Party Season Dressing
There is often a singular moment that makes you aware of the changing seasons, mine came last week when braving the storm to take the dog for a walk. Our usually brisk stroll through the woods was replaced by a gallant march around the block, walking horizontally into the gale whilst ensuring the pup remained on terra firma. The wind certainly blew the Autumnal cobwebs away giving me a glimpse of Winter.
With the arrival of Winter talk at the water cooler turns to party season; As work starts winding down for the year, shorter days make way for longer nights and heighten our urge to socialise. There’s the mandatory office party, Christmas (Eve, Day & Boxing Day), Hogmanay, New Year’s Day and all the other nights out and catching up in between. With all these parties, nights out and get togethers comes the dilemma of what to wear. Casual, smart, smart casual, black tie, evening, cocktail are all dress codes that might be thrown about and it can be difficult to successfully navigate.
(Keen readers will remember my guide to Black Tie from last year’s October issue of the Ayrshire Magazine, so in this guide I’m addressing less formal parties and nights out)
I’ve put together a guide to dressing for the party season that should help every man look his best whatever the occasion.
Some ground rules before we start;
The going out shirt – If you have a shirt or two that are specifically for pulling or you consider lucky; get them in the bin. A well-fitting crisp white shirt will never look out of place, double cuffs with ornate or decorative cufflinks will add an elegance to your look and makes for a pleasing alternative to the everyday work shirt.
Novelty dress – I used to work in bars and every year we faced the dreaded office party. Groups of twenty strong nine to fivers, a mix of seasonal drinkers and seasoned drinkers, the socially awkward and the socially inept, identifiable by a uniform of novelty Christmas jumpers and festive ties, red noses and antlers, Santa hats and tinsel. I’m not the fun police, but I don’t think that novelty dress has a place in public.
Pointy Shoes – During the early Noughties winkle pickers were popularised by Indie rock bands such as The Libertines and Razorlight, pairing them with vintage leather jackets, skinny jeans, trilbies and heroin - the latter quite possibly responsible for the former. They don’t look good and you will be set up for elf jokes all night.
Winter is my favourite season for dressing up, layers, textures and accessories are paramount in keeping warm and looking good, with a range of social occasions calling for slightly different looks. Winter parties offer up the chance to wear something a bit special, Christmas holds a nostalgic charm that’s fun to embrace.
Separates – two and three-piece suits are great, but can sometimes look a bit formal. Look at separate trousers and jackets as an alternative to the suit. The trick with this look is to make sure the trousers and jacket are completely different, I like to have a darker trouser and lighter jacket but the opposite can work equally well. Think about mixing textures like chinos and tweed or denim and flannel. For a more dressed up look add a crisp white shirt or dress the look down with a simple fine knit jumper. For dressier events like Hogmanay add a bit of glamour applying the same principle. Dark flannel trousers worn with a velvet jacket, or brightly patterned trousers with a well fitted dark blazer are great options for events that are celebratory but don’t require black tie dress.
Accessorise – Winter is the perfect opportunity to invest in luxury pieces that are affordable. A beautiful cashmere scarf or a pair of soft leather gloves won’t break yet they will add an element of luxury to any outfit and if looked after properly, will last you a very long time. Simple block colours or brightly coloured tartans and checks are timeless and help to add a flash of colour to a usually dark winter palette.
Wool and the Gang – It’s no secret that I’m a fan of wool, especially in Winter. When shopping for knitwear, look out for 100% merino wool, it’s slightly pricier than lamb’s wool or virgin wool but the difference in quality and handle is worth it. The variety of knitwear available is Scotland is unparalleled; from small indie brands to global leaders, we are spoiled for choice. Chunky or cable knit jumpers pair well with simple dark denims, dark leather boots and peaty whisky for a relaxed sitting-by-the-fire-after-being-at-sea look. Whilst fine gauge crew neck jumpers can add a splash of colour and another layer of texture to trousers and jackets. I’m also a huge fan of a fine knitted polo neck worn with a suit, there’s a certain vintage charm about it, although avoid heavy tweeds at the risk of looking like Ron Burgundy.
“You’ll need yer big coat” – How many years have you worn the same jacket from September through to March with the thought of getting a good coat for Christmas? If you don’t already have one, It’s time to bite the bullet, time to listen to your mother and get a winter coat. Winter coats are great; with such a variety of styles to suit everyone. A classic double breasted melton peacoat with wide lapels and traditional anchor engraved buttons epitomises winter casual style whilst repelling stormy winds on the high seas or hail on the high street. For a more formal coat look for a calf length overcoat in colours of black, navy or camel. Oversized boxy shapes are reminiscent of 80’s Wall Street traders, so look for a slimmer cut for a more contemporary look.
As always my general advice is to compose your look without it looking like you’ve tried too hard. One of most poignant quotes I’ve ever read about style comes from one of the UK’s most prolific designers, Hardy Amies:
“A man should look as if he had bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care, and then forgotten all about them”