Semi-Formal Attire for Men | A Full Guide to a Great Appearance

semi formal attire men

Updated by Sonia Su

Semi-formal attire for men consists of suits, but they may not be the same as your usual business suit. These types of clothes include wearing a tie and optional pocket square and dress shirt with dark dress pants, slacks, or dark jeans. This is considered semi-formal men's attire because the person may not be wearing a suit jacket, but it is much more formal than your usual tee shirt and jeans.

In addition to this guide for a semi-formal event, we have other guides covering various dress codes like black tie optional, cocktail attire, smart casualwhite tie, business casual, black tie wedding and more.


What is Semi-Formal Attire?

So, what does semi-formal attire mean exactly? Semi-formal event attire is wearing a suit but not adhering strictly to business wear conventions such as wearing the same color tie as the jacket or similarly colored dress shoes.

It is a term that originated in the 19th century to describe wealthy men who wore a grey or light-colored dress shirt and suits to social events instead of a traditional black suit.

Grey Suit

A semi-formal suit is typically single-breasted or double-breasted with a notch lapel. Make sure it fits well or get your suit tailored for a better fit. While many men choose to wear an entire length pant leg and opt for standard leather shoes, others prefer to roll their pant legs up just below the knee or even wear dark denim jeans to complete the look.

How to Dress for a Semi-Formal Event

When deciding how to dress for a semi-formal event, it is essential to consider the formality of the occasion. For example, if you are attending a wedding or perhaps an awards ceremony at your local college, this would be considered a formal social event where a white slim fit dress shirt might work best and therefore requires dressing in formal attire.

slim fit white dress shirt

On the other hand, if you are attending a semi-formal summer wedding, this event is somewhere between formal and casual. It may be more appropriate for these occasions to choose either a dark-colored suit or one with some color but slightly on the formal side, such as wearing a blue suit with a black shirt to create a unique style. These are just a few semi formal examples.

semi formal mens attire and dress code infographic from nimble made

Semi-Formal Pants

Semi-formal pants refer to trousers that are a step up from casual wear but not as formal as those worn in black-tie events. These pants often include dress slacks made from finer materials such as wool, cotton blends, or other high-quality fabrics. They usually have a tailored fit, with a straight or slightly tapered leg, and may come in various colors such as black, navy, gray, or even lighter shades like khaki or beige.

Dress pants fit

For men, semi-formal pants typically feature clean lines, minimal embellishments, and may be accompanied by a matching jacket or blazer for a more polished look. They're versatile enough to be paired with a shirt and tie for a more formal appearance or combined with a more casual shirt for a slightly relaxed yet sophisticated style. These pants strike a balance between the formality required for certain events while allowing for a touch of personal style and comfort.

In general, jeans are not considered appropriate for a semi-formal outfit. Semi-formal dress codes typically call for more polished and refined clothing, such as a suit or dress trousers paired with a dress shirt, tie, and dress shoes for men. Jeans, being more casual in nature, do not align with the level of formality expected for semi-formal occasions.

However, some events might have a slightly relaxed interpretation of semi-formal attire, allowing for creative flexibility. In such cases, very dark, well-fitted jeans could be considered if paired with a tailored blazer, a dress shirt, and shoes. It's essential to gauge the specific requirements of the event and the level of formality expected before opting for jeans in a semi-formal setting. When in doubt, it's best to opt for traditional semi-formal attire to ensure appropriateness for the occasion.


Semi-Formal Shoes

Semi-formal shoes for men encompass a range of options that strike a balance between casual and formal footwear. Classic choices for semi-formal occasions include dress shoes such as loafers, oxfords, or brogues. Loafers are a versatile option, available in various materials like leather or suede, providing comfort and elegance. Oxfords, known for their closed lacing system and sleek design, offer a polished look suitable for semi-formal events. Brogues, distinguished by their decorative perforations, add a touch of style while maintaining a semi-formal appeal. These shoes typically come in neutral colors like black, brown, or tan, allowing for easy pairing with different outfits.

Leather dress shoes

Moreover, dress boots can also be a suitable choice for semi-formal attire, especially in colder weather or more casual settings. Chelsea boots or chukka boots in leather or suede can complement semi-formal outfits, offering a trendy yet refined look. Regardless of the style chosen, ensuring the shoes are well-maintained, polished, and coordinated with the overall attire is key to achieving a cohesive and sophisticated semi-formal outfit.


Semi-Formal Suit

A semi-formal suit for men is a versatile ensemble that exudes elegance without being overly formal. It usually consists of a tailored jacket paired with dress pants, presenting a refined yet slightly relaxed appearance compared to a full formal suit. The jacket is typically a dark color such as navy, charcoal, or black, and it can be single-breasted or double-breasted, depending on personal style. While a full suit can be worn, the semi-formal aspect allows for some flexibility in mixing and matching pieces.

