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Semi-Formal Attire for Men: Ultimate Guide & Our Favorites

Whether the invite specifies it or you want something dressier than business casual, you may ask, "What exactly is semi-formal dress?”

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I’m here to help you choose your jeans, your jackets, and all the rest of it – read on.

My Favorite Semi-Formal Outfits

I’ve selected some high-quality and highly-rated staples you can use to create a capsule wardrobe of semi-formal attire for men.

Van Heusen Men Regular Fit Suit Separates

Best Regular-Fit Suit     

Van Heusen men's regular-fit suit separates are lightweight and comfortable, with timeless styling and reasonable prices. Buying it as separates helps you achieve semi-formal outfits with pants that fit well off-the-rack.

The sizing is accurate, which is essential in smart-casualwear. True style is about making careful choices seem effortless and natural.

PROSCONS
Separates allow better fit, Excellent pricingLimited range of colors
  • Fit: True to size.
  • Comfort: Great.
  • Durability: Good.
  • Value: Excellence.

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Calvin Klein Skinny Fit Suit Separates

Best Slim-Fit Suit        

Calvin Klein skinny fit men's suit separates give you all the natural elegance of a designer brand without appearing overdressed. The suit is classy and style-forward, and the cut is superb.

Apart from the five percent Spandex, this is a pure wool suit, which adds to its looks and performance. It is also sold as separates, enabling a better off-the-rack fit.

PROSCONS
Separates allow for a better fit, Four classic semi-formal colorsPrice varies considerably
  • Fit: Excellent.
  • Comfort: Great.
  • Durability: Outstanding.
  • Value: Variable.

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PJ Paul Jones Slim Fit Lightweight Linen Jacket Tailored Blazer Sport Coat

Best Casual Semi-Formal Blazer        

Paul Jones's slim-fit blazer is made from a luxurious rayon-linen mix, offering an extremely versatile and affordable wardrobe staple.

I recommend starting with classic navy, but the blazer comes in a wealth of color options – choose to suit the season and complement your wider wardrobe.

PROS CONS
Great fit, luxurious fabric and very versatile None of much importance
  • Fit: True to size (but use their size guide)
  • Comfort: Great
  • Durability: Great
  • Value: Superb

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Dockers classic straight-fit chinos

Best Casual Semi-Formal Pants             

Dockers classic straight-fit chinos pair perfectly with a tan or navy blazer for a semi-formal outfit with pants. There is a wide selection of color options – khaki is a strong choice for toning down an outfit’s formality.

They stand out for their comfort and durability and offer excellent value.

PROSCONS
Excellent value, great durability and very comfortableNot too imaginative
  • Fit: True to size.
  • Comfort: Great.
  • Durability: Good.
  • Value: Excellent.

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Calvin Klein Dress Shirt Slim Fit Non Iron Stretch Solid

Best White Dress Shirt        

The slim-fit men’s dress shirt from Calvin Klein shows why quality matters in a smart-casual outfit. It keeps the CK tradition of pared-down style but with greater functionality: the wrinkle-resistant and moisture-wicking properties of the fabric make it as comfortable as it is elegant. 

It offers an unbeatable balance of style, performance, and value.

PROSCONS
Outstanding value, classic style, comfort and performanceDoes not double up for fully formal occasions
  • Fit: True to size.
  • Comfort: Excellent.
  • Durability: Good.
  • Value: Excellent.

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Clarks Tilden Cap Oxford

Best Formal Shoes That Work With Smart Jeans        

Can you wear jeans with smart shoes? It depends, and often the answer is no – ask the host. However, for the most laid-back events, these men’s tilden cap Oxfords from Clarks are a perfect choice.

The obvious quality, the classic style, and the understated colors pair perfectly with smart jeans to create an appealing contrast. Coupled with a matching leather belt, these shoes show why you plan an outfit from the bottom up.

PROSCONS
Great value, timeless style and extremely well-madeSome may prefer a more exciting style
  • Fit: True to size.
  • Comfort: Smooth feel.
  • Durability: Excellent.
  • Value: Good.

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Jousen Dress Shoes Leather Formal Business Oxford Derby Shoes

Best Upscale Semi-Formal Shoes for Men        

Oxfords are the most stylish formal shoes for men, and these Oxford shoes for men from Jousen are among the best. The range includes some with broguing, which reduces their formality.

