Your comprehensive guide to dress codes: Thread x H&M

We've teamed up with our friends at Thread to share style advice over the past few weeks. They have a great team of stylists whose goal is simple: to share tips that boost your style confidence and send you personalised ideas for what to wear.

Navigating dress codes is no easy feat. We’ve all been there: an invite lands in our inbox and we’re greeted with the intimidating description of a black-tie event, or the ever ambiguous ‘smart casual’ before frantically turning to Google to find out exactly what we’re supposed to wear. In a post-pandemic world, dress codes have become even more complicated with the ever increasing popularity of loungewear and ever-changing definitions of what formal and casual dress codes are.

With that in mind, we’ve enlisted the help of our menswear stylist Toby Standing, who’s broken down exactly what each dress code means today, as well as put together a full H&M outfit so you can get a visual of what will hit the mark.

A formal event is something you’re likely going to come up against in your personal or professional life, and despite the daunting idea of it, rest assured, it’s actually one of the easiest ones to get right. Simply put, this is the time to pull out your sharpest suit and tie, put on a pair of smart shoes, and let classic, timeless tailoring do the heavy lifting.

We’d suggest staying away from ultra-bright tones, and keeping your look more on the timeless end of the colour spectrum. But classic doesn’t have to mean boring – a healthy dose of pattern and some more interesting colour tones like clay browns and pastel blues are a great way to feel a little less stuffy. The same goes when it comes to fit; don’t feel like you always have to go super slim with the suit, if your style leans more relaxed, opt for a lightly tailored suit.

Now this is where things become a little more complicated. Toby says that sticking with the classic suit for this kind of occasion but being less restricted in terms of what you layer underneath is the key to contemporary semi-formal. This kind of dress code often comes up for work parties, where you want to feel dressed up but not overdressed. A great example of nailing this dress code would be swapping out your shirt and tie for something like a knitted roll neck or polo shirt, then choosing a less formal shoe like a Chelsea boot or loafer. See, still formal, just less stuffy.

Smart casual
Ah, smart casual. The ever elusive, yet constantly required dress code. This is the go-to dress code for a lot of workplaces – some may call it a ‘boardroom to bar’ approach, where formal items become more casual by virtue of being worn with more laid-back items. The key to nailing this dress code is to not take your casual and formal items from your wardrobe and squash them together. We’d instead suggest investing in items that live in that in-between space such as a deconstructed blazer worn with a shirt, dark denim, and a pair of boots. With this as your base, you can personalise where it feels right. If you’ve decided to opt for trainers instead of boots, for example, choose a smarter pair of trousers like chinos or suit trousers to keep that balance.

Black tie
The fanciest of dress codes, black tie events are the most formal affair you’ll come across, so it’s safe to say it’s also likely the strictest in terms of dress code, too. In other words? No rule-breaking. Luckily, black tie does exactly what it says on the tin. Toby suggests a black suit or tuxedo worn with a white shirt and bow tie. In terms of silhouette, keep it tailored and sharp, with accessories kept to a minimum (a scarf and gloves for arriving and leaving the event is always a nice touch). For your coat, ensure you choose an overcoat that is in keeping with the formality of your outfit, you don’t want your gladrags ruined by the coat you walk the dog in.

No dress code
While on the surface this one might seem the easiest, we find it can be one of the more tricky to navigate, filling many a group chat with “so, what are you wearing?” It’s fair to assume you’re not going to raise any eyebrows if you turn up in something laid back and informal, but if you want to play it safe, also assume you might be expected to be wearing a well put-together, neat outfit. For Toby, this means a uniform wash on your denim (no tears, please), and nothing majorly statement in terms of graphics. For silhouette, colour, and general aesthetic, this is the perfect dress code to flex your fashion muscle. For a tried and tested combination, we’d suggest a classic overcoat or shorter jacket, a knitted crewneck, some laid-back regular-fitting jeans, and a pair of simple sneakers in a versatile colour and shape..

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