There’s nothing like receiving a party invitation bearing an obscure, little-known dress code to get us hot under the collar. But what collar? Semi-spread? Cutaway? Wing-tip? It’s a sartorial minefield.
Thankfully for you, then, Jeremy Hackett is a friend of Gentleman’s Journal. Co-founder of his eponymous brand — and one of the most sharply-dressed chaps around — Hackett has been keeping us abreast of the best in men’s formalwear for over 35 years. And now, we turn to him to decipher these problematic phrases from fashionese into everyday English.
What do the most common dress codes actually mean?
‘Smart Casual’: “I was invited to a function where the dress code was “smart casual” I was appalled at the way the majority of men were turned out, T-shirts, badly fitting outerwear jackets scruffy trousers and don’t get me started on shoes. A blazer and tailored trousers suffice and I prefer to call it ‘At Ease’.”
‘Cocktail’: “For a cocktail party there is nothing better than a well-tailored navy blue suit.”
‘Lounge Suit’: “A lounge suit can be less formal and what better than a classic Prince of Wales suit.”
‘Black or White Tie’: “White or black tie is strictly a monochrome affair and my mantra is ‘formal dress is not fancy dress’.”
Jeremy Hackett's further dress code top tips...
On adding colour to Black Tie: “Personally, I would not add colour and certainly not colourful bow ties. The black and white ensemble makes a striking statement.”
On wearing a watch with Black Tie: “Yes, by all means, wear a watch otherwise you may miss the last bus home. The watch should be one that is refined and elegant the Cartier tank is a good example or a vintage watch. It is best to leave the chunky sports watch at home.”
On what not to wear: “With smart casual, I would add that you shouldn’t wear a suit or a tie — and definitely not a heavily logo polo.”
On not wearing socks with a suit: “Let’s face it most men don’t have a well turned ankle and being a shopkeeper with my commercial hat on I want to sell socks.”
On over-accessorising: “As they say “less is more” I would only add a watch and possibly a tie pin.”
On how your suit should be tailored: “A well-tailored suit is neither too tight nor too loose.”
On how to nail Black Tie: “Black Tie is a form of uniform. The fit is important — and not only the dinner jacket, but the dress shirt. Pay attention to the dress studs. A self-tie bow tie is a prerequisite. And wear well-polished, decent shoes with long black socks please.”
Now find out what your winter coat says about you…