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Origins Of Style – The History Of Black Tie Events

The tie began its life in seventeenth century France when Louis XIII stole the idea from the croatian mercenaries he hired to fight for him in the Thirty-Year War. The king admired the piece of cloth tied around the Croatians necks so much that he made it a compulsory accessory at the French royal court and christened it a cravat (the French word for “Croat”) in their honour. However, exactly how the black tie or bow tie we now associate with the most prestigious social occasions and special events evolved out of a piece of rag round a Croatian soldier’s neck is not quite clear.

What we do know, however, is that it was in the late nineteenth century that the dinner jacket and corresponding black tie became popular amongst the British middle and upper classes who sought an alternative to the dress coat, which was an evening tailcoat thtat had begun to seem just a tad too formal.

Then in 1886 it properly became a part of fashion history when a formal ball was held by the tobacco magnate Pierre Lorillard on his estate in Orange County in New York state. We know how much influence this event was to have by the name of the club at which it was held: The Tuxedo Club. So, not only was the dinner jacket introduced to America, but it was taken to the heart of American society and given a new name that would last to this day.

The Evolution Of The Black Tie

As the twentieth century progressed, dinner jackets and black bow ties became less associated with regular evening wear and more associated with the special events that came to be characterised by the tie that was an intrinsic part of the uniform. In turn, “black tie events” became associated with glamorous events and people, and so in time they became synonymous with Hollywood and the glitz of the film industry. Amongst its most famous advocates were Charlie Chaplin, Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire and Dean Martin.

As time went on and the black tie lost some of its formality, other colours and designs began to creep in, but the bow tie was always a symbol of class and refinement. It would also later come to be strongly associuated with intelligence, as various famous intellectuals, politicians and scientists began to favour it, including Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Saul Bellow and Arthur Schlesinger.

In the decades after the end of the Second World War, black tie events have become increasingly less rigid in their protocol and today quite a lot of cariation is permitted. However, it’s still important to realise that black is very much used as a gentleman’s uniform. It is the beautiful dresses of the females at a black tie event that take centre stage in terms of colour and overall splendour. The male’s “uniform” should never over-shadow this. It would be ungentlemanly to do so.

 

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Top 3 satorial tips for the office Christmas party

Yes, I know it’s only September but it’s time to start thinking about the dreaded C word. Yes, that’s right – Christmas. The Christmas party season will soon be upon us and if you want to look like the dapper man-about- town that I know that you do, you need to plan ahead.

Office Christmas parties can be strange affairs. They can be an eclectic mix of Directors, Senior Managers, colleagues, clients and of course, their partners, Therefore, this is not an occasion for dressing down. You should seize this opportunity to wear something smart, eye-catching and above all, memorable. In other words, a bespoke tailored suit and if you want one in time for Christmas, you need to speak to your tailor now. Here are my 3 top tips for looking stylish at this year’s Christmas party:

    • Don’t wear the suit you always wear. A new suit in navy, black or grey that has been perfectly tailored to your body shape will make the impact you want to make and get you noticed.
    • Waistcoats are optional but I would recommend accessorizing your suit with a silk pocket square and a nice watch. Cuff-links will complete the look but don’t choose anything Christmas-themed and ruin the elegance of your attire.
    •  Same goes for ties. I personally prefer to wear a tie with a suit but it is definitely optional these days. Once again, don’t wear a tie that is Christmas – themed or has flashing strobe lights on it! Go for something silk, elegant and complimentary to your pocket square.

I know the above may sound a bit ‘bah humbug’ but leave the Christmas-themed attire for get-togethers with your friends or in the home….if you have to. Whether you like it or not, you are on display at the office Christmas party and you want people to remember you for all the right reasons.

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Origins of Style – The History of the Pocket Square

Many sartorial historians agree that the origins of the pocket square can be traced back to Ancient Greece, where Greeks of a certain class carried a perfumed cloth around with them to ward off evil smells. Others point to the first century AD when Catholic Church officials attached white handkerchiefs to their left arms to signify their devotion. Others still cite historical documents written by courtiers of King Richard II that pinpoint the 14th century monarch as the official inventor of the designed-for-purpose nose-cleaning cloth.

