For those of us who are naïve enough to think that formal dressing merely involves throwing on an ill-fitting suit, once worn to a relative’s wedding a decade ago, you’re in for a shock. Formal attire is not just about selecting any old suit from the back of your closet; it’s about adhering to a certain set of protocols that every gentleman should endeavour to follow, so as not to offend the sensibilities of the host who extended the invitation. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of believing that the world of formal wear is as simple as watching a 1940s Bette Davis movie and mimicking its elegance.
However, if only life were that straightforward! Formal dressing requires a keen eye for detail, an understanding of the occasion, and a respect for tradition. Let’s explore some of the basics of occasional formal dressing rules and understand that dressing appropriately is a form of respect. Save the casual disregard for dress codes for after the completion of cocktail hour, when the relaxation of the evening might forgive a loosened tie or an unbuttoned top button. But until that moment, understanding and adhering to the rules of formal wear can make the difference between making a positive impression and committing a faux pas that offends both the host and the occasion.
It’s A Formality
Fashion experts pull no punches about getting it right.
¨ Traditional red carpet dressing has been around for decades of years, and has not really changed at all in its set-up. These dress codes have rarely changed over the sands of time because of demands from (or to pay respect to) the more traditional establishments and hierarchies. Anyone seen to be straying from these many not be invited back, or even worse, sent away at the door. ¨
As a rule of thumb, the socially aware gentleman should wear suits for cocktail events but not always involving jacket and tie. For formal events, the gentleman should sport suit and tie or for the all-important black-tie bash its recommended to sport a good tuxedo. However, the good news is that in the world of fashion, rules are made to be broken albeit subtly in these examples.
1. The Emmys – A White Dinner Jacket
It can bring out the rebel in you if you’re confident enough to be different and enjoy the attention of standing out like a sore thumb. It’s frequently thought of as a safe halfway house between casual and formal, but choose the shade carefully avoiding both the cream shade and the lumpy gravy! If it’s good enough for Bond its good enough for you, but don’t be surprised if you get asked for the wine list.
2. The Academy Award – Vintage Burgundy
Leaving the black tux quite literally in the Hollywood shade, braving a burgundy tux is easy if you’re a powerful celebrity and used to risking reputation with the latest movie turkey. The consolation of primal earthy colours making you look good on national television is some comfort for coming third with a frozen grin.
3. Popular Black Tie Bash – Midnight Blue Tuxedo
Daniel Day-Lewis has a lot to answer for with those in the know trying to ape his Oscar-winning good look for several years now. Careful research will uncover classic Midnight Blues from designers such as Tom Ford only move to enhance your D.D.L. aspirational lifestyle even if the only Oscar you only see in the bedroom mirror is the grouch variety.
4. Here and Every Damn Where Accessorize
Conventional by day a black tux always looks good, but to infuse a little individuality as you and the rest of the gang loosen up consider a reversible tie and cummerbund to unleash your alter ego as the libations flow.
5. The Puerto Banus Inauguration – Patterned Dinner Jacket
Make yourself shine out from the social melee with a gloriously patterned jacket that will automatically out you as leader of the pack unelected. A subtle dark tux with bold lapels with keeps eyes only on you.
6. Friday Night Fever – Velvet Tux Jacket
If you’re raring to go and a gentleman of the gung ho persuasion, the velvet jacket in numerous colours is always a standby for an unstructured night on the tiles and even seeing one matched with jeans on some young stud makes me weep with nostalgia for Status Quo and Newcastle Brown Ale. Gloriously anti-establishment.
8. MTV or ‘New’ Media Awards
Feel free to ditch the snobbery by adopting retro seventies ghetto chic with big lapels fighting the straights lining up at tuxedo junction. At the end of the day, you’ll resign yourself to celebrity sneering as you rub shoulders with ‘The Man’ but you’ll all be too drunk to care anyway.
9. Fashion Events – Glam More Rock
No matter what you wear, dressing down a classic tux with jeans or dressing up to match the best of em’ you’ll be clashing in a virtual cornucopia of couture so just be firm and refer to it as retrospective chic, I’m sure you’ll get away with it.
10. Indian Premiers
Charcoal in the shirt department and a classical darker suit is a respectful nod to the genre and a cooler textured fabric will always earn points for style and who knows you may end up an extra or feeling like a whole new leading man.