Cracking the work function dress code. A quick guide for the men…

As a bloke, you tend to have it pretty easy when it comes to nailing the work function dress code – all you need is a suit right? Unfortunately, it is not that simple and turning up in inappropriate attire can have a negative impact on your ‘personal brand’, whether you are aware of it or not.  

Furthermore, navigating the right thing to wear can be made all the more difficult when it is not clearly stated on an invitation, and even if it is, what is ‘smart casual’ anyway?

Here we help you breakdown the myriad of dress codes out there and the typical type of event  you might find them, so you can confidently understand “the dress code”.

Black tie

Black tie is the most formal kind of event and tends to be linked to fundraiser balls, gala dinners, awards nights and weddings. A black dinner suit with white shirt and either a bow tie or black neck tie is the safest option (unless you are scottish and own a kilt). If the dress code states formal and is held in the evening, a dinner suit with a neck tie is appropriate. You will score extra brownie points if you also throw in a cummerbund.


Cocktail dress, for men, is related more to the type of event than the style of dress.  A formal cocktail party will require a black or dark suit, a white shirt and a tie. If the event is straight after work, a business suit & tie is acceptable, just make sure it doesn’t contain evidence of your lunch.

Lounge suit

The lounge suit is the most appropriate for day time functions, receptions and weddings, and is often the default dress code for fancy events (excluding balls, gala’s or a formal) that have no stated dress code. A lounge suit is made from a lighter fabric weight than the more formal suit, and often comes in tones such as grey, navy and taupe coloured suits. Wear with a shirt and tie.

Smart casual

Smart casual is an oxymoron and as a result can be fraught with danger for the uneducated. The simple rule to remember is that “it should be fine if it needs an iron”. Casual Friday in the office, work conferences and social events often state smart casual on the invitation, it’s often seen as the most flexible dress code but for men, it can be a nightmare. As a rule chinos, very smart shorts or jeans teamed with a collared shirt and smart clean canvas shoes or tan leather lace ups are the safest bet. If you are really stuck, think about what you would wear to play a round of golf at the most expensive golf course in the world (minus the plaid).

Men, if you think you have it tough, click here to read our advise to the ladies. What is the dress code? A guide for ladies…


Image Credits: Shutterstock

About Zena Churchill

Zena Churchill is a Director at Max & Buddy Consulting. She has worked in senior level business roles across national and multinational corporations, as well as being a small business owner. Zena is a strategic thinker and brings a practical, straight-forward approach to marketing and social media. She has a passion for training & development running practical business workshops for small business. Zena is a Certified Practising Marketer (AMI), sometimes tutors in Marketing at the University of Wollongong and is a Senior Consultant with Trinity P3.

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