While funerals are somber occasions, they can also be an opportunity to see family and friends that you might not have seen in some time. And being together during a challenging time can go a long way in easing grief. Funerals can give everyone an opportunity to reminisce and even share a laugh about some happy memories. The most important aspect of a funeral is showing respect to not just the deceased, but their family and most closely held loved ones. And one of the first steps in doing that is dressing appropriately.
Does that mean you have to wear a formal suit to a wedding? Not necessarily.
In the guide below, we’ll share our tips for dressing appropriately for a funeral. There are a few cultural rules men should keep in mind when selecting an outfit, but as long as you dress and act respectfully, you should be fine. As a starting point, ask yourself what you would normally wear to church or at a formal event.
Men Should Wear Dark-Colored, Formal Attire to a Funeral
Obviously, black and dark colors are traditionally worn to funerals, wakes and similar remembrance events. Sometimes, a celebration of life will have a specific dress code, but unless otherwise stated by the family, you should assume there is a formal dress code. Traditionally, men wear dark-colored suits, but if you don’t have a suit, then formal attire such as dress pants (khakis or chinos are fine) with a collared shirt is the next best thing.
When it comes to dressing for a funeral, the cardinal rule is actually not dissimilar from a wedding. You want to look like you put thought and effort into your appearance without doing anything that calls attention to yourself. If you’re at a wedding and a groom is wearing a regular two-piece suit, for example, you shouldn’t wear a tuxedo. And with a funeral, it’s best to stick to conservative colors and keep any patterns minimal and classic so as to not distract from the event at hand.
The casualization of men’s wardrobes has extended even to funerals, meaning that it’s not unlikely to see many men going sans suit to a funeral. But, in general, it’s a good idea to err on the side of formality and wear a suit. Of course, cultural rules supersede all else. If you’re attending a religious funeral with its own customs, wear whatever is prescribed by that religion. Likewise, members of the military traditionally wear their dress uniform to formal events such as funerals. Otherwise, a solid-colored suit will be the best thing to wear.
Do You Have To Wear Black To a Funeral?
The big question many men have when dressing up for a funeral is what color to wear. You’ll often see style blogs suggest wearing a black suit to a funeral. And for funerals, a black suit is undoubtedly a good choice. It’s formal, conservative and traditional. If you have one, wear it. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should go out and buy a new black suit just for the occasion. If you do need to buy a suit, then we recommend buying a navy or grey suit, which you’re more likely to wear again in the future.
The problem with a black suit is that it doesn’t work that well outside of a funeral. Considering the fact that the average guy has probably one to two suits in his wardrobe, if that, it’s understandable that you want to get as much use from these outfits as possible. Black suits are just harder to pull off for everyday use, and they can look overly somber for most settings. So if you don’t have a black suit and wouldn’t normally wear one, then you don’t need to buy one just for funerals.
Instead of black, it’s better to buy a suit that you can wear in different scenarios. A versatile gray or navy suit will see you through interviews, weddings, graduations and, yes, funerals. As long as the gray or navy suit is solid and not too light in color, you’re likely going to be appropriately dressed for almost any kind of funeral. We also recommend wearing a dark or neutral-colored necktie, and you can also check out our guide to matching dress shirts and ties.
A gray or navy suit can be styled in different ways to suit different occasions, which is why they’re arguably the best choice if you’re planning on buying a new suit for a funeral. The key is to style them appropriately for the event. Crucially, any suit you wear should be tailored well to fit you, so it doesn’t look like you bought it the day before.
When wearing a suit for a funeral, your best bet is to wear a white dress shirt. White dress shirts are the most versatile style and are appropriate for any situation where a suit is called for. The tie and shoes can also go a long way in setting the appropriate tone. The same navy suit can seem festive when worn with a floral print tie or serious when worn with a black and gray striped tie. For a funeral, a dark gray or black tie in a solid color or a simple stripe pattern will be appropriate.
Finally, when choosing shoes, it’s a good idea to wear black dress shoes (or whatever color best matches your suit). You can go for dressy oxfords or a pair of slightly more casual but no less refined derby dress shoes. Black dress shoes can be worn with a navy suit, so long as the navy is a dark enough shade. Black shoes also work very well with a gray suit. Brown shoes can work too, and are unlikely to push your outfit from appropriate to inappropriate.
Dressing for the Occasion Is a Sign of Respect
When selecting an outfit for any event, it’s important to dress appropriately for the occasion. This is one of the most important and universal fashion rules, and it’s especially important when dressing for a funeral. If you are a guest at a funeral, showing up with a slovenly appearance is a sign of disrespect, as is wearing something that calls attention to your fashion choices. In some cultures, the tearing and rending of clothing is an important part of the grieving process, and the clothing we wear can signal to others how we are feeling. It’s not superficial to put care and attention into your appearance during an important life event such as a funeral.
To summarize, here’s what men should wear to a funeral:
- Wear dark or neutral-colored formal attire, preferably a black or gray suit
- If you need to buy a new suit, buy a suit that you will wear again in the future, even if it’s not black
- A white dress shirt is preferable
- When choosing shirts, ties and other accessories, avoid loud prints and bright colors
- Wear formal dress shoes that match your outfit
- If you are not wearing a suit, wear dress pants and a collared shirt (and tuck it in)
- Dark-colored sweaters, ideally worn over a dress shirt, are also appropriate
Even in today’s more casual fashion world, a suit is still the best outfit to wear to a funeral. However, if you don’t have a suit and don’t have time to get one, there are alternatives that you can wear and still be completely appropriate and respectful. The ground rules for a more casual outfit are still the same as when selecting a suit: wear dark, muted colors and keep patterns minimal and tasteful. For example, you can wear a black crewneck sweater with a collared shirt, dark slacks or chinos, and a pair of classic loafers.
Ultimately, getting dressed for an occasion such as a wedding or funeral is less about the clothing or fashion itself. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with letting some of your personality shine through, such as through an accessory like a watch, bracelet or something more suit-specific like a tie clip, especially if it’s a celebratory event like a wedding. But the suit you wear to these important life events should show respect to the occasion, without being overly flashy and distracting, and that’s doubly true when attending a funeral. That way, you can focus on what’s really important, which is being there for the ones you care about.
Remember: being present for your loved ones is much more important than what you are wearing. Ultimately, unless you really wear something inappropriate, no one is going to be thinking about your clothing. So long as you are respectful, your physical presence and emotional support are what matter the most.