Stay Stylish this Christmas and New Year

It’s that time of year again. Christmas jumpers are in abundance, after-work drinks and parties seem never-ending and the jury will be out on who will be the biggest embarrassment at the office Christmas party. Of course, you don’t have to follow the crowd. Christmas and the New Year may be a time when you let your hair down, but it doesn’t mean you should compromise on the fashion stakes. On the contrary. The festive season throws up many events and occassions where looking sartorially elegant is what any discerning male should aim tro achieve.  For example:

The office party – don’t wear that suit you’ve been wearing all year. Wear a suit that’s a different colour and cut or combine a tailored jacket with smart jeans and a crisp open-neck white shirt. Office parties tend to be informal affairs so tone-down your outfit and keep it smart casual.

Formal occasion – if you’ve been invited to a black-tie event for New Year’s Eve then make sure you adhere to the black-tie rules. Not dark blue or dark grey. It should be black and pay attention to the detailing – white shirt, matching black trousers, black bow-tie, black socks and black formal shoes.

A smart dinner party – smart casual or suited and booted is the order of the day here. It really depends on how smart the dinner party is. If you’ve opted to go to a very chic Michelin-starred restraurant then I would recommend a tailored suit in a neutral colour such as black, grey or navy and then inject some colour with a silk tie and pocket square. Elegant silver cufflinks and a showpiece watch will complete the look.

Whatever you’re doing this Christmas and New year, have a wonderful time and keep it stylish. Remember, those photos of you on social media never really go away, so make sure that when you’re caught up in a group photo, you can at least be proud of your attire!

Origins Of Style – The History Of The Shooting Jacket

A shooting jacket is an item of practical rural attire specifically designed for hunting and other shooting sports, such as clay pigeon shooting. As well as oversized front pockets that allow for the carrying of cartridges and other gun-related paraphernalia, the shooting jacket also has special cuts at the shoulder to allow for easier movement and the ability to lift a gun high to shoot high-flying targets. Many shooting jackets are also waterproof with a breathable liner to cope with adverse weather conditions, and many also have concealed zips to avoid the sctratching of the gun.

The Theory of the Duke

As for the origins of the shooting jacket, the most commonly cited theory holds that the style was originally invented in the mid-to-late 19th century (sometime in the 1860s to be slightly more precise) by one Henry Fitzalan-Howard, who just happened to be the 15th Duke of Norfolk. Hence one of the jacket’s alternative monikers, the Norfolk jacket.

Having been conceived by the duke, the jacket is then said to have been popularised in the 1880s by the then Prince of Wales, who was later to become King Edward VII. As royal fashion was in those days commonly revered and imitated, Edward VII also made the Homburg hat a hit.

Although this theory sounds reasonable enough, there is not a lot of evidence to support it, and other theories are also in existence.

The Theory of the Earl

Another theory holds that the Earl of Leicester, one Thomas William Coke, was more likely the first to wear this famous hunting garment as he gadded about his 43,000 acre Norfolk estate, killing things. Coke was well-known for entertaining England’s nobility at his country pile in the 1820s, where they hunted partridge, pheasants, and doubtless, anything else that wandered into view.

The Earl and his posh pals, including the then Prince of Wales and future king, George IV, allegedly adopted the jacket with a wide belt, box pleasts and more spacious patch pockets for the carrying of hunting knickknacks. The belt apparently improved the line of the jacket, as well as keeping out the cold air.

Again, there is little solid evidence to support this theory, but it’s not implausible.

As far as verifiable facts are concerned, the shooting jacket was definitely worn by the Rifle Corps of the Volunteer Force in 1859 (which rather spoils the first theory). It also appeared in fashion magazines for young boys’ outfits in the same year. We also know for sure that it originated in Norfolk, became popular in 1860s and over the following couple of decades, became increasingly popular with the general public, as rural activities such as fishing and hunting became more widespread. Furthermore, by the 1890s, we know that stylish young men had started wearing it around town, without their gun, because it just looked so damned good.

