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Feb, 6 2024

How to Dress for a Summer Cocktail Party for Men

A bride and groom on the beach

You’re going to a summer party, and the dress code says “summer cocktail attire.” Men who attend such gatherings should wear a lightweight blazer, dress shirt, trousers, and shoes. In some cases, you may even dress down slightly and go to the event without a blazer, especially if it’s hot outside.

Those are just the basics, but men’s summer cocktail attire does allow for some customization.

Read on to learn what this dress code is all about and how to create a stunning yet fitting look.

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Understanding Cocktail Attire Dress Code

Summer cocktail apparel for a party determines the appropriate attire on two levels. The latter (cocktail apparel) is the most important aspect you need to understand. It’s a dress code that’s slightly less formal than white tie and black tie but a bit more formal than semi-formal looks.

To give you an example, a white-tie or black-tie outfit is characterized by a full tuxedo, which is too formal for cocktail events. So, instead of a tux, you can wear a full suit, dress shirt, and dress shoes.

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Then there’s the summer factor. This dress code element isn’t as strict as the other one, but it does indicate the colors you should wear to the occasion. You should opt for bright, vivid nuances rather than dark shades like black or navy blue.

So, when someone asks you, what is summer cocktail attire for a man, here’s what you should say: Cocktail attire for men is outfits that feature a full suit, shirt, and shoes in lively colors.

The Essentials of Summer Cocktail Attire

Knowing the definition of summer cocktail attire for men is great, but you could still use a few ideas to help you craft the right look. So, what should be your essentials when looking for appropriate cocktail attire for a wedding guest?

Here are the key components of standard men’s summer cocktail attire:

  • Blazer – If you want to look stunning at your summer cocktail party (a la Leonardo DiCaprio in The Aviator or Matthew Fassbender in The Counselor), a blazer will be the foundation of your apparel. Opt for cotton, linen, or other breathable fabrics to remain comfortable. Fit-wise, your sleeves should be between your thumb and wrist, and the lapels should have just enough space for your fist to go through.
  • Dress shirt – You can never go wrong with a linen shirt for a summer party. As for colors, yellow, white, and baby pink are perfectly fine. Also, make sure you can fit two fingers between the collar and neck to maintain comfort. The place where the sleeve meets the rest of the shirt should be large enough to prevent the twisting or tugging of your shoulder seam.
  • Trousers – To avoid looking uncoordinated, your trousers should be made of the same material as your blazer. Linen is again the go-to option. Chinos work brilliantly well at this time of the year, especially tan and gray ones. If you want more legroom, opt for a classic fit. Alternatively, go for a skinny fit for a tapered appearance.
  • Dress shoes – If the dress code were entirely casual, you might be able to don slip-ons and endure the heat more easily. However, for standard summer cocktail attire, Oxford shoes are the best option. They’re elegant but not as formal as, say, opera pumps, which are perfect for this occasion.

Note that we mentioned vivid, bright colors several times. The reason is simple – you’re attending a summer wedding. During this time of the year, everything around you has fully blossomed and is teeming with rich hues. Your apparel should produce the same effect.

This is also the main difference between winter and summer cocktail men’s attire. The winter alternative requires darker colors, such as black, navy blue, and burgundy.

The Casual Cocktail Look

A man in a beige suit

The term “cocktail attire” is broad, encompassing many different types of apparel. The one you might be most interested in is cocktail casual men’s fashion. What sets this dress code apart from traditional cocktail attire is that it’s less formal. You can dress down in a number of ways.

For example, most casual cocktail parties eliminate the need for a blazer. All it takes to blend in is a tucked-in dress shirt, chinos, and shoes. You might even be able to roll your sleeves if it’s a beach wedding or other types of less formal events.

Keep in mind that casual cocktail outfits are still different from regular casual apparel. On the one hand, a casual cocktail requires you to wear trousers (e.g., chinos), Oxfords or loafers, and a dress shirt or polo shirt. On the other hand, there are minimal requirements when attending a standard casual event. You can don almost anything, including jeans, slip-ons, and T-shirts.

The only thing that these two styles have in common is that neither requires you to put on a blazer or jacket.

The Semi-Formal Cocktail Look

A group of men posing in beige suits

Next up on our list of cocktail attire varieties is the cocktail semi-formal wedding attire. The formality level rises here slightly, meaning jeans like these worn by Justin Theroux or Justin Bieber would be breaking the rules.

What you should do instead is put on a full suit. Pair up a suit jacket with dress pants and leather dress shoes to create a sophisticated look that’s perfectly acceptable for this event. Remember – this still isn’t the all-formal realm, so don’t worry too much about renting a tuxedo.