However, is this actually what we mean when we think of the term ‘pocket square’? Is there not some difference between a piece of cloth for wiping drippage from the nose and the purely decorative pocket accessory, often stitched in place? There is now, but this was not always the case.

From Handkerchief to Fashion Accessory

The handkerchief became increasingly popular in the 1400s, when it evolved from practical item to fashion accessory, from cheap cotton cloth to fine silk square. They still came in various different shapes and sizes, but they were becoming status symbols and by the 16th and 17th centuries, embroidered silk and fine lace designs were considered highly valuable, even becoming prized family heirlooms.

It is generally believed that some conformity was introduced in the 18th century, when Marie Antoinette came to the decision that it was unseemly to have handkerchiefs of varying sizes and so had her husband Louis XVI decree a standard size of 16 square inches.

Changing to Suit the Suit

When the two-piece suit became fashionable in the 19th century, men decided they no longer wanted their handkerchiefs mixing in with a pocketful of grubby coins and what-have-you, so in time it became transferred to the left breast pocket. This style caught on and persisted into the 20th century. Handkerchief folding styles came and went but by now the prevalence of the silk, linen or cotton pocket square, either plain or patterned, had become well-established as a stylish accessory throughout Europe and into America.

The invention of the disposable tissue by Kleenex in the 1920s gradually saw the popularity of the handkerchief decline throughout the world, but practical necessity was quickly replaced by stylish necessity and the pocket square as we know it today became a mainstay of the truly fashionable.

In the 21st century, pocket squares have enjoyed something of a renaissance and have become as essential accessory for fashionistas, A-list celebs and anyone who really wishes to stand out from the crowd and add a touch of style and elegance to an otherwise ordinary suit.

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The art of looking stylish at sporting events

It was recently reported that the RBS Six Nations is the most well attended of all the sporting events across the world. Average attendances at the Six Nations is even higher than the football World Cup and the European Championships. If you’re lucky enough to be going to one or more of the matches, then getting kitted out with an appropriate outfit should be on your agenda. In fact, if you love sport, then we’re entering into a pretty action-packed part of the sporting calendar. In addition to the Six Nations, we have the much-anticipated Cheltenham Festival and hot on the heels of that we have the Grand National. So, if sport is your thing, and you’re going to be attending any of these events, you need to dress accordingly.

At events like Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby, there are strict dress codes if you want to mix in certain enclosures but for Rugby and for Cheltenham, the overall theme is much more informal and relaxed.

Smart casual is perfectly fine for these events but clearly, interpretation of ‘smart casual’ can differ dramatically. To look sartorially elegant at a sporting event then a casual jacket or blazer, matching waistcoat and smart jeans, cords or chinos will help you to look the part. A collared shirt and woollen tie complement the outfit and if you want to adapt a country gentleman look, then you can’t go wrong with tweed worn with a pair of smart brogues or Oxford shoes.

Of course, having a well-tailored overcoat completes the look so something in grey or brown will look smart. Earthly tones such as green, brown, grey, and dark-checks are perfect for outdoor sporting events and these can be combined with bold cashmere scarves and silk handkerchiefs to inject some colour into your outfit.

Layering different tones in your ties, waistcoats, scarves, sweaters and overcoats is also a good look and will give you a stylish appearance.

After the sporting event, there is usually the socialising that takes place afterwards so it makes sense to plan your sporting wardrobe with this in mind. Choose outfits that can easily take you through to the after-event drinks and dining. As you can see, there’s so much more to sport than who loses and who wins. Looking dapper is every bit as important!

