This post comes from our partner Trunk Club.

When climbing the corporate ladder what is one of the biggest dilemma’s any corporate executive will eventually face? That big board meeting? No, try again. The career make-or-break presentation? Nope. Try the cocktail party – where politics meets mingling and, yes appearances are everything.

So we asked Michael Barkin, Trunk Club’s senior director of sales and resident font of sartorial knowledge what it means when you get an invitation to an event mentioning cocktail attire.

“This is one of the most misunderstood directions on invites. Traditionally, cocktail attire means a suit. That’s it,” says Barkin. “But these days at most cocktail events you’ll see guys dressed in slacks and button-downs, with only a few of them wearing sport coats.”

While the rest of the crowd may rarely adhere to the original meaning of “cocktail attire” this is your time to shine. And when in doubt you always overdress. Wearing a suit to any cocktail event will always impress.

However, times have changed and the rules have relaxed, so if you’d prefer not to wear a suit, either of these two options will work just fine.

  1. Outdoor Cocktail Attire
 – If you’ve got an outdoor event that calls for cocktail attire, push the envelope with both color and fabrication. Start with a neat pair of cotton pants, a pressed shirt, a woven belt, and pair of loafers. Add a casual, lightweight sack coat or deconstructed blazer and you’ll stay cool regardless of the weather.
  2. Indoor Cocktail Attire
 – If it’s evening and indoors, default to darker colors like gray, navy, or black for your core pieces (jackets, trousers, and footwear). Typically, the later in the evening, the more formal the event, so lean towards finer / smoother finishes. A simple, always appropriate outfit would be a pair of flat-front wool trousers, a fitted solid or micropattern shirt, a sport coat, and investment-quality dress loafers or monkstraps with a matching belt.

BONUS: Since we’ve all been known to enjoy a cocktail now and again, some of Barkin’s Trunk Club teammates helped end this column with a note on mixing the perfect cocktail:

  1. Get a glass.
  2. Get a bottle of single-malt scotch.
  3. Pour as much of that bottle into glass as you’d like.
  4. Bottoms up.

This content is created collaboratively in partnership with our sponsor, Trunk Club.