Semi-formal attire for men: The ultimate style guide

Semi-formal attire for men: The ultimate style guide

Do you have an invite for a wedding, cocktail party, or business meeting and want to dress nice but not too fancy? Then, this guide is your secret weapon to achieving that look. It can be confusing to style and differentiate between formal and semi-formal wear as they are found in everybody's wardrobe. Semi-formal attire for men makes you look sharp, feel confident, and keep cool.

Semi-formal attire for men
Semi-formal attire for men. Photo: @menslaw on Instagram (modified by author)
Source: UGC


Modern fashion requires men and women to follow dress codes determined by the time, type, and place of event. Whenever you hear semi-formal, think blazers that do not make you feel like a banker, trousers that do not suffocate your ankles, and accessories that add a pop of personality.

What is semi-formal?

Semi-formal or half-dress is a dress code that is less formal than black tie but dressier than casual wear. In The Knot, Ranu Coleman of wedding brand Azazie said, "Semi-formal falls in the gray area between casual and formal." It is appropriate for weddings, upscale events, dinner parties, and certain business occasions.

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What is a semi-formal attire for men?

Semi-formal attire for men balances casual and formal wear, creating a polished yet not overly formal look. This includes a well-fitted suit or blazer paired with dress pants and a button-down shirt. Dress shoes and a matching belt complete the ensemble.

This attire allows for personal style with accessories while ensuring a sophisticated appearance. The goal is to look elegant and comfortable without reaching the level of a tuxedo or black-tie outfit.

What is the history of semi-formal attire?

Semi-formal attire for men dates back to the late 19th century when Prince Edward, Prince of Wales, sought a more comfortable alternative to the swallowtail coat for dinner events. His tailors later created a suit that became the predecessor to modern semi-formal menswear.

Semi-formally dressed men
Semi-formally dressed men. Photo: @menslaw on Instagram (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Semi-formal vs formal

Formal attire is stricter and more traditional. It is often required for weddings, galas, or opera nights and involves dark suits, tuxedos, and ties. Semi-formal attire is more flexible and suitable for weddings, parties, and business events, allowing more variation in colour, pattern, and accessories.

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Here is a quick breakdown of the main differences between semi-formal and formal attire for men:

Semi-formalFormal dress
Dress pants or chinosFull suit (pants and jacket) or tuxedo
Any colour/style of a dress shirt with a collarWhite dress shirt with a collar
Optional blazer, suit, or sports coatTie or bow tie
Dress shoes (Loafers, brogues and derby shoes)Black dress shoes or sleek leather oxfords
Simple accessories like a belt, suspenders, cufflinks, pocket square and watchAccessories like cufflinks, belts, waistcoats, and watches (No flashy accessories)

What are examples of semi-formal attire?

Below are some semi-formal men's outfit ideas:

  • Simple dark suit complemented by a white shirt and brown loafers.
  • Plaid shirt with black dress pants;
  • Bold black suit with a matching tie;
  • Well-fitted cotton blazer over a white t-shirt, navy blue blazers, and denim jeans;
  • Printed dress shirt paired with black pants or burgundy chinos;
  • Pinstriped jacket with plain suit pants and sneakers;
  • Classic white button-up shirt, black pants, and loafers;
  • Checked shirt styled with khaki pants;
  • Shirt and tie combination with a sweater.

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What is the dress code for a semi-formal event?

Here are guidelines on how to style semi-formal dress for men, enabling you to make a fashion statement at the event.

Jacket and shirt selection

Jacket and shirt selection idea
Jacket and shirt selection idea. Photo: @menslaw on Instagram (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Men can pair dress pants with a suit jacket, blazer, or sport coat. Suits in darker shades provide versatility, while jackets in different hues like navy or burgundy add flair. Notably, dress shirts should complement the suit, with light-coloured options like white or pastels suitable.

Accessories and footwear

Ties should complement the shirt, while belts and pocket squares should match the attire. Shoes like oxfords or loafers in black or brown leather complete the look. Also, avoid overdoing accessories and go for minimal, tasteful additions like cufflinks or a wristwatch.

Additional tips

Remember to choose appropriate dress pants, such as slacks, khakis, or chinos, depending on the event's formality and time of day. Keep shirts buttoned up and tucked in for a polished appearance.

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Summer semi-formal attire

Lightweight suits
Lightweight suits. Photo: @menslaw, @menslaw on Instagram (modified by author)
Source: UGC

The weather is also a factor to consider while styling your semi-formal outfit. So, for summer, you can choose lightweight fabrics and breathable clothing. Also, think linen or seersucker suits in beige or light blue paired with a white shirt and a colourful tie. For your footwear, loafers or suede shoes ensure both style and comfort under the sun.

What is semi-formal attire for a wedding?

Semi-formal wedding attire for men involves a tailored suit in neutral or classic shades like navy or charcoal paired with a dress shirt, tie, and leather dress shoes. For daytime, opt for lighter shades like pale grey, while darker hues like pewter or charcoal are suitable for the evening reception.

Are jeans semi-formal?

They are casual wear. But then, can you wear jeans in semi-formal? Jeans are best reserved for casual settings. However, darker jeans might be acceptable for certain occasions, so it is safer to avoid them altogether.

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Suit on jeans
Suit on jeans. Photo: @darius_rushwilliams, @wuzilong_giovanni on Instagram (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Do men have to wear a tie for semi-formal?

Ties are optional but can elevate your look, especially for evening outings. So it is advisable to wear a thin, simple tie to add style without being too flashy.

Are polo shirts semi-formal?

They are not semi-formal attire but can be appropriate for semi-formal occasions. For example, pair a dark, well-fitted polo with a blazer and tailored trousers to achieve a smart, fancy, relaxed look.

Do you need a suit jacket for semi-formal?

A suit jacket is optional for semi-formal clothes. While it can enhance the look, it's not a necessity. A sports coat or blazer offers a polished appearance without the formality of a full suit.

Selecting semi-formal attire for men is relatively easy if you follow the above-mentioned guidelines. Know the right colour of pants, shoes, jackets, and accessories to avoid fashion chaos.

READ ALSO: Tuxedo vs suit: Essential differences and when to wear

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As published on Briefly, the age-old debate of tuxedo vs suit often arises when discussing formal attire. Understanding the key differences between these two classic options can assist you in making the right choice for any occasion.

Tuxedos and suits, with roots dating back to the early 19th century, have remained timeless for formal occasions. They symbolise elegance, from prestigious events like the Oscars to weddings and corporate gatherings.

Source: Briefly News

Favour Adeaga avatar

Favour Adeaga (Lifestyle writer) Dr. Favour Adeaga is an author, speaker, and coach. He graduated with a degree in Mass Communication from The Polytechnic, Ibadan, Nigeria. He did his internship at The Nation Newspaper and taught diploma students in Newspaper and Magazine courses at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi. He has curated the facts and life hacks category since 2018. Dr Favour is the author of several books available on Amazon. He currently lives in Nigeria. Email:

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