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Funerals can be stressful events, even if you’re not related to the deceased or friends with the family hosting the event. Having to attend such an important event while mourning your own loss can be especially tough, and deciding what type of suit you should wear to a funeral can be intimidating as well. While there are no hard and fast rules about what type of funeral suit to wear, there are certain considerations you should keep in mind before picking out your outfit.

Wearing Black

While most adults attending a funeral suit will wear dark, tradition can be broken if you know someone personally or if you are an immediate family member. A black suit is appropriate at funerals for friends and relatives of loved ones who have passed away, as well as for people with some connection to that particular person. For example, your friend’s cousin who died in Iraq would warrant wearing black in your mind because there was some connection between that person and your loved one. The closer you were to that deceased person, or their family members and friends, the more likely it is that wearing black will be acceptable. If you’re unsure whether or not it’s proper etiquette in your situation, simply ask someone familiar with funeral traditions.

Long Suits vs. Short Suits

The world has become increasingly casual, but funerals are one place where you may want to err on the side of formality. A short suit can still project an air of professionalism and respect while maintaining your personal style and comfort level. It’s important not to be flashy or attention-seeking, however; dressing down can easily send up red flags, particularly if you are dealing with someone who is already feeling grief. Keep your color scheme simple and classy – black is always safe for men or try dark charcoal or navy blue – and keep logos minimal. If there is room for argument about whether your clothing style is too casual, it likely means that it is too casual for a funeral setting.

Color Ties and Shoes

For those of you attending a formal funeral, it’s best to go with black or another dark color. (Many men will also wear a traditional black suit and tie.) A more laid-back event, such as an informal wake, is also appropriate for dark ties. But if there’s any chance you might have to stand at attention during part of your time at the service—or if others will be standing and singing—leave your blazer at home; that said, leave your sport coat too (and take off your sunglasses). For those mourning friends or family members who were in military service or held other public office, it’s important not to appear sloppy.

Which Pocket Square to Wear

Pocket squares can be worn with formal and casual suits, but they typically go best with more casual outfits—and they’re mostly there for show. If you are wearing your suit to a funeral, black is almost always appropriate, so choose one of those pocket squares. If you want something other than black (to match your tie or shirt), that’s OK as well. Just try not to pick anything too gaudy or distracting.

Tie Length, Width, Pattern

Are your arms longer or shorter than average? Are you taller or shorter than average? Knowing these basic measurements and being aware of your proportions will help ensure that you look great in whatever suit you’re wearing. For example, if you’re on the tall side, it’s best to avoid wearing shorter ties (like those typically worn by politicians). Likewise, if you have an athletic build, it’s probably not wise to wear extra-wide ties. Finally, think about choosing tie patterns that aren’t too busy. You don’t want your tie getting lost in what should be an overall classic look for any professional funeral suit.

Shirt Collar Type

There are two basic types of shirts for suits; button-down collars and spread (also called straight) collars. Button-down collars are most commonly used for business suits, so consider their formality before deciding whether to go with them for your funeral suit. Spread collar shirts, on the other hand, can be worn both formally and informally depending on how they’re styled. Generally speaking, it’s best to wear a spread collar shirt if you plan on attending services or will be talking with attendees after an event; if not, stick with something that’s more formal but still easy to move around in.

About the Author

Justin Brandon