Blue bow tie suit

This type of suit is often complemented by a dress shirt in a coordinating color or pattern, providing a polished and put-together look. Accessories like a tie, pocket square, or bowtie can be added to elevate the outfit, though they might not always be necessary for a semi-formal occasion. The key to a semi-formal suit is its ability to blend sophistication with a touch of individual style, allowing wearers to present themselves confidently and appropriately for various events that call for semi-formal attire.


Semi-Formal Attire Accessories

A few men's semi-formal attire accessories that you might want to consider when wearing a suit are bow ties, vests, and suspenders. A Bow tie is popular among men who prefer to wear more formal attire for semi-formal events. Suspenders can be worn by themselves or in combination with a vest. Here are two guides on how to tie a bow tie and how to wear suspenders. Vests are similar to blazers in the sense that they have a pocket on the outside.

A wristwatch can also be an excellent accessory to complete your semi-formal outfits for men. Wear a dress watch to complete your semi-formal style, but avoid adding additional bracelets or plastic watches since it could lower your formality.


A pocket square could also be a great addition. Browse Nimble Made's pocket squares, including this dark navy polka dot pocket square and pink floral pocket square.

It is also essential to consider what types of shoes you should wear when wearing semi-formal attire at semi formal events. While many men prefer to wear a dress shoe with a formal suit, you might want to consider wearing oxfords instead. Oxfords are shoes that have laces and are typically worn by men who play sports such as golf because the shoes provide extra grip and support when hitting the ball.

You can add brogues to any semi-formal look because they have a unique design with perforations.

Choosing Your Semi-Formal Attire

Choosing the proper semi-formal attire is more of an art than a science because it depends on what type of event you will be attending and your style is for formal mens wear. Regardless of whether you choose to wear a suit or something along the lines of jeans and a slim fitting dress shirt, there are many factors that you should consider when choosing your clothes for any semi-formal event.

Your Style

One factor to consider when choosing clothes is your style. While you might find it flattering to wear darker, more standard colors, this type of attire may not be suitable for your event. If you would like to look at alternatives such as casual dress shirts or blazers with jeans, many options are available to you.

The Occasion

Another factor that will determine what type of outfit you should wear is the occasion. For example, if you are attending a wedding or other function during the daytime, it might be more appropriate to err on the side of formality and choose a suit in either a dark color such as black or navy blue. However, if the event occurs during nighttime hours, you might want to consider wearing something less formal, like a dark pair of jeans.


The Weather

Another factor that should influence your choice is the weather. If it were warm at the semi-formal event, it would be a good idea to choose lighter colors such as blue and white. However, if the weather is cold on that day, you might want to wear darker colors such as charcoal grey or black instead. Choosing your attire based on the weather forecast will ensure that your clothes fit in with what others are wearing and keep you comfortable throughout the day.

Light semi-formal attire

Time of the Day

Finally, it would be best to consider what time of day the semi-formal event will take place. Choosing your semi-formal attire based on the time of day that the event occurs can help you fit in with others and help you stay comfortable throughout the day. For example, if you plan to attend a wedding that occurs as an evening event, it would be a good idea to choose clothes such as dark dress pants and a dress shirt instead of jeans and a polo shirt.

Semi-Formal Attire Ideas

When it comes to semi-formal attire, you have many different options available. This type of clothing ranges from a suit and tie to a pair of dress pants and a dress shirt with or without a blazer, depending on the occasion. Regardless of what type of clothing you choose, the most important thing is that it fits in with others who have been invited to the occasion and matches the event you will be attending. If you'd like some inspiration, try wearing a black suit with a blue shirt for a clean and stylish look, and also check out our guide on how to dress like a man.


Standard Semi-Formal

One of the most basic types of semi-formal attire is a suit. By choosing this type of outfit, you will be dressed appropriately for almost any kind of occasion that occurs during the daytime or evening hours. For example, if you attend an event such as a wedding or dinner party at night, you can choose dress pants and a dress shirt with or without a blazer. This bestselling semi-formal white dress shirt has sold out over 8x from Nimble Made:

If it is daytime, you can choose to wear a suit instead of pants and a dress shirt for an even more formal look.

Here's a separate guide on semi-formal vs formal dress codes and a few guides on how to match and wear blue suit with brown shoes, black suit with brown shoes, or grey pants with brown shoes

Casual Semi-Formal

These are our favorite casual dress shirts from Nimble Made.

Another smart option for so-called semi-formal is to wear jeans with either a casual dress shirt or sweater instead of a blazer. This type of attire is appropriate for casual occasions such as a dinner party, gathering during the day, or casual wedding dress codes. Here is a guide on wearing a turtleneck with a suit.

