What to Wear to a Funeral - A Style Guide

what to wear to a funeral

What to Wear To A Funeral

Funerals and memorial services are incredibly sad times, and such occasions are very sensitive. You should be careful with what you wear, to be respectful of the memory of the departed as well as the family, the traditions and practices revolving around this time. 

Funerals usually mean that you would have to wear conservative, and in general, black is the go-to color. For men, the outfit for a funeral should be similar to one that you would wear to a business meeting - a respectful and serious outfit.

This guide will focus mostly on funeral attire for the Western countries, but you should still always be aware of any traditions, religious or heritage aspects of the family of the deceased. 

what to wear to a memorial service

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What colors should you wear to a memorial service

As we already mentioned that you should dress conservatively for a funeral and when it comes to colors, it is usually dark colors:

  1. Black, white
  2. Dark grey, dark blue
  3. Shades of brown or khaki

Black is the standard go-to color for a funeral in pretty much in all the Western countries. And most often it is a black suit with a white shirt, black tie, and black shoes. In 90% of the cases, you will not fail by choosing this outfit. 

Dark grey or dark blue are also appropriate colors - you can either go for let’s say a dark grey suit with a white shirt or if you don’t have a suit, dark blue chinos with a white shirt and a matching blazer.

what to wear to funeral

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Neutrals colors such as shades of brown or khaki are also acceptable choices, as they are somber colors. You can either opt for a dark brown suit with a white shirt or dark khaki pants with a shirt. 

Avoid any bright colors like red, pink, yellow or orange - keep the color scheme made of either dark or neutral/cold colors.

What clothes are appropriate to wear at a funeral service

Now that we have an idea of the color choice for a funeral, let’s have a look at how what you can dress to be appropriate.

  • Suits
  • Chinos / khakis
  • Shirts
  • Polo t-shirt

Suits have always been to go-to outfit for funerals and any other serious occasions in general. If you are unsure about what to wear, a suit will work in most cases. Any black or dark-colored suit, with a tie, shirt and dress shoes.

Nowadays, wearing something else than a suit is acceptable, provided that it’s a modest and serious outfit. Chinos and khaki pants are sometimes considered even business casual, so wearing them for a funeral is appropriate. Pair them with either a buttoned shirt or a polo t-shirt. 

what to wear at a funeral

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Shirts are a must-have for the majority of the occasions in a man’s life, and attending a funeral is one of them. You cannot go wrong with wearing a nice crisp shirt - either paired with a suit or a pair of dark chinos. 

If you find shirts too stiff and the memorial service allows for less strict dress codes, you can go for a dark-colored polo t-shirt with a pair of khaki pants. 

What shoes to wear to a funeral? 

Even if the shoes take up a small part of the whole outfit, they will attract attention if they are too flashy, inappropriate or not matching. You would not want to have the perfect outfit but have the shoes ruin it. So what shoes should you wear for a funeral?

  1. Dress shoes
  2. Boots
  3. Boat shoes/loafers
  4. Sneakers

As the rule of thumb for funerals is business formal outfits, then it is also advised to wear dress shoes. It can be anything such as Oxfords, monks, derby, or brogues, dress shoes are always appropriate and stylish. Make sure they are matching your suit. For a black suit, always go with black shoes or dark brown shoes. For a dark brown or dark blue suit, you can go with both black and dark brown shoes, but the latter would fit better. If you have a dark grey suit, black shoes would be the best choice.

what do you wear to a funeral

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Boots are also acceptable, especially in colder seasons. Any boot from Chelsea to Chukka and brogue will work with your suit or chinos. If you are wearing a suit, choose leather boots in dark colors, similarly to styling dress shoes. If you are wearing chinos or khakis, you can also wear suede Chukka boots. 

For warmer seasons and memorial service here, the family chose a more casual attire, you can also wear boat shoes or loafers. Choosing their color works similarly to dress shoes and boots. You cannot go wrong with either black or dark brown shoes

what to wear to a funeral in the summer

Image source: Bold Society Shoes

Sneakers can be tricky. The general rule is that you shouldn’t wear sneakers for a funeral. However, with so many styles of sneakers out there, you may find some that are allowed. If they are in black or a dark color, and without any distracting details, you may wear them with chinos and a shirt, for example. 

With so many possible outfits, perhaps a table can help you choose one better. Check out how you can style your shoes according to the outfit!

Outfit combination

Type of shoes

Formal suit, with tie and shirt

Dress shoes, Chelsea boots

Chinos / Khakis / Dress pants with buttoned shirt and blazer

Dress shoes, Chelsea boots, Chukka boots

Chinos / Khakis with a buttoned shirt

Boat shoes, loafers, suede Chukka boots

Chinos / Khakis with a polo t-shirt

Boat shoes, loafers, sneakers

Accessories for a classy touch

Just because it is a funeral, that does not mean accessories are out of the picture. On the contrary, some accessories will elevate your outfit, and make you look sharp. You would want to go for classic accessories, that you would wear if you were going to a business meeting. Do not try to experiment with accessories that you have never worn before or that you do not feel comfortable wearing. 

