Remember that time you wore denim to the gala and all the photographers only shot you from the waist up? Cringe. I’m looking at you, men.

It’s time to take the guesswork out of getting gussied up. No matter the dress code (or lack thereof), this guide will help keep you looking sharp while looking the part.

Black Tie Affairs

If a ‘black tie’ dress code listed on an invitation makes you want to jump ship, take a tip. Although black tie is among the most formal— requiring men to don a dapper tuxedo and bow tie— there’s still plenty of room to make it your own.

“Try a tuxedo shirt with a fold-down collar for a modern look, and take the opportunity to accessorize in small ways,” says

This might entail adding a pocket square or button studs to your ensemble. Suspenders are another optional way to jazz things up. Don’t forget your black bow tie (a must), cuff links and patent leather shoes.

Beware: ‘Black tie optional’ gatherings are typically not as optional as they appear. Though it is preferred that male guests still wear tuxes, a dark suit is an acceptable substitute with this dress code. Gents can find ways to dress down the tuxedo a bit if desired, such as a patterned black and white bow tie or necktie.

‘Creative black tie’ events have the most lax rules about the formality of dress: A tuxedo will do, but men should feel free to branch out, too.

“Dinner jackets are a good choice, and both neckties and bow ties are welcome in patterns or low-key colors,” says TheBlackTux.

Throw on a pair of velvet loafers if you’re feeling really adventurous.

Cocktail Attire

“Imagine your work is business casual, but you’re going out for the evening and can’t stop home to change your outfit first. Cocktail attire is that happy medium dress code that covers all bases,” TheBlackTux says.

Be sure to snazz up your typical 9 to 5 duds for this occasion. Though it isn’t up to the level of formality of black or white tie affairs, men are still expected to wear suits (navy or blue work well), dress shirts and ties.