Getting your style right is always a tricky business – but never so much as when attending the most delicate event in a man's calendar: a funeral.
Knowing how to dress for a funeral is essential – you're there to pay your respects and honor those that have passed on. Get your outfit wrong, and who knows who you could offend.
In today's article, I'm going to provide very specific advice on how to dress for a funeral and what NOT to wear.
- Do You Have To Wear A Black Suit To A Funeral?
- What Should You Wear To A ‘No Black' Funeral?
- Can You Wear Colorful Accessories To A Funeral?
- How To Choose Seasonal Funeral Attire
- What Should You NOT Wear To A Funeral?
#1 Do You Have To Wear A Black Suit To A Funeral?
Unless stated otherwise, always assume that you'll be expected to wear a black suit and tie to a funeral.
The fact is, you're at the funeral to pay respects and show your support. The last thing you want is everyone to be talking about your outfit choice instead of remembering their loved one.
As a good rule of thumb, make a black suit and tie your default funeral outfit. No one would judge you for wearing black to a funeral – even if the deceased expressed a desire for people to wear color.
However, if you turn up in a gray suit when everyone else is wearing black, you're going to stand out for all the wrong reasons and look really disrespectful.
When in doubt – throw color out and wear black. It's the safest option.
Are There Alternatives To Wearing A Suit At A Funeral?
Yes and no.
Traditionally, you should go for a suit. It's the safest option for the reasons I've expressed above.
However, if the situation calls for it, you may be able to lose the jacket and throw on a black knit. BE VERY CAREFUL – get this wrong and the friends and family in attendance could be incredibly offended by your lack of formality.
If a full suit and tie isn't comfortable for you, it would be better to keep the jacket and lose the tie. A well-tailored black suit, white shirt, and black shoes can still appear formal and respectful without a black tie.
Just make sure that your shirt is plain white, tucked in and you only unbutton your collar button. Getting your chest out at a funeral is disrespectful – so keep it classy.
Can You Wear A Bow Tie To A Funeral?
Personally, I wouldn't
Unless the funeral organizer specifies, assume that evening attire like a tuxedo and bow tie is inappropriate. In the modern age, wearing a bow tie makes a man stand out from the crowd. While this can be a good thing when it comes to weddings and other formal celebrations, at a funeral, it's not your job to be the center of attention.
As I keep saying, you're there to pay your respects, not put on a style show. Keep it minimal, understated, and in line with what everyone else is wearing. That means long neckties only, gents.
#2 What Should You Wear To A ‘No Black' Funeral?
It's becoming more and more common for people to request that mourners don't wear black to their funeral.
I kind of get it – a funeral is a sad enough affair without everyone wearing depressing colors.
Chances are, you'll be made aware that the funeral you're attending is a ‘no black clothing' funeral. You won't be left to guess, so if nothing is mentioned assume you need to wear a black suit.
When attending this style of funeral, I would still err on the side of caution. Sure, you don't have to wear black, but that doesn't mean you can wear whatever you want!
Bright colors are still a bad choice. When wearing a tie, opt for a solid color that isn't too ‘stand out'. Darker hues of burgundy, navy, and gray will be fine.
For your suit, change out your black suit and opt for a navy or charcoal gray instead. Resist the temptation to wear a colored shirt – stick with white to avoid over-coloring your outfit.
#3 Can You Wear Colorful Accessories To A Funeral?
This is an interesting question – I think it depends a lot on who the person was and the memories you have with them.
Let's say you're attending the funeral of a friend of the family who was known for wearing bright pocket squares. He had hundreds of pocket squares – all in different colors, fabrics, and patterns. Whether he was attending a wedding or heading to the shops, you'd always see a colorful pocket square in his jacket pocket.
In this instance, it may be considered a memorial gesture to wear a colorful pocket square to his funeral.
After all, funerals are a celebration of a person's life and a way of remembering the good times you had with them – so why wouldn't you wear something that reminded you of them when attending their funeral?
On the flip side of that, if you're attending the funeral of someone who was known for being very conservative in their attire, maybe don't arrive wearing bright pink paisley.
When it comes to accessories, your opinion on style doesn't really matter. It's all about remembrance – wear something that reminds you of that person, be it a bright pocket square or a classic dress watch.
Reflecting on this will help you come to terms with the passing of your loved one and could help you remember some of the great things about that person!
#4 How To Choose Seasonal Funeral Attire
This is where things start to get a bit tough. After all, seasons have a huge impact on what people wear from day to day. To say that a man must stick to the same funeral outfit regardless of temperature and weather conditions just isn't viable.
