Huntsman dinner: The evolution of formal wear

Wednesday, January 25th 2017
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Meekal Hashmi

Last week’s readers dinner was, perhaps surprisingly, one of the more enjoyable evenings I’ve had in a long time.

I say surprisingly because, as lovely as all the readers were certainly going to be, it is always hard to predict what the feeling will be like - with 10 complete strangers, in a new format, and a new location. I’ve organised enough events to know the results are hard to predict.

Thankfully, it was seamless, fruitful and a lot of fun. Pierre and the other Huntsman staff were open and welcoming; the food from Casa Cruz was absolutely superb; and everyone enjoyed talking about menswear to a highly empathetic audience.

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David Man and Pierre Lagrange (Huntsman)
Ben Chew and Hristo Stefanov
Ben Chew and Hristo Stefanov

I made a short speech at the beginning of the dinner about formalwear:

About its importance as a sign of how seriously one takes a particular event - and the company at that event.

About the type of clothing this normally results in (monotone, dark, playing with texture and light), and about how that clothing changes over time - as people’s idea of what is considered formal changes.

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Martin Tabasso and Oliver Gibson
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Myself with Huntsman PR Daisy Knatchbull

But halfway through the dinner, we plunged into the area again as - prompted by Pierre - everyone went around the table and explained what they were wearing, with my comments on how this fitted into formalwear traditions.

At times it felt rather like an AA meeting; you expected the next description to begin with “it’s been six weeks since my last bespoke purchase”.

But there was also a lot of love for clothing that came through - a personal, intimate enjoyment in what we wear, its stories and its qualities.

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Cheong Yong
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Nicolas Stromback
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Edmund Schenecker, centre

An obvious example was Edmund Schenecker, who flew in from San Antonio just for the event. (Others travelled from New York, San Francisco, Stockholm and Munich.)

Edmund wore Scottish formalwear of kilt, sporran and coatee. He has no Scottish ancestry, and immediately declared as much. But his reverence for the clothing, his knowledge of its history and traditions, and the deeply personal pieces (in the official Texan tartan, studs in the Texan gemstone, knife made by a local Texan craftsman) made highlighting that seem ridiculous.

“It is not of me, but it has become me,” as Edmund put it, beautifully.

By the end of the evening, five hours had flown by, much had been consumed, and it seemed entirely natural to pose around the Huntsman shop in a ‘mannequin challenge’ (apparently it’s a social media thing; evidence is on the Huntsman Instagram account).

A wonderful evening all round. I’ll follow up with details on what everyone was wearing, and more resulting thoughts on modern formalwear.

Photography: Wayne Lennon

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Leslie Cuthbert
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Matt

Was everyone wearing bespoke? Did anyone put together an interesting but affordable ensemble from RTW?

John

Hi Simon,
Thanks for this first quick report! This kind of initiative is a great idea and should remain on PS’ annual agenda. There’s no way to take up the current challenges without a social life such as this one.
I’m looking forward to reading the follow up.
John

Peter

It sounds like a lovely evening.

It’s nice to have some faces to go with names that appear in the comments section.

I look forward to the descriptions of the outfits and comments on them.

lee butler

would be great to read what the attendees said when asked

Fred

Dear Simon,
As ever intrigued by your perspective. Did you keep a note of your short speech, and would it be possible to post it.
Your short summary echoes an article in today’s Washington Post about dress and politics.
I will pass on the politics but a similar theme of respect expressed through dress
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2017/01/25/the-trump-white-house-has-a-knack-for-costuming-dont-let-it-distract-you/?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_givhan%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.0d9235b1d537

John

It would be interesting and helpful as well if in your follow-up post you could work out a formality scale of outfits appropriate to this type of occasion, that is, starting from the correct and acceptable ones – as we COULD EXPECT not from … dandies but from regular PS’ readers – upward to the most sophisticate.

Max

Hi Simon:

Slightly off tangent question: How does the shape and size of my face influence my selection of a bowtie? I have a large head/round face, should I be looking at a more angular/slimmer option (e.g. batwing, diamond) to offset my features?

Anonymous

Feeds link is interesting. I have often marvelled at how badly Trumps suits fit. I read somewhere that they are from Brioni or Kiton, but you can hardly see his hands under his sleeve and the trousers are so wide his feet look tiny.

Richard White

Simon, I’d also be intrigued to read your speech. I agree that formal wear changes with time. It does however seem to me that the central tenet of formal wear is that one is subsuming one’s own personality and character to the event. One isn’t trying to standout – because, the person in the coffin, giving the speech or standing at the altar is supposed to be the focus of attention. This, it seems to me, is where a great deal of fun can be had with details.

Aggro

What was Pierre Lagrange wearing?

Why no pics?

Anonymous

Kudos to you Simon for organising and, more importantly, involving readers and admirers of the site.