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Getting your winter wardrobe ready

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Love it or hate it, the winter weather will soon be upon us and now is the perfect time to start considering what needs updating in your winter wardrobe. It’s so easy to dig out last year’s woolly jumper and overcoat but why not treat yourself and give your wardrobe a stylish new revamp? The trick to keeping warm and fashionable this winter is to layer. Adding stylish layers to your attire can help you go from the coldness of outdoors to the inside warmth of a social gathering with ease.

A winter coat is the most obvious and essential piece of clothing for the season. A decent quality material along with versatility will help you achieve a long-lasting overcoat that will see you through this winter and hopefully many more. In addition to your main coat, a rain jacket or lightweight coat can be added to your wardrobe for those ‘not so chilly’ days,

Trying to choose your main coat can be daunting, so remember to pick one that complements your business wear and your casual wear. You don’t want to turn up to work in a smart suit with a bright yellow puffa jacket and lose that professional business image you’ve been busy cultivating! Longer, more streamlined coats give off a more elegant look, and choosing them in neutral, subdued colours keeps them easy to blend in and complement a range of formal and smart casual outfits.

A luxury cashmere jumper is also a great addition to your wardrobe. For business wear opt for neutral colours, navy, grey, black – this will keep the respected professional look and will blend well with different suit colours without having to spend too much time in the morning colour co-ordinating.

For casual wear, bolder colours can be introduced – burgundy and tan are great colours that work well with many trouser colours without going overboard.

Winter footwear also needs to be considered. A trusty pair of warm and sturdy shoes or boots will ensure you get through the winter months. Leather boots are the most obvious choice as they keep in the warmth and are very durable. Concentrate on the sole of the shoes or boots that you opt for – a good rubber sole will ensure you don’t have an eventful walk on the icy pavements.

And it’s not just the main garments that need to be considered – don’t forget your trusty scarf and leather gloves, a reliable umbrella or a modern hat to keep the chilly breeze and rain under control. These basic essentials can really add a smart and trendy look to a wide variety of outfits.

Take a look at your current winter wardrobe and see if it passes muster. If it doesn’t, it might be time to treat yourself to some gentleman’s winter tailoring.

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The versatility of the blazer

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If you do not own a blazer, then you’re missing out! A blazer is an essential piece of clothing for any man, for any occasion and for any season. They are an extremely versatile garment that will give you a stylish, confident look for either the workplace or a social gathering. A textured blazer is the best option to go for. It can easily be worn for casual weekends or smart weekdays. If money allows, a tailored blazer is the best way to go. A tailored blazer will fit to perfection and will make you feel smart and debonair.

Wool is the best material to choose for the winter months. Being a natural fibre with non-allergenic and heat-retaining qualities, all you need to worry about is picking your wool blazer in the colour you like the most. Opting for neutral colours will ensure you can wear your blazer with most of your other clothing. A tweed blazer is another great winter option, with its woven structure, tweed is well known for its durability. Tweed blazers are always present in menswear collections and will never go out of fashion so it’s money well spent.

If the occasion is floating somewhere between formal and casual, then the blazer really comes into its own. The blazer with a formal pair of trousers and a t shirt will create the look that fits somewhere in between, making sure you are not too over or under dressed. This is an ideal outfit for a formal occasion in a casual setting.

A textured blazer can help you go from casual to smart casual in the blink of an eye.  Paired with a simple shirt and jeans, this blazer will ensure you are smart enough for that last-minute meeting or networking event.

For the mature dinner party or fancy restaurant, a blazer will compliment a pair of chinos and a classic oxford shirt with some leather brogues. This outfit will ensure you are at the top end of smart casual so you don’t risk being underdressed.

For a special occasion, a blazer with formal trousers and shirt will create that modern, confident look. It is more interesting than the usual suit—but just as formal. You will create that enviable style and stand out from the usual ‘same suit for all occasions’ look.

You don’t have to own numerous blazers to achieve all the looks above; one tailored blazer will go a long way to creating that stylish look for every occasion.