Fantastic fits and flexible rubber soles make these extremely comfortable for your feet.

PROSCONS
Stylish and appropriate for all but the most formal events, Variety of styles and colors and Genuine leatherVery few
  • Fit: True to size.
  • Comfort: Great.
  • Durability: Outstanding.
  • Value: Excellent.

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PARTY Penny Loafers

Best Versatile Semi-Formal Shoes for Men          

These PARTY Penny loafers are a superb balance between formal style and casual comfort and are elegant and restrained.

They are handmade using genuine leather, adding to their looks and lifespan. They are suitable for virtually all occasions.

PROSCONS
Versatile semi-formal footwear, genuine leather and handmade by a small businessFew to none
  • Fit: True to size.
  • Comfort: Excellent. 
  • Durability: Great.
  • Value: Outstanding.

Dr. Martens Unisex 2976 Chelsea Boot

Best for Country Events         

You may not think of Dr. Martens as semi-formal shoes for men, but their Unisex 2976 Chelsea Boot is perfect for dressed-down semi-formal. Think of a farm wedding where you would eschew a tie and even get away with smart jeans.

These boots offer durability, comfort, and that classic Dr. Martens style that lifts them above the competition (but expect to pay for that).

PROSCONS
Rugged good looks, great longevity and outstanding performanceFairly expensive
  • Fit: True to size.
  • Comfort: Excellent.
  • Durability: Great.
  • Value: Good.

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Definition of Semi-Formal Attire

What makes an outfit semi-formal vs. formal is that instead of a tux and a bowtie, you're wearing a suit, a dress shirt, a tie, dressy shoes, and a belt that coordinates with the shoes.

Navy or gray suits are more dressy than light gray or tan suits; choose the look for the occasion. Some men create a semi-formal outfit with pants by pairing a navy blazer with khaki chinos; while smart, this verges on business casual. 

Semi-formal outfit for men

Are jeans semi-formal dress? You could pull off slim-fit jeans in navy at relaxed outdoor events. Likewise, semi-formal wedding attire for a male, no jacket included, may cut it at such a simple event: otherwise, arrive fully dressed.

The dress shirt is traditionally white or another solid color (such as pale blue). The tie allows greater individual expression: match your suit or opt for bold contrast.

Semi-formal shoes for men are polished leather: Oxfords, including brogued Oxfords, derbies, loafers, or Chelsea boots. Match your shoes to your belt.

What to Avoid

Avoid tuxedos and sport coats or leather jackets, keep any logos on your shirt discreet, and wear plain socks matching your pants.

semi-formal attire men tip: wear matching socks with your pants

Ties should not be overly casual or loud. Forego it for something like a farm wedding.

Choose clothes that fight well: not too baggy or too tight. 

Avoid too many colors in your outfit - there is a direct correlation between the number of colors in an ensemble and how informal it is. You can limit the number of accessories to three well-chosen items.

You may see misguided people encouraging you to consider casual footwear when an invite specifies semi-formal shoes for men and pair them with designer t-shirts. While some occasions suit this ultra-relaxed interpretation, it is best to err on the side of caution.

Formal vs. Cocktail Attire vs. Semi-Formal Attire For Men

Semi-formal vs. formal dress is simple: the latter means a tailed jacket and white bowtie (white tie events) or a tuxedo and black bowtie (black tie events).

When considering semi-formal vs. formal vs. cocktail attire, the latter is semi-formal in sober colors: a dark suit, white shirt, and plain tie.

Styling Advice: Begin with the Listed Dress Code

Stick with the conventions of the dress code your host has specified. If you are the host, do include the dress code, as it reduces stress on your guests' part.

If the invite says, “semi-formal wedding attire – male, no jacket,” then you are in the market for a nice dress shirt. Likewise, if it says “no jeans,” respect the specification and always avoid “half-and-half” items.

Final Thoughts

Semi-formal attire is used differently by different people. Mostly, it is best to avoid going casual, but you can still seize the opportunities this less prescriptive style offers for personalization.

The golden rule: keep it classy. Confident buying and quality materials from top brands always make a difference.

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Semi-Formal Attire for Men
Writer

Born and raised in Austin, David is a dedicated writer and avid fragrance lover. When he's not trying out perfumes, he enjoys traveling and exploring new restaurants.