When Formal Attire is Required
The invitation might have read: “You’re invited to dinner this evening at our home. It will be small group of family and friends, so one of your dinner jackets will be sufficient attire.” Really? Yep! Believe it or not, it wasn’t so long ago, just four generations or less, when a man of some means and class would have been considered too casually dressed to be seen in public after 6pm (or when it got dark) if he were merely wearing what we call a Tuxedo or Dinner Jacket. Shoot, these days you barely need a jacket of any sort at most places. Culture has caved!
Your Formal Wear and Socializing Change Up
On a recent evening I asked my wife, “What kind of man should wear velvet?” and she said, “An elegant man!” Then she qualified that with, “an elegant man, with a trim torso….you know…like George Clooney!” Well, I’m not sure where that leaves you, but I’m over here in my favorite chair with a glass of red wine thinking I don’t need to be a Hollywood leading man to dress like one.
Let’s be honest. We’re not talking about a blue blazer right now. A velvet jacket is not an “everyman’s” garment. Then again, what is elegance but a state of mind and tailored jacket that fits and is properly worn?
One of the most sublime aspects of formal dressing is its simplicity. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” said Da Vinci. Well, whether or not he actually said that, it makes sense that he would have. And, if you study those who have been considered the icons of style and the best dressed throughout history, each one, though unique, has demonstrated exceptionally good taste, subtle and refined.
Black and White. Tailored from fine cotton, wool, and silk. Simplicity defined.
In an article titled ‘Pablo Picasso: Austerity Measures,’ (WSJ, October 17, 2012) about a current exhibit at the Guggenheim, “Picasso Black and White,” Michael Fitzgerald (Professor of Art History at Trinity College) made reference to the “structural clarity of black and white.” You’re busy. You’re successful. The formal choice is simple and clear.
The nine easy pieces? Pictured above, they include:
- Dinner Jacket
- Formal Trousers
- Formal Shirt
- Studs and Links
- Black Bow Tie (preferably a bow tie that you tie yourself…which may cause you to need a…
- Flask….of the hard stuff….to calm your nerves which are now frayed from tying that bow tie.
- Cummerbund to match the bow tie
- Formal Shoes
- Fine, black socks
Add yourself (or your favorite pocket square – luxurious silk or crisp white linen) to the mix and you have a perfect ten.
Here’s an idea: Update your formal wear and plan a weekend in NYC, including a visit to the Guggenheim.
Now go have some fun!
“This is a midnight show, fellas,” said Sinatra to the members of the Tonight Show Band. “You only go out in daytime with these gray suits.” Whether by the commanding influence of his mother, pure instinct, or keen observation, Sinatra lived by a code that included well-understood rules of decorum. Gray suits and brown shoes were fine for daytime wear, but never after six. He also knew that how he dressed was fundamental to setting the tone for each performance and every moment of his life. Sinatra always owned the night!
Classic and Confident
Once you know the rules, then and only then are you free to bend or extend the rules. A gray suit at night? With black accoutrements the gray suit successfully escapes the boardroom. It’s a new day, Old Blue Eyes! A dinner jacket several shades brighter than the customary midnight navy? When of classic design, paired with simple elements, it beams; it shines, making a confident statement. Oh, and it’s fun too!
When you know how to do it right, you gain a freedom to push the limits in ways that always meet with good favor. Since the 16th century, thanks to Castiglione, the Italians have known this acquired sensibility as sprezzatura: ability possessed, devoid of pretension, exercised to perfection with no apparent effort. Develop it for yourself and you too will own the night….and the day for that matter.
Bring on the night!