Semi-Formal Attire vs Formal Attire

Semi-formal attire for men falls between formal and casual wear. Semi-formal typically includes a suit that can be less formal than a full tuxedo or traditional formal wear. A typical outfit for a semi-formal event might consist of a tailored suit (often in darker colors), a dress shirt, optional tie or bowtie, pocket square, and dress shoes. This attire offers some flexibility in terms of accessories and allows for personal style while maintaining a polished and elegant appearance.

On the other hand, formal attire for men usually refers to a more stringent dress code that demands a traditional tuxedo or a formal suit in darker colors such as black or dark navy. Formal attire mandates specific attire elements, including a black or midnight navy blue tuxedo jacket, matching trousers with a satin stripe, a white dress shirt, a formal waistcoat or cummerbund, a bowtie, pocket square, and black formal shoes. A formal dress code is typically reserved for highly formal events like weddings, galas, or prestigious ceremonies where a higher level of formal attire is expected and adhered to more strictly compared to semi-formal events.

Dos and Don'ts of Semi-Formal Attire

Dos of Semi-Formal Men's Attire:

  1. Wear a Well-Fitted Suit: Opt for a well-tailored suit in dark colors like navy, charcoal, or black, ensuring it fits properly for a polished look.
    Black suit
  2. Choose Appropriate Footwear: Wear dress shoes that complement your outfit, such as oxfords or loafers, and ensure they are clean and well-polished.
  3. Accessorize Thoughtfully: Add subtle accessories like a tie or bowtie, pocket square, cufflinks, or a watch to enhance your look without overpowering it.
  4. Maintain Proper Grooming: Pay attention to grooming details like a neat haircut, trimmed nails, and a clean-shaven or well-groomed appearance.
  5. Follow Event Dress Codes: Adhere to the specific dress code requirements of the event, balancing personal style within the semi-formal boundaries.

Don'ts of Semi-Formal Men's Attire:

  1. Avoid Overly Casual Clothing: Steer clear of overly casual items such as jeans, t-shirts, or sneakers, as they don't align with a semi-formal outfit.
  2. Don't Overdo Accessories: While accessories can enhance your outfit, avoid excessive or flashy pieces that distract from the overall look.
  3. Avoid Ill-Fitted Clothing: Ill-fitted suits or clothing that is too tight or too loose can detract from a polished appearance, so ensure your attire fits properly.
  4. Skip Loud or Casual Prints: Avoid loud or extremely casual patterns and opt for more classic, subdued choices in clothing and accessories.
  5. Neglecting Personal Grooming: Neglecting grooming aspects like unkempt hair, scruffy facial hair, or untidy attire can detract from a well-executed semi-formal outfit.

Conclusion to Semi-Formal Men's Attire

Mastering semi-formal attire for men involves a balance of sophistication, personal style, and adherence to the occasion.

Whether attending a semi-formal gathering, a cocktail party, or a special occasion, selecting a well-fitted suit, complemented by appropriate accessories and proper grooming, is key.

Understanding the nuances of semi-formal attire allows individuals to exude confidence while presenting a refined and polished appearance. By following these guidelines and incorporating individual flair within the boundaries of semi-formal dress, men can confidently navigate various events with style and grace.

Ultimately, the art of semi-formal attire lies in its ability to project elegance while allowing for a touch of personal expression, making a lasting impression on any occasion.


Frequently Asked Questions about What is Semi-Formal for Men

What is a semi-formal dress code for guys?

Semi-formal mens attire typically involve wearing a suit, often without a tie. This could mean pairing dress pants with a blazer or sports jacket and a collared dress shirt. While it's less formal than black-tie attire, it still requires a polished and refined look suitable for a semi-formal occasion such as weddings, dinners, or cocktail parties.

What's considered semi-formal attire for men?

Semi-formal mens attire typically includes a suit or a sport coat paired with dress pants, a button-up shirt, and a tie. Alternatively, a formal dark suit like navy blue without a tie can also be appropriate for semi-formal events. It strikes a balance between casual and formal, offering a polished yet relaxed appearance suitable for various occasions.

What is semi-formal attire for men 2023?

Semi-formal mens attire in 2023 typically consists of a tailored suit in versatile colors like navy blue, charcoal, or dark shades, paired with a dress shirt and a tie or a stylish turtleneck. Alternatively, a blazer or sports jacket worn with dress trousers or chinos and a button-down shirt can also constitute a semi-formal look, often accompanied by dress shoes or clean, fashionable sneakers depending on the occasion's formality. Accessories like a pocket square, watch, and a well-coordinated belt contribute to completing the ensemble.

What is semi-formal dress code for boys?

Similar to semi-formal attire for men, semi-formal clothing for boys typically involve wearing a suit, which could include dress pants, a dress shirt, and a blazer or sports jacket. Ties are often worn but may be optional depending on the event. This strikes a balance between formal and casual attire, allowing some flexibility while maintaining a polished and sophisticated look.

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