What To Wear to a Holiday Work Party for Men –

Whether you’re dressing casually or in a black tie, here’s how to put together a smashing holiday work party outfit.

You’re not alone if you’ve gone to get ready for a holiday work party and frozen in your tracks after realizing you have no idea what to wear.

Regardless of how holiday work parties make you feel, there’s no denying they’re often confusing to prepare for.

After all, basic office dress codes are already confusing enough (what is business casual, anyway?), so how are you supposed to know what to wear to a gathering that’s both professional and social?

On top of that, there are so many factors that come into play. Where is the event being held? Is this a party for workers, or will higher-ups be there? Does black tie mean actual black tie? In this article, I’ll answer these questions so you can dress without stress.

What Are Suitable Company Holiday Party Outfits?

The best way to know what’s generally appropriate and what’s not is to check with the people or department organizing the event. 

If you work in an office setting or somewhere more formal, you’ll probably get information about the dress code on the event invitation. If no such information exists, definitely reach out to whoever’s organizing the party and ask.

You can use your company’s day-to-day dress code as a reference, but depending on where the party will be held and who will be there, that dress code may not be too accurate. You’re best off checking first so you don’t show up too underdressed or overdressed.

Once you know what dress code you’ll need to adhere to, you can start planning your outfit. Here are a few ideas for all of the major dress codes to get you started.

Casual Work Holiday Party Outfit Ideas

If the party in question is less of an organized event and more of a relaxing evening out with coworkers — or if your workplace normally has a laid-back atmosphere — you can stay pretty casual.

That said, even if you can show up in a T-shirt and jeans, it’s worth putting in a bit of extra effort. That doesn’t mean you have to be dressy, however. You can simply elevate a casual outfit by incorporating one or two dressier elements.

The Startup Work Party

If you work at the kind of startup that meets at a hip coworking space, aim for a vibe that’s a notch below smart casual.

A safe bet is to pair a button down shirt with relaxed chinos. Since this is the holiday season we’re talking about, you’ll probably need some warmth, and a casual jacket is a fine choice for the situation.

In terms of footwear, you can dress up your outfit with Chelsea boots or keep things casual with clean, solid-color sneakers.

And suppose your office is the kind of place where you’re casually chatting about marketing over a game of air hockey. In that case, you can go even more casual than this by swapping out the chinos for jeans, trading the Chelseas for sneakers, and maybe even switching the shirt for a structured sweater.

The Downtown Work Party

Here’s a great casual outfit for when you want to look nice without being overdressed. The combination of a sweater, corduroy pants, and boots is a versatile autumn/winter look well suited for a night out.

For an outer layer, go with something like a Harrington jacket or a field jacket. Depending on the party, you can wear a nice denim jacket (though I recommend going for a darker wash if you do).

The Ugly Sweater Work Party

Not everyone loves it, but the ugly sweater party is a mainstay for a lot of workplaces. While you could just hit up a thrift store, you’re better off spending some time mastering the art of choosing the perfect ugly sweater.

Photo by Marushy99 /

For the uninitiated, the term ugly sweater is typically used to describe holiday-themed knitwear with bold, gaudy, or cliché designs or patterns.

Ugly sweaters have boomed in popularity recently, so you have two options when picking one out: you can either go for a vintage sweater that’s ugly or a new sweater that’s (ironically) designed to look bad.

I’m of the school of thought that you should try to find a true vintage piece, which means thrifting. Conveniently, there are all kinds of ugly sweaters on secondhand sites like eBay.

Smart Casual Work Holiday Party Outfit Ideas

If you work at a newer company or startup with a relaxed culture but still take things seriously, you’ll probably be safe with a smart casual outfit.

The term itself can be confusing, so make sure you know the basics of smart casual style first. As with casual dress, smart casual offers a bit of wiggle room, so it’s less likely you’ll make a faux pas.

The Ice Cream Social Work Party

For parties that are more along the lines of after-hours gatherings, you’re usually good to wear your work outfit to the party simply. This is especially true if you tend to wear typical office uniforms (e.g., a button-down shirt with an optional vest or pullover).

This approach is best for parties like ice cream socials or mixer-type events that take place within your workplace.

The Semi-Professional Work Party

If your colleagues’ idea of letting off steam is unbuttoning the top shirt button, stick with an outfit that you can wear to work and to the party (with a couple of modifications).

Cardigan over OCBD

One way is to put together a standard casual office outfit — here, that’s a crisp button down and corduroys — and change things up once you arrive at the party. Popping on a cardigan and, yes, unbuttoning your top shirt button will take your outfit down in formality a couple of notches.

Business Casual Holiday Party Outfit Ideas

Business casual style is a notoriously tough term to pin down, so attending a work party with a business casual dress code is no small feat. Realistically, you’ll usually be good if you wear a collared shirt (with or without a jacket) and chinos or dress pants, depending on how “businessy” you need to be.

The Rented Venue Work Party

If your workplace has reserved a venue for its work party, you’ll want to dress on the sharper side of things while still having a relaxed air about you.

An easy way to accomplish this is to swap a dress shirt for a long-sleeved polo. This loosens up your outfit just enough, but it doesn’t make you look sloppy.

The Outdoor Work Party

If you’re doing any outside activities, you’ll probably need to bundle up a little. For this situation, opt for a smart jacket like an overcoat to stay warm and some dress boots or Chelseas to complete the cold weather look.

Hockerty overcoat fit

If the dress code isn’t too strict, you can play around with color a little bit. Maroon/burgundy tones and burnt oranges are good options that are colorful without taking over an outfit or being distracting.

Formal Holiday Party Outfit Ideas

It’s not incredibly common for office parties to be more formal than business casual. Still, if you work at a traditional business like a law firm, you may need to prepare for this situation.

On the one hand, dressing for a formal party is easy because it leverages decades of traditional dress. On the other hand, if you don’t regularly dress formally, it can be hard to know what to wear, so let’s break it down with a couple of outfit ideas.

The Fancy Dinner Work Party

This one’s for big and important dinners — the kind where you’re eating at the best restaurant in town with some of your biggest clients in tow. Wearing a suit is a must, though you can be a little more playful with your tie (but be sure to read the room).

Ryan wearing Thursday boots Saints with a suit and overcoat

Check with the relevant people or department to see if you can wear a suit that isn’t black or navy. If you get the green light, try a light blue or burgundy suit paired with a neutral overcoat.

The Black Tie Work Party

This one’s pretty simple: If black tie is on the dress code you should wear a tuxedo. Make absolutely sure it’s tailored, and only rent one if you don’t plan on wearing a tuxedo again for a long time. Otherwise, it’s best to buy one.

Besides wearing a full tux, a black tie work party is the perfect occasion to wear a dinner jacket. If you do, wear it with your tuxedo trousers, a formal shirt, and a black bowtie. 

During the holiday season, a dinner jacket with a subtle tartan pattern is a classic option. 

You can’t fully enjoy a holiday work party unless prepared for the season. Master the art of cold weather style by checking out our guide to layering during fall and winter.

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