Dressing Smartly For Winter

There’s something quite satisfying about getting your wardrobe ready for a new season and with winter upon us, it’s time to re-evaluate your garments and see what new additions will enhance your look. First and formost, it has to be your winter coat.

Any man who cares about his winter wardrobe should have a quality winter coat, a rain jacket and something a bit lighter for those days where it hardly feels like winter at all. When it comes to your main winter coat, choose a good quality material and something that will not only fit in with you business wear but will complement your casual wear as well. Generally speaking, a longer, more streamline winter coat will give you a more stylish feel and if you opt for classic dark blues, greys and of course, black, you can’t go wrong. For the more adventurous, then bolder greens or burgundies can give you a strong impact when worn with the appropriate clothing underneath.

As with any winter season, layering is the best way to keep warm but also look elegant. Stylish waistcoats, cashmere jumpers, turtleneck sweaters and a woollen sports jacket are perfect additions to your wardrobe for winter. Opting for various shades of the same colour in your garments can look very smart when done properly and this kind of look works especially well when you’re working with different shades of grey.

Of course, we are also fast entering the Christmas season so a few garments to see you through the endless round of parties and get-togethers will be needed. Tailored woollen jackets, crisp white shirts, silk ties and pocket squares will always serve you well and for more casual events, then a pair of smart dark blue jeans worn with a lightweight tweed jacket or blazer will give you an elegant and sophisticated look.

Whatever your plans are for this winter, make sure that your wardrobe is up to the challenge, both on a practical and sartorial front.

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.

 

Origins of Style – The History of the Waistcoat

Unlike most garments or fashion accessories, the origins of the Western waistcoat can actually be dated pretty precisely as it was the English king Charles II who in October 1666 decreed it to be part of an Englishman’s correct dress. (Having said that, the idea for the waistcoat had not been a new one as it was based very closely on designs seen previously in Persia and in India.)

The waistcoat’s arrival in England, however, immediately made history as the occasion was marked by an entry in the most famous historical diary of all time, that of Samuel Pepys: “The King hath yesterday declared his resolution of setting a fashion for clothes which he will never alter. It will be a vest, I know not well how.” Note the original term “vest” (still favoured in America). Over time it became known as a waistcoat for the simple reason that it reached the waist and no further (unlike the formal dress coats worn on top of them, which would reach down to the knee). Interestingly, it was thought for some time that the name waistcoat was derived from the fact that garment was originally made from excess material that would otherwise have gone to ‘waste’. This, however, was nonsense.

Originally, during the 17th and 18th centuries, the fashion in waistcoat was for highly ornate items in bright colours, but this gradually gave way to a much more informal and even puritanical style in the late 1700s and into the 19th century. Partly this was due to the international influence of the distinctly anti-aristocratic French Revolution in 1789.

From the 19th Century to the Current Day

From 1810, waistcoats became shorter still and a much tighter fit, eventually almost doubling as an undergarment or a foundation garment, increasingly being used cosmetically, to streamline the fuller figure. When the corset became popular in the 1820s, waistcoats served to emphasise the fashion for the pinched waist and they often featured whalebone stiffeners of their own, as well as laces at the back and reinforced buttons at the front.

After 1850, this style changed somewhat and towards the end of the century, with the arrival of portly Edward VII, the waistcoat began to expand a little to suit the shape of its owner.

In the 20th century, the prevalence of the waistcoat and its significance as a status symbol began to wane. It became a much more functional item to round off a formal three-piece suit, its use as a place to store a snazzy pocket watch also falling by the wayside as the wristwatch came into its own.

Today, aside from persisting in more formal outfits, waistcoats have also taken on a life of their own in certain youth subcultures, being worn by indie kids or in steampunk circles, sometimes just with T-shirts or in the antithesis of their formal roots, sometimes even on their own.

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.

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!

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.

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!

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!