A.D. Club Punch
Students walk into the Sheraton Commander before the first punch event for the A.D. Club on Tuesday night.

With punch season in full swing and recruiting events happening all around campus, dress code etiquette can rank pretty high up on the list of unnecessarily nerve-wracking concerns. It's already tiring enough to make small-talk and regurgitate the same basic facts about yourself to 15 different people in half an hour. We shouldn’t need to waste even more time deciphering the seemingly endless list of dress codes tailored to each event. Here is a breakdown of what some of these cryptic codes mean, and how we can avoid any fashion faux pas in the future.

Semi-Casual Formal

AKA smart casual: an ambiguously-defined term that typically implies a look somewhere in between neat and casual. Different contexts, events, or venues can merit a ramping up or ramping down of "smart casual", so lookout for who’s dishing out this wardrobe assignment.


A standard favorite in the fashion world. Usually denoting a style that’s less formal than traditional business attire, but still gives off a professional vibe, this particular dress code calls for a subtle sophistication that says, “I’m calm and collected, but classy af.”


Generally the go-to for semi-formal events taking place during the day. Business-formal might be the move for conferences, business meetings, or an average day at the Porcellian.

Tea Attire

Ah, the classically cryptic dress code. It implies some level of sophistication that nobody is quite sure how to classify. To be clear, nobody is attending the Kentucky Derby here. Fancy dresses and extravagant hats are not the way to go. It’s better to think “classy visit to afternoon tea with your favorite squad of grandmas.”


Most are familiar with this recurring dress code calling for short dresses and suits and ties. Unlike other wardrobes, cocktail attire is your chance to spice things up a bit and bring your spunk to the party. This is what the average Harvard student might sport at formals.


Anything goes in the casual world, including jeans, sneakers, and even your ex-hookup’s athletic sweatshirt. While you probably won’t have the chance to sport this style at any punch events, the thought of your favorite sweats waiting for you back in your dorm will probably motivate you to power through your rounds all the more quickly.

We hope this guide can be of some service to you, no matter how minimal. The bottom line is: you are not alone. Dress code etiquette has us all equally screwed. Happy punching/recruiting!