When it comes to funeral attire for men, the tradition has long been a black suit. Ask pretty much anyone what it is you should wear to a funeral, and they will almost immediately respond with the answer: black suit. If a black suit isn't something that you have hanging in your closet, there are other accessible funeral attire options to consider.
Opt for a Sport Coat or a Blazer
Suit coats might be the best choice for a funeral, but a nice sport coat or blazer is better than nothing! You will want to wear a coat that complements your pants. You would normally not have to pay attention to a suit since the pants and shirt match in suit wear. If your pants are navy, do not wear a black sport coat. Likewise, a black blazer will probably clash with dark brown pants. Your suit coat or blazer should be clean, wrinkle-free, and fit your body well.
Dress up Casual With a Tie
So you have no suit and no time or money to purchase or rent one, but you still want to show up at a funeral looking regal and dressy. If you only have a dress shirt and dress pants in your wardrobe, use a tie to give your look a classy and put-together appeal. Ties are excellent ways to dress a look-up, but make sure to not just throw any old tie on and head out the door. While ties come in so many fun and funky colors and patterns, funerals are not the place to show off your flair. A black or navy tie is your best bet. Make sure that you know how to properly tie your tie.
Class up Your Shoes
Shoes are game-changers in attire, and the shoe style that you choose can make or break you. If you are not wearing a suit and are, instead, wearing something less formal, still choose dressy footwear. Brown or black dress shoes are good choices; make sure your shoe color complements your outfit color choice. Even if you are wearing a more casual shirt and pants, avoid tennis shoes, boat shoes, or other casual shoes, no matter how trendy and clean they might be.
Use a Dress Coat
If you do not own a suit, but you do own a dress coat, include that in your funeral look. This will especially work if the funeral is primarily taking place outdoors. Wearing a dress coat over a vest, sweater, or dress shirt makes for a pulled-together look appropriate for a serious event such as a funeral.
Cardigans and Sweaters Work
A nice cardigan or a sweater can work as funeral attire when paired with dress pants. Make sure that the cardigan you choose:
- Is in good condition with no holes, snags, or worn and thread-bare sections
- Fits correctly; do not choose a cardigan or sweater that is stretched out, too small, or hangs off your frame
- Freshly cleaned and pressed; many cardigans and sweaters need to take a few trips per year to the dry cleaners for maintenance
- Of appropriate patterns or colors; do not choose something bright or wildly patterned -- stick to the subdued
Dress Suit of Another Color
What if you own a suit, but it isn't black? While black suits are the go-to color for funeral attire, other hues of clothing are acceptable. If you own something in a pinstripe pattern, navy, dark brown, or dark green color, you can likely wear it to a wake or funeral. Be sure to match a non-black suit with a white dress shirt and shoes that complement the suit's color. Brown shoes pair well with navy and dark brown clothing. Black shoes or brown shoes can go with a dark green or olive-colored suit.
Khakis and a Polo Shirt
Khakis and polo shirts are not often considered for funeral wear and will likely be thought of as too casual by many traditionalists. Contrary to popular belief, you CAN pull this look off if you don't own a suit, but you will want to consider a few things regarding this style. Wear a dark polo shirt, preferably a black one, and be sure to tuck it into your pants. The polo should be clean and well fitted to your body. Add a belt to this look and dress shoes to help bridge the gap between casual and formal wear. This might be best suited for an outdoor funeral in a warm climate or a celebration of life event instead of a traditional funeral event.
Dark Turtlenecks With the Right Pieces
Much like polo shirts can be paired with khaki pants, turtleneck shirts can also be worn so long as they are matched with complementing items. Like any shirt, a turtleneck should be in good condition and tucked into a pair of dress pants. Turtleneck shirts don't have to be black, although black pants and a black turtleneck would be an ideal match, but they do have to be somber in color. If not black, choose a turtleneck shirt that is brown, navy, or dark green and pair it with dark brown slacks and a belt.
Include Key Accessories
If you are wearing an outfit that is not a traditional black suit, consider adding accessories to your ensemble to elevate the overall look. Small details can help give a more casual outfit a dressy effect. Remember that you want your overall appearance to be put together, clean and understated, so choose one or two simple elements, not every single one you can think of. When it comes to jewelry, less is sometimes more.
Pay attention to your feet! You should wear dress shoes of some sort to a funeral, normally in a dark brown or black color. Pair your shoes with dress socks. Don't show up to a funeral wearing white athletic socks or, even worse, no socks at all!
Pocket squares and handkerchiefs give a dressy effect to a simple dress shirt. Choose one that suggests a hint of color or pattern, and make sure that you take the time to learn how to properly fold this accessory beforehand.
Cuff Links and Other Jewelry
Draw Attention to a Haircut and a Clean Shave
Sometimes the best part of your attire is not even related to the clothing that you choose. You can have the fanciest garb in the land, but it won't matter if you neglect personal hygiene. Before attending a funeral, schedule a trim or a haircut, give yourself a clean shave, and select a tasteful aftershave to wear. Even if you show up at a wake or funeral sans suit, your freshened-up appearance will instantly dress you up and help you appear respectful.
General Rules for Funeral Dress
When asking yourself what you should wear to a funeral, the general answer is understated, dress clothes. Steer clear of casual comfort items like t-shirts, sweatshirts, jeans, and tennis shoes. Make sure whatever you choose is clean and in good condition. Whichever look you go with, you will want to evoke a sense of deep respect for the dead and the deceased's family.