I love going to special occasions where you have to dress up (wear special, nicer clothes) like weddings or fancy parties. They can be a lot of fun, and they’re not something I go to every day. On occasions like these, men dress up, too. Men’s formal wear is a little more complex (complicated) than women’s, so we thought we would break down the essentials of men’s formal wear in English.

So that you’re fully prepared for your next black tie event (an event where a suit is worn), read on to find out more about men’s formal wear in English.


When invited to a formal event, men will generally wear a suit, but some men have jobs where they have to wear a suit to work every day. This is why it’s important to know what clothing parts make up a suit, since men may have to wear them so often.

A suit is a set of clothing that includes a pair of trousers (formal pants) and a jacket, which is worn with a button up shirt and a tie. Suits are most commonly black or a dark navy blue, although they come in all different colors.

For example:

  • The invitation says, “black tie,” so you will have to wear a suit.
  • I have to get this suit tailored. It’s a little bit too big on me.


A tuxedo, while similar to a suit, has some key differences. Tuxedos are not worn that often and are only worn to very formal events. Because tuxedos are not worn that often, many men will choose to rent a tuxedo if they need it, rather than (instead of) owning one themselves.

Tuxedos also have trousers and a jacket, but are worn with a button up shirt, a cummerbund, and a bow tie.

For example:

  • In the movie, the waiters were all wearing tuxedos and the guests were all wearing white.
  • I’ll have to rent a tuxedo for that event. I don’t own one because I’ve never had to wear one before.


A cummerbund, which is an essential part of a tuxedo, is a wide piece of cloth that is worn around the lower waist. It is purely decorative, rather than functional like a belt. Cummerbunds come in many different colors and designs, which allow the wearer to show his personality. However, the traditional color of a cummerbund is black.

For example:

  • I’ll have to buy a new cummerbund. Mine doesn’t fit me anymore.
  • Can I borrow your cummerbund for this event I have to go to? I usually keep mine with my tuxedo, but it’s not there, and I can’t find it.


While nowadays most shirts have buttons on the wrist cuffs to keep them closed, there are some shirts that don’t. These shirts require cufflinks (small, decorative pieces of metal worn at the wrist) in order to keep the shirt’s cuffs closed.

Cufflinks come in many, many different designs, which allows someone to show some of their personality in their formal wear. Many men have a couple different pairs of cufflinks, so they can pick and choose what to wear.

For example:

  • I don’t know what to get Dad for his birthday. Do you think he’d like a new pair of cufflinks?
  • I lost one of those green cufflinks I like so much, so I’ll have to wear the silver ones instead.

Tie/Bow tie

Ties and bow ties are an essential part of men’s formal wear. Ties and bow ties are pieces of silk worn around the neck when wearing a suit or a tuxedo. Ties are long and straight, while bow ties are tied in a bow (a sideways 8 shape) and worn close to the neck.

As with many parts of men’s formal wear, ties and bow ties come in many different colors and patterns to choose from.

For example:

  • I found this new plaid bow tie that I really like. What do you think of it?
  • Have you seen my thin, navy blue tie? I’d like to wear it to work today.

What formal events do you have to dress up for? Do you know any other kinds of men’s formal wear in English? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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Check out these other popular blogs: Dating Vocabulary in EnglishWhy You Could Use a Bespeaking ProofreaderItalian Loan Words in English, or these 5 Great Antonyms in English!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and loves any event to dress up. Especially if it means learning new vocabulary for formal wear in English!

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