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Looking cool at summer events

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Summer weddings, festivals, garden parties – with so many occasions on the horizon, opting for outfits that are stylish and cool will help you feel comfortable and at ease. Creating that summer-fresh look this season can be easily achieved if the right fabrics are chosen. Selecting fabrics that allow air to circulate will help you stay away from the awkward beads of sweat you are trying so hard to avoid!

For a Summer wedding abroad, choosing a white linen shirt and cotton tailored trousers will really help with the summer heat (and it’s probably the only time you will get away with wearing linen to a wedding!). If a suit is required, a lightweight wool or Fresco wool can offer a lighter, more breathable fabric. Wool suits have a reputation for being worn in winter months but with different weights and weaves available, wool is also suitable for warmer weather. Finer threads, looser weaves, and more porous materials all help add to a textile’s breathability. With regards to footwear, a dress shoe is recommended for weddings but you can sometimes get away with a smart pair of moccasins – as they are classed as a casual shoe, don’t wear them with a neck tie.

For a more informal garden party or festival, a finely tailored pair of chino trousers and a polo shirt can give you a perfectly fitting outfit that brings a casual tone. A perfectly tailored pair of trousers can lift your outfit to a new level and portray a clean-cut image. Boat shoes or moccasins are perfect shoes for summer weather. They complement many summer outfits and can be worn day or night, offering versatility.

When choosing your summer fabrics, the lighter the threads and the looser the weave, the more comfortable the fabric will be. Densely-woven cotton like oxford and broadcloth quickly become stifling in the summer, holding both sweat and body- warmed air close to the skin, so always try to avoid these types during the summer months.

And never forget that the British weather is prone to changing at a moment’s notice! A lightweight blazer in a neutral colour will go with any outfit and still give you that smart casual look. An unlined blazer will work well or choosing a lining that will allow breathability will be fine. Gentlemen – the rise in temperature is no excuse to let down your sartorial standards so looking cool in every respect should be your chief aim!

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What to wear to Cowes week

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Cowes Week is one of the longest-running and prestigious regattas in the world. It is held in Cowes on the Isle of Wight at the beginning of August and hosts 40 daily races, with up to 1,000 boats and 8,000 competitors. Ranging from Olympic and world class professionals to weekend sailors, it is the largest sailing regatta of its kind in the world.

The town becomes a hive of activity and entertainment lasts into the early hours of each morning. Around 100,000 visitors are attracted to Cowes by the festival atmosphere of the event so if you’re attending this year, make sure you feel stylish and comfortable at this fantastic occasion.

There is no formal dress code for being a spectator at Cowes Week but opting for lightweight fabrics that can be layered can offer versatility that will prove vital when it comes to the British weather.

If you are heading to Cowes Yacht Haven or the parade, a more relaxed feel is the order of the day. Both these venues offer food and drink and live music so classic chino trousers and a polo shirt can help you feel comfortable in your surroundings. The parade is waterfront so a jacket maybe needed for late evening to keep the chill at bay. A classic two button sports jacket will keep your look casual but smart. Boat shoes will provide comfortable footwear when venturing around the shops for a bit of retail therapy.

Shepards Wharf and Northwood House offer acoustic and jazz acts, a great selection of beers and cocktails and a more relaxed ‘chill out’ style. A tailored white cotton shirt paired with lightweight blue chino trousers bring a look that will ease you from daytime browsing to night time socialising. A navy blazer will give you that subtle nautical look. Brown/tan Deck shoes or loafers are comfortable yet stylish shoes that will complement your look and provide suitable footwear for checking out the town or going aboard the spectator boats. Make sure to accessorise your outfit with sunglasses and a stylish watch.

On the final Friday evening be sure to catch the firework display, a fantastic festival atmosphere that is viewed as an integral part of the event – and don’t forget your jacket or blazer….and umbrella. You just can’t trust the British weather!

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The Art of Accessorising

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When creating that special outfit or stylish look, many people overlook the little added extras that really make their attire come to life. We’re not saying go over board and have a jazzy tie, a huge watch, a colourful handkerchief and a pair of the ultimate cuff links all on one outfit. Simply by using little colour-coded extras, it will add subtle perfections to your outfit and bring the whole ensemble together.

