What Guys Should Wear to the Winter Formal

Man fixing his bowtie on his suit, with a flower on the jacket.

Teen boys rarely get excited about the opportunity to dress up for a school dance — but that might be because no one

has taught them how thrilling it is to look incredibly good. The right fashion choices can revolutionize how one looks and feels, and for teen boys, the right formal outfit can provide some much-needed confidence.

The winter formal isn’t the prom, but it is an opportunity for guys to dress and impress. Here are some dos and don’ts for masculine winter formal outfits that will keep students talking (in a good way).

Don’t Go Too Formal

It is a mistake to wear a tuxedo to the winter formal. In fact, it is probably a mistake to include a tie in a winter formal look. Though the word “formal” is in the name of the event, the truth is that the winter formal tends to be a much more casual affair than other school dances. Boys who dress up too much during the formal will likely stick out, and worse, they will have trouble topping their look for more important dances, like prom. Meanwhile, it would be equally inappropriate to show up to the formal in a T-shirt and jeans. Thus, boys should aim for the cocktail or business casual level of dress code, both of which allow some creativity and fun.

Do Buy Something New and Special

The winter formal isn’t prom, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a special event in its own right. The goal of the winter formal is to provide teens a space to celebrate the end of the semester, the end of finals and the beginning of their winter holidays. Boys deserve to feel good about how they look at this event, which means they should mark the occasion with a new outfit. They can find some affordable and appropriate men’s jackets to buy, or they can invest in a flashy shirt or nice sneakers.

Don’t Be Afraid of Color

Proponents of toxic masculinity discourages boys from wearing color, telling them that color is only for women. Fortunately, designers and members of younger generations are slowly eroding these outdated ways of thinking; still, many boys remain nervous about the prospect of introducing color into their wardrobes. A dance like the winter formal is an excellent place to experiment with color and even patterns, using them in a suit jacket or button-up shirt. Likely, the use of color will help boys gain good attention and feel confident during the dance.

Do Think About Theme

Usually, school dances feature some kind of theme, like Casino Royale or Under the Sea. While these themes aren’t exactly used as guides for costumes — boys should not come dressed as James Bond or the Davy Jones — they should influence attire in some way. For example, a formal with the theme of masquerade ball should tell boys to be a bit more ornate with their outfits, choosing a brocade suit jacket, perhaps. Boys should also factor in the colors of the theme, so they won’t garishly clash in pictures of the event.

Young man looking to the left, holding his collars on his suit blazer

Don’t Match Your Date

The days when dates to school dances matched dress-to-tie and corsage-to-boutonniere are long past. Because fashion is a bit more complex than simply mirroring the exact shade of vermilion in a date’s dress or tie, working too hard to coordinate with a date can end up looking a bit childish. Unless a date expressly asks to go matchy-matchy, boys should assume that they are expected to look as good as possible on their own.

Do Remember Grooming

Clothes make a man — but so does an impeccable coiffure, clean teeth, a perfect shave and a delightful scent. If a boy gets his outfit just right but doesn’t devote any time to grooming his person, his look will instantly fall flat. The winter formal absolutely warrants a trip to the barbershop — not the bargain hair salon but a barber trained in a boy’s unique type of hair. However, the winter formal is probably not the time to try out a brand-new hairstyle, and it is definitely not the time to experiment with a new cologne. One spritz of a high-quality cologne applied to one’s heat points is enough to keep a boy smelling excellent all night long.

More important than all of the above rules is this: Boys should have fun at their winter formal dances. If stressing about clothes impacts one’s ability to let loose, then none of these rules need apply.