As such, I've put together a list of four outfits that you can choose from depending on the season a funeral is taking place. These may differ for you depending on the country you live in, but they'll serve as a good starting point for most men.
Spring Funeral Attire
The springtime is tricky – one minute the sun's out, and the next it's raining cats and dogs. So how do you make sure to dress appropriately for a funeral but still guarantee some level of versatility in your outfit?
It's simple – leverage an all-black umbrella.
Wear a standard, all-black funeral suit and accessorize with a black tie, dress watch, and black Oxfords. Wear an undershirt so that you can take off your jacket without getting too cold, just make sure it's white so it doesn't show through your button-down.
Purchase an all-black umbrella and use this as your safety net in the event of rain. Choose a design that is classic and understated – similar to the umbrella seen in Kingsmen (just without the cool spy technology).
It's a solid investment. Not only will it ensure you maintain a level of dignity and class at a funeral, but it'll also serve you well in day-to-day life.
Summer Funeral Attire
So the heat is on – but you've got a funeral to attend and you're worried about overheating in your two-piece suit and shirt.
It's a tough one. Do you lose the jacket to cool off and risk looking disrespectful with swear marks? Or is it better to keep the jacket on and risk sunstroke?
Fear not – there is a way to stay cool and maintain a respectful aesthetic all at once. Keep your jacket on but wear a thinner shirt or a short sleeve shirt underneath.
Short-sleeve poplin shirts are a casual option when it comes to the different styles of button-downs. However, when worn with a jacket, chances are no one will notice you're wearing one. You can stay cool with the wind up your jacket sleeve and still maintain a dignified, funeral-appropriate look.
Just make sure not to take off your jacket.
Fall Funeral Attire
Similar to spring, fall is one of those ‘in between' seasons that can be wet and cold or hot and sunny.
As such, apply the same advice I gave for spring in the fall.
As an addition, consider losing the undershirt. Chances are it's not going to be cold enough to warrant an extra layer under your shirt. If the weather takes a turn and the heat starts to rise, you'll start to regret that undershirt pretty quickly.
To strike a good balance, switch out the poplin shirt for an Oxford shirt. The thicker material will help if it gets too cold, but won't overwhelm you if the heat starts to rise.
Winter Funeral Attire
A winter funeral is probably the easiest to dress for. A full suit is considered the most respectful choice when it comes to mourning the dead, and you won't have any problems with overheating in the winter months.
But the question is, can you wear anything extra to add layers to your outfit? Definitely.
Adding a waistcoat or overcoat to your funeral attire is a great way to stay warm without disrupting your overall look. Sporting a black waistcoat with your black suit will only elevate your style – after all, it's always better to overdress than underdress.
An overcoat is fine, so long as it has the same features as a classic funeral suit:
- Black/Dark Gray in color
- No patterns or stand-out fabrics
- Well-tailored with a classic silhouette
To finalize your winter funeral outfit, wear a black scarf and black leather gloves. Once again, these are understated and respectful in appearance but will help provide warmth when it's needed.
#5 What Should You NOT Wear To A Funeral?
One word: casual.
When considering how to dress for a funeral, avoid casual clothing at all costs – it's never going to go down well.
Unless explicitly stated by the funeral organizer, you should always wear formal clothing to a funeral. Casual clothing could make you look as though you don't care or don't think the deceased person is worth dressing up for.
That's NEVER a good look. You need to maintain the highest levels of respect and class when attending a funeral, so casual clothing is simply a no-go.
That means avoiding:
- Patterned, casual shirts
- Field watches
- Brightly colored socks
- Casual jewelry (eg. beaded bracelets)
- Capped hats
In short, avoid anything that isn't at least smart-casual attired. Chinos and a blazer might be okay, for example, if a more relaxed dress code is specified. However, as I said earlier: when in doubt you should opt for a classic black suit.
Knowing how to dress for a funeral is important, but they aren't the only events that call for a specific dress code. Click here to discover how to dress stylishly for a wedding.
Is All Black Clothing Mandatory At A Funeral?
Not always. Some people ask that black isn't worn at their funeral. However, it's always best to check! When in doubt, wear a black suit - chances are you'll be told by the funeral organizer whether or not a black suit is needed.
Can I Wear Chinos And A Blazer At A Funeral?
Again, this depends. If you're attending a traditional funeral, then no. However, if things are a bit more relaxed then you may be able to pull it off. Check with your funeral organizer when in doubt.
How Can I Wear Color At A Funeral?
My advice? Leverage the power of your accessories. If color is acceptable are the funeral you're attending, wear a tie or pocket square to add some variety to your somber outfit.