These terms can get pretty confusing and they usually mean something different to each person. It’s our intention to pull back the curtain and shed some light on what is acceptable. We are putting our foot down when it comes to people making up their own dress code terms like ‘festive’ or ‘summer chic’. These are ‘The Stylish Man’ approved terms and we feel everything should fit into one of these.


This one is also commonly known as ‘informal’ and means you have free reigns over what you wear. Do keep in mind what company you’re with though as rocking up in your PJs and Crocs is a big no-no in any soiree.

Smart Casual

Keep it cool, keep it clean. For men, that means dressing up in fitted chinos, trousers or jeans paired with a blazer. Polo shirts or dress shirts are also permissible in this scenario as are white leather sneakers (think Stan Smiths) or dress shoes.

Business Formal

As the name suggests, this look is no play, all work so leave those ties on for now. The dress code is designated for business lunches and conferences so bright and loud colours should also be avoided in suits (unless you’re a drug lord holding a meeting). Conservatively patterned ties are also fine and be sure to wear a watch and don’t over do it with the accessories. You’re going to a business meeting not to get wasted at a horse race. Shoes should also be polished.

Black Tie Optional

Think of this look as slightly less formal than Black Tie. It infers that a tuxedo isn’t necessary but a darker suit with a tie is to retain the classy atmosphere. As it is still a formal night time event, keep the bright colours at home and be sure to wear a classic watch.

Cocktail/Black Tie

The term ‘cocktail’ for a man is all about dressing formal and dapper. That means a suit, tie, a nice watch and no baggy tees or jeans.

White Tie

This one’s a rare one but when you do see it, make sure you’ve prepared. It’s a step above Black Tie making it the ultra formal dress code. Think Golden Globes awards night and you’re on track. White bow ties, black coat with tails, a vest and dress shirt are all mandatory requirements here.


Ryan Sprance is the Founder and Chief Strategist of Kaihatsu Media, a Digital Marketing agency focused on developing brand awareness and sales growth through social media, optimizing digital marketing spend and developing Influencer Marketing programs. He is also the Creator & Editor-In-Chief of, a men's lifestyle media company focused on Fashion, Fitness, Grooming, Gadgets and Guy Stuff and a Contributing Editor at Julius, a data driven Influencer Marketing platform.