Here’s a thought on wedding attire. It’s not really traditional and it doesn’t really fit with the rules. In that sense I suppose it is a way to break the rules.

Anyway. I’ve written before how the default attire at a wedding should be the smartest thing you have. If morning dress is not required or suitable, it should be smart, discreet and dignified. The best combination might be a navy blue suit in a smooth, worsted wool, white cotton shirt and satin tie. Single breasted. White linen handkerchief. Black shoes. It’s hard to think of anything smarter in a lounge suit; though perhaps a Macclesfield check in the tie would be a nice nod to tradition.

However, it does strike me as a shame that a man following this advice will end up wearing to a wedding pretty much what he wears to work.

It is a shame because today not many men wear suits casually. They don’t wear them at the weekend and they don’t wear them for sport. So the sporty end of the lounge-suit range is criminally underused.

Men don’t wear strong checks; they don’t wear cottons or linens; they don’t wear great weaves like hopsack. These patterns and materials are unsuited to the dignity of business, so they rarely make it into the office. And at the weekend jeans and sweatshirts dominate.

So social occasions like weddings are a glorious opportunity to wear these sporty combinations. At a wedding I went to recently a friend was wearing a bespoke tan linen suit, brown oxfords, a pink-and-white striped shirt, a sky-blue tie and a pocket handkerchief. He looked great – but it’s hard to imagine any other scenario where he or any other of my friends would wear a combination like this. The joy of rough cloths and bright colours would be lost.

 

As a defence to this flouting of the rules, I would also point out that weddings today really are more casual than they used to be. There are fewer formalities, there is less prescribed structure, hell most of them aren’t even religious. So while the sanctity of marriage certainly demands dignity in dress, people shouldn’t follow ideas of propriety derived from an entirely different occasion.

It is always good to draw in one or two ideas of tradition though, if only because they have created such beautiful archetypes for us. In this case I would highlight the use of monochrome as smarter and more formal. Paring down the use of colour immediately makes things more dignified.

For all these reasons my outfit to this recent wedding was: a pale grey Glen-check suit, white cotton shirt, dark silver tie, white linen handkerchief and brown shoes. Sporty in the pattern of the suit, but retaining formality through monochrome.

So this is one long self-justification, basically.

I did say someone else looked good though, right?

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Horatio

Brian,

By all means, wear a tux shirt with a turndown collar! The only way that a wing collar looks good is if it is at least two inches high, and that can only be done if it is detachable. Since that is not in your budget, a nice turndown collar shirt (looks like a white dress shirt but with holes for studs instead of buttons and special treatment for the chest) is the way to go.

I might suggest you peruse The Black Tie Guide to make sure you look sharp and not like a buffoon (which too many men do when they wear evening dress incorrectly).

Sinatra's Shadow

Brown shoes!! Are you serious? I thought you were going for a monochrome look.

I can never understand people’s insistence on the fact that brown shoes look good with grey suits. They don’t. Ever. I can just about take brown shoes with a blue suit in a more casual (not City) context, but brown with grey just looks sloppy.

Sinatra's Shadow

Simon

I think I could understand the rationale of wearing brown shoes if they tie in with some other colour in the ensemble with which one would typically wear brown, for example a blue shirt, green tie, etc. However, in an ensemble which is predicated on shades of grey, white and black, I simply cannot understand how this would work.

If the shoes which you intend to wear are so dark as to appear black (which the shoes in the photo you refer to are not) then why not wear black?

SS

Sinatra's Shadow

I think we will have to disagree. We are not going to see eye-to-eye on this one!

Horatio

I find the disagreement on brown shoes with gray suits/pants very interesting.

I believe that brown can pair with gray successfully depending on both the shade of brown and the shade of gray. If it is a pure, cool gray, then black is the right choice for shoe color. If it is a blue-gray, then any of the red-tinged browns, like burgundy or oxblood, are good (black works too, but not as well). If, however, it is a warm gray, like that in this suit worn by Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster, then the other shades of brown are best.

It also depend on if there are other colors (especially brown) in the suit, as might be found in stripes or checks. Ideally, such highlight colors match the shade of gray. For the suit pictured in this post, I’d say that reddish brown shoes would work best.

Regarding shoe color: Simon, what do you think of gray shoes? Would you own any, and if so, what would you wear them with?

Horatio

Incidentally, the brown shoes and gray Norfolk-jacketed suit that Gene Kelly wore in the title dance scene in Singing in the Rain are a very nice combination of brown shoes and gray suit.

Wedding Invitation

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