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Apr / May 2011
The dinner jacket

Writer: Ziad Taha

History

Up until the late 19th century, men were required to wear white-tie (a long tailcoat with a white tie and waistcoat) to any formal gathering. It was the Savile Row tailor Henry Poole & Co. that invented the dinner jacket, originally intended as a modern alternative for social gatherings at home. An American from Tuxedo Park in New York was the first U.S national to sport the fashion and, in wearing it to his local social club, his town became forever synonymous with the outfit.

Modern Interpretation

Following the popularisation of black suits, the difference between a morning suit and a dinner jacket suit is not all that much save for a stripe down the outside seam of the trousers and grosgrain or satin on the lapels.

Type of shirt

The correct dress shirt to be worn with a tux has a simple turndown collar, French cuffs and is made from opaque white cotton. The opacity is achieved either through texture such as piqué, or via pleating. Also the buttons must be covered by a placket unless you prefer removable dress buttons.

Bowties

If you don’t know how to tie a bowtie then you really must learn as there are few things worse than pre-tied ties. Make sure yours is made from silk (you can find matt or shiny ones).

Cummerbund

Only ever skip the cummerbund if you have a double-breasted tux. Alternatively, if you don’t feel comfortable wearing a cummerbund then ask your tailor to fit you with a waistcoat from the same material as the tux.

Shoes

Your best choice is a pair of black patent leather slim lace-ups with thin leather soles but you can also get away with a pair of highly polished calfskin shoes. 

‘Black tie optional’

Invitations that state ‘black tie optional’ are understandably confusing. Either go with the tux or a dark navy blue suit but make sure you wear it with a white shirt and a sober tie.

White Jackets

Authoritarians on the subject assert that it’s only appropriate for a guest to wear a white jacket between the months of May and September. (Those that live below the equator should do the opposite.) 

Removing the jacket

Generally, at a black-tie affair, you want to keep your jacket on, at least until they start shaking the champagne bottles and dancing on the tables. If you’re someone that can’t keep their jacket on for long then consider wearing a waistcoat instead of a cummerbund.

Velvet and blue jackets

When Edison's light bulb replaced the candle, it made the black tuxedo look a bit green. It took a gentleman of the rank of the Duke of Windsor to discover that a very dark blue tux looked blacker than black in artificial light and has remained an alternative ever since. Velvet however is a material that looks best worn casually - as when paired with jeans.

Watches

Thin and elegant watches should be worn with dressy clothes. Sports watches may be useful when diving in the Galápagos or climbing the Matterhorn, unfortunately they just don’t look appropriate in a ballroom.

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