Shirts and Bow Ties

Formal? Semi-formal? What is normal?

There was once a time where men oftentimes had to attend to events, lot’s of events. Events where black, or white ties sort of were the norm to go for. At formal events, the unwritten rule to follow was to wear white ties and tails, while semi formal events automatically meant dinner clothing and tuxedos.

However, those days are now behind us, and we have since endeavored into a world where there’s no difference between the two. Not one.

Dark times are upon us, gentlemen. Okay, it’s actually not that bad. There’s hope, gents. There’s hope.

Today we’re here to break down the dress codes in terms that even the most style-challenged man can understand. We’ll dive into what formal and semi-formal means and the do’s, the don’ts for your next event you’re planning to attend to.


The difference between formal and semi-formal

When you hear the word formal, think contemporary formal dress code, think white tie and black tie. On the contrary, semi-formal is slightly more relaxed (as the name also implies). Think dark suits, or anything you’d refer to as cocktail dress up.



When you think formal attire, you’re probably picturing yourself in a tuxedo, and rightfully so. If you’re planning to attend to really formal events, you’re basically forcefully invited to don that tuxedo. A bow tie is a must here. There’s no way around it.
If you’re however invited to a bit more relaxed formal event, swing that bow tie back in your wardrobe and pull out a black tie instead. Also pull out a tailless jacket, a black waistcoat and off you go (pull out that bow tie again if you want to play it safe).

Not feeling into blacks? Opt for blue instead.


Do’s and don’ts when wearing formal:

Don’t improvise too much: This is not the time to experiment. No blue or pink shirts. No expressive ties or loafers. This is a classic event – wear classic.
Don’t go down on the grooming: Remember to shower. Shave well and thoroughly. Use cologne (not too much). No shiny jewellery. Don’t try out a new hairstyle, just because you’ve seen it in magazines.
Nail thy fit: Thou shalt nail thy fit. Okay, seriously. Make sure that your trousers aren’t too long and the jacket isn’t too loose on the front. Your formal wear should fit like a glove and be truly remarkable.
Tie the knot: Get on Youtube, learn how to tie your bow tie yourself. There’s no excuse for wearing anything pre-tied. None. This is also not the time to rent a tuxedo. Get your own, keep it – you’ll use it again later. No worries.
It doesn’t need to match your misses: It’s no prom night. No matter how many arguments she has, remind her that your tuxedo wasn’t made to compliment her dress. Let it shine on its own, let it get the attention and spotlight.



On the contrary to formal events, your tuxedo would not be the most appropriate thing to wear at semi-formal events. Don’t take this as a free ride to casual town though. Remain elegant, sophisticated and neat. Choose a dark suit and wear a tie to round off the look. Choose a dark suit for night time events, a light suit for daytime events. Your choice of shoes should remain dressy and pocket squares and watches should be a bit subtle to understate the look (read: not too shiny).


The DO that rules them all

When it comes down to business, there is one do that matters than anything else:
Are you unsure of what to wear to the event you’re invited to, simply DO pick up the phone and ask the host. This way you’re sure that you’ll be wearing the right attire and the host definitely will appreciate the effort to get it right.

Do’s and don’ts of wearing semi-formal:

Don’t be afraid to leave the tie at home: It’s fully okay to go tie-less at semi-formal events. You won’t get any inappropriate looks, no behind the back talks. If you choose to wear a tie, don’t wear anything too noisy. Save the fun tie for the Christmas party and the classy tie for a formal event.
Choose the right suit: A tuxedo is not the choice to aim for. Seersucker suit is called underdressing. Go down the middleroad and choose a dark suit or a cashmere suit. If you’re invited for a daytime event, choose a lighter suit.
Dress accordingly, don’t underdress: A semi-formal event has its name for a reason. It includes the word formal, so don’t pull out the shorts or jeans. No polo-shirts or sneakers either. Dress to impress without overdoing it.
The Golden rule to follow: If you’re in doubt, then rather overdress than underdress. If you’re left with a choice between two items, choose the more formal option.

This should have you covered for any formal- and semi-formal events that you’re invited to this Summer. With these tips in mind you can boast with your knowledge about the difference between the two type of wardrobes to lesser informed gentlemen at the party.
Remember, if you’ve been asked to rock up in formal attire, go for a tuxedo and don’t improvise or neglect the importance of fit. If you’ve been asked to go semi-formal, however, dark suiting is your best bet for en evening event, while conservative lighter-coloured suiting is more appropriate for the day. Don’t be afraid to ditch the tie, but most importantly, have fun with your look and remember the golden rule: when in doubt, it’s better to overdress than underdress.

Enjoy your upcoming event, gents.