Understanding Men’s Dress Codes: What to Wear for Different Occasions

men fashion

Men’s fashion can be confusing sometimes. While fashion trends come and go, men’s dress codes is tied to long-standing traditions with rules and expectations that are often obscure. Discover four tips for selecting when to wear what types of clothing and why some fashion expressions make men’s couture a little more accessible.

Business Attire

Obviously, you should dress up for business situations, but what many people consider “dressing up” has changed during the last few decades. Men such as Steve Jobs and Larry David have altered what is considered acceptable business attire, but these changes are more limited than they may seem. For example, it’s fine to wear a tie when you have an important business meeting, but wearing a suit or tie is frowned upon in certain industries because executives may feel upstaged. When you’re uncertain, it is better to be overdressed; you can always remove your tie or sport coat to fit in.

Business Casual

You see this dress code at businesses such as tech companies. It is also favored by Hollywood executives and producers and in other, primarily youth-oriented, industries. Depending on where you work, blue jeans may be discouraged and you may still be expected to wear dress shoes. Khakis and a buttoned shirt, generally without a tie, typically define business casual. The style of the shirt dictates whether or not you should tuck it in, as either a tucked or untucked shirt is acceptable.


“Casual” refers to everyday wear — how we all dress outside of work when we’re running errands, lounging around the house, or enjoying occasions when we’re not expected to be dressed in any specific fashion. A T-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes are typical items of casual dress. In many cases, a sweater or change of footwear is all you need to “class it up.” Unless you personally prefer otherwise, shirts are left untucked for comfort. In fact, unless you have a habit of wearing button-down shirts around the house, almost all casual shirts are no-tuck shirts.

Formal Wear

Many men shy away from formal wear, which is a shame because it can be fun to dress up once in a while. Men may have few reasons to own their own tuxedos, but every man should have at least one good suit. A three-piece suit is appropriate for many “semi-formal” (“black-tie”) occasions. The trick to formal wear is literally in the details. Accessories such as cufflinks, tie pins, and the right shoes are what people notice — unless you choose an unusually colored tuxedo (which you probably shouldn’t). Shirts made for formal wear are always meant to be tucked in.

While men’s fashion has trends like any other area of life, conventions related to attire rarely change. Inappropriate attire is often overlooked except in situations where a specific style is expected. Funerals, weddings, and job interviews are examples of occasions when casual dress is unacceptable. When in doubt, check online, wear nice shoes and khakis, and keep that shirt tucked in.