A tie will always complement your suit and there are numerous design types to choose from. For summer months you can afford to be more adventurous with the colours, opting for pale or bright colours (depending on the occasion). For Autumn/Winter months, tone down the bright colours and choose a different texture which complements your suit. When deciding on a standard or skinny tie, as a general rule, your tie should be as close to the width of your suit lapel as possible.

Handkerchiefs/pocket squares can provide fine colour to your suit. In line with the tie selection, colours can be more vibrant in Summer and more textured in the Winter.

Tie pins are a great accessory that can work well for the business executive to create a professional look. For outdoor occasions they will keep control of your tie and avoid leaving it flapping in the breeze! Make sure you select a pin size that suits your tie, having a pin that overhangs your tie will completely kill the look.

Cufflinks are subtle extras that can be bold and adventurous without being too ‘in- your-face’. There are many designs out there that can reflect the occasion you are attending. Specific colours can be chosen to match other suit accessories. For black tie, it’s best to opt for clean-cut and elegant styles, in silver, gold or onyx.

A watch is a timeless classic that can be worn for any occasion and for any season. They can be worn for formal occasions but also for that casual weekend away. Any design can be worn with a suit but for a smart, formal style, opt for a thin, discreet gold dress watch.

Just remember that when purchasing your suit, it is not the finished product – little added extras will give you a stylish appearance that will enhance the overall impact you make!

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Summer Weddings

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Summer is one of the most popular times of year to hold a wedding so if your big day is fast approaching and you’ve got so many important decisions to make, let’s hope choosing your suit is one that is pleasurable and simple! Working with a professional tailor will help take away all the stresses and will work alongside you, your bride, your groomsmen (and even your wedding planner) to ensure a smooth service.

Choosing a suit that will complement your theme, the location, your bride’s dress and the weather may seem impossible but there are lots of options available to ensure you both have a fabulous wedding that guests will never forget!

The most familiar wedding outfit is a more formal look. This range may include a full morning suit, tails, tuxedo, stroller jacket, dinner jacket or dark suit. A morning suit is the most formal of them all and can provide a traditional design suitable for dark colours. A three piece is recommended with this style so the heavy coat can be removed during the reception and still provide a stylish and smart look.

A Tuxedo sits between a morning suit and lounge suit. Black is the most classic choice but this type of suit can also work well in midnight blue. Opting for a unique style on the lapels can make this outfit more appealing and distinctive.

For something a little less formal, a lounge suit can be a great alternative, especially if it’s a tailored suit. A slim-fit, single-breasted two-piece is a slick and contemporary choice for the groom who wants to keep things simple, but still look exceptionally sharp. Classic-fitting double-breasted or three-piece suits are also worth considering especially if you’re looking for something that makes a statement but is still a timeless classic.

Wool, Cotton, Linen and a blended fabric are all great options. Although wool usually conjures up images of a heavy suit, wool can in fact be a lightweight, year-round fabric. A good lightweight wool has features that promote airflow whilst year round wool still allows for breathability and movement. For a more opulent suit, opt for a silk/wool blend.

Whatever design and colour you choose, remember the little added extras that can bring your whole theme together – the pocket handkerchief, the tie or cravat, the shoes. All aspects of a tailored suit can be matched to your wedding theme from the lining of your jacket to the colour of your waistcoat – all these little features can bring the outfit to life.

And don’t forget – Fine Tailoring is all about creating a suit that makes you feel confident and distinctive. It’s about choosing the correct fit, cut and style that produce the perfect attire not to mention unveiling your character. To cope with what may be a rather warm day there are many fabric options that will ensure that you keep cool, calm and collected during your big day and any good tailor will be able to talk you through the choices available.

You can’t beat a summer wedding and you can’t beat a finely tailored suit to mark the occasion.