In addition to a jacket, pants, and shoes, you should also wear a white shirt and red tie to elevate the look. If you’re not sure how to combine all the garments, here are a few suggestions:

  • Light blue jacket and trousers, brown shoes, brown belt, white shirt, red tie, red pocket square
  • Light gray jacket and trousers, brown shoes, brown belt, white shirt, red tie
  • Olive green jacket and trousers, brown shoes, brown belt, white shirt (omit the red tie here because it doesn’t work well with green)


A man tying his brown dress shoes

No men’s cocktail attire for hot weather is complete without footwear. As our in-house fashion expert puts it, “When everyone dresses down in summer, it is the magnificent shoe that catches the eye.”

Therefore, shoes can make or break your summer cocktail apparel, which is why it’s essential to choose the right model. If you’re attending an evening event, Oxfords might be the most appropriate solution. They’re elegant and somewhat more formal than loafers and slip-ons, which is exactly what you need for a nighttime occasion.

Another reason Oxfords are a solid pick is their convenient design. Chances are, you’ll spend at least two or three hours at the party. Oxfords are the perfect companion for nighttime celebrations due to their comfort and stability. They provide ample support for your heels, allowing you to dance all night without getting tired.

Alternatively, consider Chelsea boots for a nighttime summer cocktail party. These ankle-length boots are known for their elastic sides that give you comfort and stability. They also have a tab or loop on the back that let you easily put them on and take them off.

Since daytime summer parties are slightly less formal, you can replace Oxfords and Chelsea boots with loafers or moccasins. If you choose the latter, wear them with so-called invisible socks for moccasins. These go below your ankle and just above your toes. They prevent friction from the footwear while allowing your shoes to stand out due to their inconspicuous nature.


Once you select high-quality shoes, it’s time to turn your attention to accessories. Wearing them is important, but this doesn’t mean you should take just about anything. The two most common accessories are a pocket square and a dress watch, both of which should match the rest of your outfit.

However, when it comes to pocket squares in particular, the specific garment they should match is the shirt or blazer, not the tie. If it’s the same color as the tie, it’s considered distasteful and unsuitable for any occasion, including summer cocktail parties.

If you need inspiration for your pocket square, you can try some of the following combinations:

  • White shirt with light blue stripes, burgundy tie, light blue suit, and orange/blue pocket square
  • White shirt with light gray stripes, light blue tie, charcoal suit, and white pocket square with blue tops
  • Light blue shirt, burgundy tie, black suit, and light blue pocket square

As for the watch, you can rarely go wrong with silver. It’s extremely versatile since you can coordinate it with virtually any cocktail attire. It’s even better if it has metal straps because these add a subtle yet crucial touch of elegance.

Be wary of other watch colors. Two-tone (silver and gold) or purely gold watches are high-end, luxury options, but they’re typically worn at black-tie and white-tie events.

Navigating the Wedding Cocktail Hour

The celebration you’re preparing for might not be a regular party. Instead, you might be attending a wedding with a cocktail hour.

Thankfully, the rules are pretty much the same – consider the time and venue to figure out the appropriate outfit. For example, if it’s a daytime beach wedding, a linen shirt, jeans, and moccasins will do just fine. Indoor nighttime events call for slightly more formal attire, which features a full suit, dress shirt, and Oxfords.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Avoid the following if you want to dress correctly for a summer cocktail party:

  • Choosing colors that are too dark (e.g., black and navy blue)
  • Selecting the wrong fabric (e.g., polyester and velvet)
  • Overdressing with garments like a waistcoat and cummerbund
  • Underdressing with Bermuda shorts and slippers

Your Personal Style

Contrary to popular belief, you have some leeway when adding personal style to a cocktail outfit. There are many ways to do so:

  • Add plaid, check, or other patterns to your shirt
  • Choose a tailored slim-fit blazer
  • Opt for peak lapels

Pull Off a Breathtaking Summer Cocktail Look with a Rental Suit

A full generation tux box next to a plant and a chair

Unlike some other outfits, men’s summer cocktail attire is relatively easy to execute. Think in terms of vibrant colors and light, airy fabrics to fit in and stay comfortable.

And don’t forget that this dress code isn’t as strict as white tie or black tie. This means you can incorporate your personal style into the apparel and stand out.

Now that you know what to look for in your outfit, where do you find a suit for your summer party? There are countless stores that sell these garments, but the price is often too steep.

Rather than break the bank for your cocktail apparel, why not get a suit rental for a wedding? Generation Tux lets you do just that.

We have a curated collection of sleek suits and tuxedos for any event, including summer cocktail celebrations. Each fabric feels like it was made just for you, and the colors couldn’t be more vibrant.

The best part? You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on your outfit. Our rental service lets you wear the most amazing apparel at a fraction of the price. So, browse our selection and find a suit that reflects your personality.

With countless combinations, we help you build the perfect look.

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