When you prepare your outfit for a memorial service, best to go not only for appropriate clothes and accessories but also go for what you feel good wearing. With all that being said, let us have a look at what accessories you can wear to add a bit of class to your outfit. 

  • Watch
  • Pocket watch
  • Ties
  • Tie clip
  • Belt 
  • Suspenders
  • Socks

A watch completes an outfit - and this applies to men’s outfits too. It is always appropriate to wear a watch that matches the outfit and it is definitely ok to wear one to a funeral. Opt for a classic model with black or dark brown leather strap to accompany your suit and shirt outfit. If you are going for a more casual outfit (no suit) then you can also wear a watch with a cotton strap or even a smartwatch.

what is appropriate to wear to a funeral

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For an early 20th century vibe, you can opt for a pocket watch. As the name suggests, it is carried in a pocket and it is secured with a chain to a loop either in the waistcoat or jacket. Pocket watches are not so common nowadays, but when worn, they give a certain elegance and flair to the outfit. If you are not a fan of waistcoats, you can secure your pocket watch with the chain attached to the blazer’s lapel buttonhole. 

Ties are often required for business formal outfits, and that includes funerals, especially if you are wearing a suit. For a black suit, you will have a white shirt and a black tie. If you would like to wear something different and you have a dark blue suit, for example, your tie can also be in a dark blue - solid color or even with a light pattern. 

If you are wearing a tie, then you can of course also wear a tie clip. The purpose of the tie clip is to literally clip clip the tie in place. That is if the funeral is outside for example, and there may be moments when the wind will blow, your tie will stay put and not make you look ridiculous. The most common tie clips are gray, silver or gold. It depends on the rest of the colors in your outfit and your other accessories, like a watch or pocket watch. If your (pocket) watch is silver, then the tie clip will be the same. If you have no other accessories but the tie clip, you can go for whichever color you want. 

Belts are another classy accessory that is necessary for 99% of the outfits a man may wear, and you can usually opt for a black or dark brown leather belt. For any black or dark-colored suit, a black belt is a way to go. For chinos or khakis, you can also wear a dark or even light brown belt. 

what to wear to a funeral if you don't have a suit

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Suspenders are an alternative to belts - you would wear either of them, but not both at the same time. Not only do they serve the same purpose, but wearing them together at the same time can look ridiculous. If you would like to wear suspenders at a funeral for the first time, make sure you wear them beforehand, to get used to them. They can be worn with pretty much any kind of outfit. For a suit, choose a simple style of suspenders that match the shoes you are wearing. For a suit with black shoes, it would be black suspenders. If you are wearing a dark blue or brown suit, with black shoes, go for black suspenders again. These combinations would be the safest ones. If you are wearing a less formal outfit - like chinos, shirt, and brown shoes - the suspenders can be the same shade of brown as your shoes. 

Socks are so essential to an outfit, and for a funeral outfit, they are a must-have. Make sure to not wear socks that negatively attract attention and that they are always matching the outfit. 

Check out how you can mix and match various accessories depending on the outfit you are wearing!

Outfit combination

Type of accessories

Formal suit, with tie and shirt

Tie, tie clip, watch/pocket watch, belt/suspenders

Chinos / Khakis / Dress pants with buttoned shirt and blazer

Tie, watch, belt/suspenders

Chinos / Khakis with a buttoned shirt

Watch, belt/suspenders

Chinos / Khakis with a polo t-shirt

Watch

What socks are appropriate for a memorial service

If you are a fan of socks and love styling them in unusual ways, a memorial service might not be the best opportunity to show off your brand new polka dot orange socks. While socks have to stay somber, just like the rest of the outfit, you can wear socks that you love and are appropriate. The rule of thumb is that they should not attract attention and they should be in dark or neutral colors. 

  • Solid
  • Patterns
  • Novelty

Solid colored socks are the cornerstone of a man’s socks collection, more specifically black socks. If you are going to be wearing a black or dark-colored suit, then the safest choice is black socks. alternatively, if you would like to wear something different, you can also wear other dark or neutral colors, such as navy blue, dark grey, dark brown, or seaweed green. 

what should i wear to a funeral

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A similar color scheme as above should be employed for wearing patterned socks. Most of the patterns are acceptable, as long as they are somber - you can go for classics such as stripes and argyle or funkier ones, like zig-zag, or polka dots. 

what to wear to a funeral in winter

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Novelty socks are a tricky subject no matter the occasion. If the outfit required is formal, but also more not so stiff, you could get away with wearing a suit and dark-colored novelty socks. Other less common scenarios where you could wear novelty socks at a funeral is if the deceased was a sock or fashion enthusiast himself, and would want the friends and family to dress as such. 

what to wear for a funeral

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Do not even think of wearing white socks or no socks. White socks are appropriate only for sportive activities while wearing no socks works only for casual summer events.

