Men’s guide to funeral attire

closeup of male crossed hands hands in a black suit

Not sure what to wear to a funeral? Our guide will help.
Image: Shutterstock

Choosing the appropriate attire for a funeral can be difficult to get right. It’s important to show respect for a family’s loss by dressing correctly. This is one event when your personal style should take a back seat to the occasion.

Without meaning to cause offence, it can be all too easy to wear the wrong thing to a funeral. Avoid upsetting grieving family and friends by following these few simple tips.

  • Wear a black or dark coloured suit – unless instructed otherwise.
  • If there’s an alternative dress code – follow it as best you can.
  • Don’t wear casual clothing like jeans unless the family have explicitly requested it.
  • Polish your shoes and choose an appropriate tie.
  • Be respectful of any religious or cultural traditions of the deceased and their family.

Wear dark colors

pall-bearers in dark suits, waistcoats and a black tie holding a coffin

Dark colored suits and ties are the norm for men at Western funerals.
Image: Shutterstock

Unless you’re told otherwise, the safest default for a funeral is always black – the traditional color of mourning in Western culture since the mid-1800s.

If you don’t have a black suit, don’t panic. It’s okay to wear another dark suit, whether that’s charcoal, dark brown, or navy. Try to stay away from pinstripes and patterns unless you have no choice. Simple is your best bet here, and that typically means solid colors.

Tone it down

You may have a favorite flashy tie or colorful accessory that looks great with your dark suit, but this isn’t the time for it. Stick with a white shirt, dark tie and black socks. Otherwise, it will look like you’re trying to detract from the occasion.

Simple black shoes, like Oxfords or monks, are best. However, dark brown shoes are also perfectly acceptable, provided they’re not too perforated.

Be respectful

Hasidic Jewish boys standing near a holy grave

Men are expected to cover their heads at many Jewish funeral services.
Image: David Cohen 156

Make sure your look is crisp and clean. Polished shoes, neatly groomed hair, trimmed beard, and well-ironed clothes are all mandatory for a funeral. Remember, the effort you put into the details of your appearance demonstrates respect.

If you don’t have a dark colored suit, a pair of navy or charcoal chinos and a dark blazer will also work. Just steer clear of jeans, t-shirts, tennis shoes, or other casual clothing, which could be seen as flippant or rude.

It’s also important to consider the religious or cultural traditions of the deceased and/or their family. Be aware of any items of clothing that would be disrespectful to include or to omit.

Celebration colors

collection of colored & pattered ties on display

If you’re invited to a celebratory funeral, dress formally but with a pop of color.
Image: Fedor Selivanov

It’s increasingly common for grieving families to opt for a ‘celebration of life’ instead of a traditional ceremony. In this case, the dress code will typically be bright colors or center around a theme.

Even if it feels strange to wear bright colors to a funeral, if the family has requested it, there’s no excuse not to do so. If you’re uncomfortable with a full saffron suit, simply add the requested color in your choice of tie, pocket square, jacket or socks.

And remember, just because the color scheme is light and bright, doesn’t mean that pulling out a yellow t-shirt is suddenly okay. Always keep your appearance formal unless specifically requested not to.

When in doubt, ask someone

Family in black mourning clothes standing around a grave

Create the appropriate space to mourn the loss of a loved one

Funeral ceremonies can be as unique as the lives of the loved ones they honor, which means at times, much of the above may not apply. The family of the deceased has the final say. If they request a certain dress code, always do your best to comply.

If you’re ever unsure, it’s better to ask than guess and get it wrong. But seek advice carefully. Your choice of attire is important, but giving space and privacy to a grieving spouse or parent is even more so.

Funerals are an important part of saying goodbye and remembering friends or relatives who have passed. Keep your outfit respectful and appropriate in a way that doesn’t distract other mourners from the grieving process. Follow the wishes of the family and you won’t go too far wrong.

Posted in Men's Style Guides.

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