
  • What The Fashion Experts Say About ‘Smart Casual For Men’
  • Some Classic Smart Casual Looks To Inspire Your Next Outfit