What not to wear at a funeral

We have covered what you can wear at a funeral no matter the style, from clothing and colors to accessories and shoes. We have already mentioned what you should not wear, but gathering them all together may make it easier to remember. 

  1. No bright colors or shiny materials. 
  2. No distracting patterns or words
  3. No revealing clothes like shorts or sleeveless tops
  4. No athleisure or sports clothing
  5. No jeans, unless it’s worn with a shirt and/or blazer
  6. No sneakers, flip flops or open-toe shoes

A funeral is not the time to try out new bright colorful outfits, featuring neons, or crazy patterns. Unless the deceased was somebody who would have wanted that and the family specifically mentioned this type of attire. 

what to wear to a summer funeral

Image source: rowanrow

Similarly, also avoid wearing any clothes with distracting patterns or words. You may not know whose attention you would attract and who you may be offending. This goes against having a respectful outfit at a funeral.

The clothes should be modest and not revealing. Make sure to avoid shorts, tank tops or any other sleeveless tops, as well as any visible undergarments, like underwear or undershirts.

A funeral attire should always be very formal, even if something more casual alternatives are allowed. But it stops there, so make sure to avoid wearing any athleisure or sports clothing. Leave your running joggers and hoodies at home. 

There is a general no jeans rule for funerals, as they can be way too casual for such a conservative event. However, there may be exceptions if you can style it up to a smart-looking outfit, with a shirt and blazer. 

A similar rule is avoiding sneakers unless they are black and go well together with chinos, shirts, and blazers. Also, avoid wearing any open-toed shoes or flip flops. 

What to wear to a funeral in the summer

We have spoken extensively about wearing suits or long pants to a funeral, as those are the most formal choice you could make. But how about funerals that take place in hot climates, or a memorial service that takes place by the beach? How should we dress on such occasions without offending? Unfortunately, the ‘what not to wear’ tips also apply in this case. 

No matter how hot it is, avoid wearing shorts, open-toed shoes or revealing clothing. To make it easier, you can lose the suit or the blazer, and opt for light-weight chinos that are breathable. To avoid sweat patches, wear a dark-colored shirt, and for feeling cooler (literally) you can roll up your sleeves. If you will be standing in the sun, avoid wearing hats - opt for an umbrella instead, and a pair of sunglasses (Aviators or RayBans).

what do i wear to a funeral

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Key takeaways for choosing an appropriate outfit for a funeral

Attending a funeral is a stressful event by itself. It is a sensitive occasion for everybody involved, and trying your utmost to be respectful to the friends and fame you the deceased can be daunting, especially when it comes to the outfit. You want your outfit to reflect your feelings towards the event - and that is respect, and empty towards the family and friends of the departed. You would not want your outfit to negatively attract attention and be disrespectful to others. 

Every day we are judged and treated based on how we dress. While that may not be fair, we are able to use it to our advantage. In the case of such somber events, like funerals and memorial services, it is important to wear an outfit that reflects our respect and empathy.

The first takeaway for choosing a funeral outfit is tapping into common sense. Common sense dictates that one would wear neutral and conservative clothing. Would your first thought be wearing a hot pink suit or a bedazzled blazer? If the person who passed away was not into these, then maybe not. 

You were aiming for wearing a black suit with a white shirt, but now you feel a bit unsure about what to wear. The best way to go is to ask somebody from the family or close circle of the person who passed away. 

Make sure to take into consideration any traditions or religious practices that the family will undertake. Again, they will be able to tell you what is acceptable to wear and what is not ok to wear, and you will want to follow their rules. Being at a funeral means showing respect, and your outfit should show that. 

What also influences heavily the outfit is the location and the weather. If the memorial service takes place indoors, you are more flexible with the outfit, but if you know you will be standing outside too (as it is with a funeral), then you may take into consideration the weather. Check the weather the day before to get an idea, and always carry an umbrella. It will protect you both against rain and strong sun rays.

As always, make sure that your clothes are clean, well-tailored, ironed and have no threads hanging. Check your shoes and have them cleaned and / or polished. In terms of personal hygiene, make sure that your hair is neat - if you need a trim or a cut, go for it. If your hair is long, tie it in a neat bun. Make sure your beard and/or mustache are/is well-groomed. Trim your nails, brush your teeth, and keep the quantity of cologne and aftershave to a minimum. 

what colors to wear to a funeral

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Remember that if you are invited and you are going to a funeral or memorial service, do your best not to attract attention. Make sure that you are offering your condolences to the immediate family of the deceased with the utmost sympathies. This is a moment of silence, mourning, and sorrow, and the way you look and behave is paramount.