After all, no matter how casual fashion gets, there are still times when you’ll need to wear one – weddings, fancy parties, big job interviews, they generally all require one. “Many people now only wear formal clothing to weddings and funerals”, owner of Grenson , Tim Little admits. How can you wear it without looking like an old man?
What is formal attire?
The question of formal dress is a confusing one.
In general, if you find yourself staring at an invitation that requests formal attire, it’s a safe bet that it’s a black or white tie event, where you’re expected to show out in your best and most polished dress. As a rule of thumb, if an event calls for formal attire, it’s going to be fancy, and you don’t want to stick out as a slob in a crowd of well dressed men.
Traditionally, men’s formal attire indicates a black tie event, which means a black tuxedo and a tuxedo shirt, and there’s very little wiggle room around it. The black tie style is the pinnacle of formal men’s wear. It looks best with a white starched shirt and cummerbund.
If it’s specifically indicated that white tie is required, you’ll have to add a bow tie and tailed jacket into the mix.
Some business environments will also require formal attire, but we’re not saying to go wearing your tux to the office any time soon. Business formal work wear is a suit with a dress shirt that has been freshly ironed or pressed. Paired with leather dress shoes and you’ll look as if you’ve stepped out of Mad Men’s Sterling Cooper.
Formal attire is a little different today. The lines are increasingly blurred and it’s easier to get away with a dressed-down version of formal attire, so long as the look is polished and sleek.
Keep reading to learn the new rules of men’s formal attire and how to make sure you’re always dressed for the occasion.
Sportswear and Formal Attire
It was not long ago that the equation for formal attire was very simple: suit with shirt, tie and pocket square. Smart shoes were also included. Whilst it ticks all the formal boxes, this is a look that’s far from inventive and has been knocking around for decades in various forms. It’s no wonder only one in ten people in the UK now wear a suit to work – it’s become boring, and stinks of conformity and boardroom meetings.
It’s a good job then designers are beginning to herald in a new era for the old faithful. Forget everything you know about suits – this is tailoring for the next generation, it’s tailoring for those who may never have chosen or even needed to wear a suit before. It’s got nothing to do with Savile Row. It kicked off with the spring-summer shows of 2018 – there was Louis Vuitton’s all-white double-breasteds; Dior’s couture-inspired suits worn with nothing underneath; Paul Smith’s voluminous 1980s takes, and Raf Simons’ oversized designs with no shirt or tie in sight.
What does this mean to me and you? The time of formal wear is over. The suit doesn’t have to be treated like the business accomplice it always has been. Creative director of Savile Row house Gieves & Hawkes John Harrison agrees: “There is definitely an easing up on tailoring”. Yes, there are times when a shirt and tie are needed – those pesky weddings – but you can also replace the shirt altogether, and still be the best-dressed man in the room. The new rules for formal attire include everything from wearing tailored trainers to the right fit of your suit.
Formal vs Semi-formal wear
Despite the fact that times are changing when it comes to men’s formal attire, there’s still a line drawn between formal wear and semi-formal wear.
Semi-formal attire for men can be anything from a lighter colored suit to a tuxedo. You can try a lighter suit or blazer with slacks and a sharp belt. Semi-formal wear can include a tie, but doesn’t always have to, and shoes can be smart or relaxed.
Men have greater versatility when it comes to semi-formal attire. You’ll rarely walk into a semi-formal event, look around and feel like everyone’s wearing the same thing. You can experiment with patterns, colors and accessories as long as you keep the main formal staples, like a dress shirt and jacket, in mind.
If you’re a man, dress up. Daytime events allow for different color suits. Nothing’s more classy than a man in a tux.
For men, the difference between formal and formal-like dress codes is that formal wear tends to be more traditional.
The New Rules Of Men’s Formal Dress
Can we expect the modern man to dress the same as his grandfathers? While dress codes are still in place, they are slightly different.
Keep these eight new rules of men’s formal attire in mind while gearing up for your next event.
Simplicify Your Look
Forget ‘Slim Fit’
Aim For Comfort
A suit doesn’t have to have heavy structure. Whilst those of Savile Row tend to have a militaristic cut – built up roped shoulders, heaving chest canvassing – an unstructured suit strips all of this away, offering a far more comfortable end product that won’t make you feel like you need to stand to attention when you wear it.
For ultimate comfort, wear oversized outerwear. It doesn’t have to be huge, but a coat in the next size up will ensure your suit fits underneath, and it can double as a cosy weekend jacket. You can tailor your sleeve to allow you to see your hands.
If You Want Colour, Go Earthy
Rule #6: Forget Old School ‘Rules’ Men’s Of Formal Wear
Another, and one you’ll read on plenty of styles sites, is that you should never wear a pre-tied bow tie. What purpose does this serve other than to stroke the wearer’s ego that he, in fact, is wearing a ‘real’ bow tie? Well, there isn’t one really. If you’re after a bow tie then, regardless of whether it’s pre-tied or not, go for it. It shouldn’t be untied on the night anyway – you’re not James Bond.
It is the easiest and most effective rule to follow. Simply swap your shirt for a fine gauge knit – whether that be a crew neck, roll neck or Breton stripe. This immediately helps to strip away the business-like connotations of the suit, and gives off a contemporary look and feel that simply can’t be achieved with a shirt and tie.
When Buying Shoes, Consider Versatility
Crockett & Jones
Modern Formal Clothing Shopping List
If your dress clothes are in need of a serious update, here are the must-have pieces any modern man needs for men’s formal wear. Rather than fumbling around in your closet the next time an invitation arrives, have these go-to pieces ready to rumble and you’ll look like the sharpest man in the room.
The Unstructured Suit
If you’re going to own only one suit, opt for one with little to no structure and you’ll find yourself wearing it even when you don’t have to. It’ll be comfortable, easy to wear and you can dress it up or down with ease. Wear it with a knitted tie and shirt for work or a Tshirt and trainers on date night.
A Textured Blazer
A blazer worn over complementary trousers can be a good option when a suit seems too much. Said blazer should be made from some sort of textured fabric – a herringbone cotton or tweed perhaps – so that it looks as though it was meant to be worn solo.
A Knitted Tie
The knitted tie may be less formal, but it is less stiff and easier to wear. The knitted tie is usually finished with square tips, but you may find some with pointed ends that mimic the look of the printed silk versions.
The fabric choices available for menswear today have also evolved. It’s now possible to purchase classic types of shirt in cotton jersey – the comfortable fibre usually reserved for polo shirts. These jersey shirts look like a dress shirt but have more comfort and freedom of movement. The perfect combination
Some Rubber Soled Dress Shoe
Why settle for leather when rubber is available? More durable, waterproof and slip-resistant, rubber soles make for ideal everyday work shoes yet, because they are usually chunkier, they’ll also pair up equally well with your weekend wardrobe.
Finish your formal look with an oversize coat. It will not only show off your fashion sense and ability to play around with proportions, but it will also make sure your two-piece will fit underneath.