Funeral Attire for Men & What Not to Wear to a Funeral
What should I be wearing to a funeral, as a man? While it's an occasion, we least want to have to consider different clothing types, funerals, and other end-of-life memorials are an essential part of our social obligations and a vital part of the grieving process, too. This is one occasion where dressing appropriately is of the utmost importance. We asked the Oliver Wicks team to weigh in on the issue and make some easy-to-follow suggestions for men to dress with thought and care for a funeral without letting it overwhelm them.
While we wish we could offer a one-size-fits-all guide to what to wear to a funeral for men, there are four things to consider that will affect your choices.
The weather is likely the last thing on your mind, but when thinking of funeral attire for men is likely to be a layered dress code that leaves you hot and bothered. The last thing you need is to pull at your shirt all day because you're too hot and uncomfortable. Instead, aim to bring some seasonality to your choice for your comfort. You don't want to be left with a broken heart and be stuck in uncomfortable clothing. That being said, keep it within reason. Shorts are not appropriate male funeral attire. In summer, a graveside service may allow for wearing slacks and a short sleeve, but don't be that guy!
Men's funeral suits are not the time to showcase your personality. It's about being dignified and respectful. However, you knew the decedent, and not everyone's funeral wishes are the same. Some people don't want a traditional funeral, and some choose wake or 'after-tears' parties designed to celebrate life, not sadness. To be fully respectful, you need to bear in mind their end-of-life decisions and the funeral style they have chosen. This includes adapting to meet cultural or religious expectations for the event.
Of course, the deceased is not present to see your choices. The family is. Again, some people don't want grief and tears, whereas others may wish for the entire formal funeral atmosphere. As with weddings, it's appropriate to check in with the family's expectations, but don't become a bother over it.
There are many takes on funerary rites, which will affect the funeral dress code for males. Some cultures choose religious funerals with specific rituals, while secular funerals also exist. Some people have an extended mourning period where you can or can't visit family, though, in today's times, this will come down to personal preference.
There are several funeral events in traditional Western funerals, one or more of which may be attended. This includes viewings, a combined funeral and burial, direct burial or cremation, and graveside services. You may also be attending a memorial service, a celebration of life, or a scattering ceremony, which are all somber occasions but not directly related to the internment of the deceased. These days, consider the possibility it may be a digital event, too.
As a quick guide, black remains the typical Western funeral color. However, in many Asian, Hindu, and Buddhist funerals, the men in the family will wear a white shirt. In Buddhism, the friends will still be expected to wear black. But rather clarify this detail if required. Typically, someone in the extended family or friends network will act as a 'spokesperson' to answer these questions, so you don't disturb the direct family.
Now you've established the expectations around the event, let's dig into men's funeral attire further.
The typical western funeral dress code for men is a black suit with a plain white shirt. It is worth noting that this has relaxed a little in recent years, but it's essential to keep that same somber attire.
Likely, you won't be expected to purchase a black funeral suit just for one sad occasion, though it could be wise to make the purchase and keep it in your closet. It will be better for you to wear something well fitted and taken care of rather than something borrowed or clearly used. But search your wardrobe for something retiring and neutral - a dark navy or charcoal could be a decent alternative.
In summer, lighter colors like gray may be appropriate, as long as they still impart a somber vibe. Avoid patterns, however, as they can strike people as too light-hearted.
Do note that this is for a classic Western funeral. Some religions have different mourning colors and traditional funeral attire, and you should always keep that in mind. Red is a no-no color for funerals almost everywhere and can be seen as actively offensive, so steer away from that side of the color spectrum.
Almost any type of suit will be allowable at a funeral, except for a tuxedo styles (unless explicitly requested for some reason). So your usual formal dress code is a double-breasted or three-piece suit. You are in the clear.
While a suit is what most think of when they consider men's funeral clothing, this isn't always the case. Instead, you can adapt things that fit the dress code of the funeral. For example, business casual could be the close family's funeral attire wishes.
Most importantly, it needs to be respectful and straightforward. You can achieve a respectful look with a pair of dress pants paired with a blazer in a suitable color, perhaps with a woolen underneath if it's cold. But, again, veer towards black or dark neutrals unless otherwise guided.
Another perfectly acceptable put-together funeral outfit for men is to leverage outerwear you may already own. This will look particularly appropriate at a graveside or outside service but can work for different funeral settings as well.
A simple coat or black sophisticated suit jacket can provide the elegant, somber vibe you need. If it's cold and rainy, it can even add sophistication to your appearance as well as being reasonably appropriate.
You can extend this idea by using a cardigan, very smart pullover knit vest, smart woolen, or a proper formal vest/waistcoat. This can make a nice bridge if you don't have a suit or blazer.
A man's funeral suit will not look complete without accessories. Aim to complete your outfit as a dignified whole, not show off what you like.
Without question, wear dress shoes (with dark socks) like oxfords, loafers, or wingtips, preferably in black leather, and a non-ostentatious, simple belt in the same type of leather and color (if you wear belts). You can add items like bands, watches, and cufflinks, but do it to finish simple, formal wear, not show off your bling.
You will likely need to consider a tie to finish the look, too, as an open neck can look far too casual. Opt for something that flows well with the outfit- a dark color is best, although it doesn't need to be black, especially if you are already wearing a black suit. You can opt to wear a luxury tie, not flex, but to convey respect to the family. However, a bow tie will not be acceptable in most cases.
Unlike many of the events the Oliver Wicks team has helped you dress for, this event isn't about you, your style, or even looking 'good' for your own sake. Instead, it's about being presentable and respectful to the departed. So now you know how to dress for a funeral as a male, sneak a look in the mirror, too.
If you have long hair or a beard, comb it neatly and confine it to something suitable. If you are clean-shaven, make sure you shave that morning. Get your haircut tidied. Clean your nails and trim them. Make sure shirts and garments aren't wrinkled. In short, groom yourself well.
It is crucial to look respectful. Look at suit separates and other alternatives that fit perfectly acceptable men's funeral attire.
What other options do you have? While ordering a made-to-measure suit or vest for the event would be the best way to present a good face, you may not have the time or budget. Thrift shops, especially those in 'rich' neighborhoods, can offer a fast way to get a good suit or blazer. You could also rent or borrow a suit for the event.
However, please make sure the suit fits well if you take that route. We'd typically advise you to get an off-the-rack or thrifted suit tailored so it fits properly. A black suit will not make up for showing up at a funeral in a sloppy outfit that barely fits, so make sure to take care of the little details.
We understand that this can seem like a lot of cost and effort for a funeral where you perhaps weren't close to the departed. However, if you feel you don't have an appropriate suit to wear to the funeral, and it will not be socially unacceptable not to attend the 'main event,' then consider attending the wake, 'after-tears' party, or celebration of life instead. This will allow for more casual funeral attire for men while still respecting the family.
Hopefully, by now, you've realized the fundamental rules about what men should wear to a funeral. It's not really about wearing the 'right' suit. It's about expressing the right degree of respect to the grieving and the memory of the deceased.
However, there are some no-gos. Let's look at a few obvious ones:
- Jeans: No, not even black jeans. Jeans are casual wear, and while some smart-casual looks have been created with them, that's for socializing, not a funeral. Wear dark dress pants. We're sure you have a pair of dark pants somewhere.
- T-shirt: We're not even going to elaborate further. A dark polo shirt might be ok at an absolute push for a summer outdoor service celebrating a quirky decedent. However, under no circumstance should you ever attend a funeral in a tee-shirt
- Sneakers: Again, this is just too informal and disrespectful. Steer away from clothing items you'd wear on your day off.
- Scruffy items: Cat hair on your coat, a wrinkled shirt, and unpolished dress shoes say many ugly things about you. Just don't.
- Sunglasses: This can be debatable if it's a more celebratory event or hosted outdoors. If you decide shades are appropriate, save the snappy looks and wear a classic, dark pair that's clearly about the weather, not your street cred.
- Sexy: Yes, men can make this funeral faux pas too. Tight, short, and revealing imply sex appeal and are inappropriate at a funeral.
- Trends: Avoid trendy items and other eye-grabbing clothing. In short, no attention-seeking.
- Flip Flops: Without saying, this is not the type of shoes you should choose to wear to a funeral.
There is. However, one more funeral don't that's more important than anything we've raised so far. Don't disrespect a direct request from the family or via the decedent's expressed wishes.
So if you've been asked to wear bright colors like a red jacket, or a striking joke tie, do it, even though we've advised against such items. Funerals are a way to grieve and celebrate the deceased and honor those they leave behind. Let their wishes guide you rather than general etiquette.
While male funeral clothes should express a somber, neat vibe, at the end of the day, this isn't something to overthink. So please keep it simple and easy, be guided by the event information, and focus on other things than what you are wearing.