I have just taken delivery of my latest dinner suit and this time I have gone for something rather left-field. It is a classic double-breasted design with peak lapels but rather than the traditional black mohair it is in a very narrow, camel-coloured corduroy with caramel satin facings.
I fell in love with it when it caught my eye on a visit to interview Brunello Cucinelli at his HQ just outside Perugia. The fact that Mr Cucinelli, undoubtedly one of the most stylish men on the planet, declared it to be his favourite piece in the collection was the clincher. It may strike you as a fairly counter-intuitive choice, as the beauty of an old-school black tuxedo is that it is a no-brainer, whereas with this suit I will have to experiment with what to wear with it before it has a public airing.
I don’t think a black bow-tie will work and anything coloured in the butterfly department makes me feel like a 1970s quiz show host, so I am veering towards twinning it with a finegauge cream polo neck. Still very 70s, I admit, but more Roger Moore in his halcyon days – call it timeless, rather than retro. That’s my excuse anyway. I might even tuck in the knitwear and pair it with a burgundy cummerbund, though this may need more thought.
I have been moving towards a more eye-catching form of eveningwear for some years now. My last dinner suit was made for me by Hardy Amies and the jacket is a navy jacquard decorated with the original ‘HM’ monogram. By a strange quirk of fate, the label’s old townhouse on Savile Row has been reborn as Hackett’s global flagship, and it was at Hackett that I bought my very first dinner suit when it was a vintage clothes shop on the New King’s Road. Of course, by sporting an extravagant jacket, you may have to turn it down on the accessories front. If you do go for a classic black-tie ensemble, however, it is the accessories that are the most fun, and one of the few times a man gets to wear jewellery in the shape, say, of diamond cufflinks and collar studs. Personally, I am not a fan of embroidered waistcoats worn with a dinner jacket – save those for weddings. And if you insist on a pocket square, stick to crisp white in Irish linen, worn Cary Grant-style, with a sharp top edge half an inch above and parallel to the breast pocket. I have a friend who insists on sporting a style in patterned silk that he refers to as a ‘Mayfair dahlia’ but secretly I think this looks like he is about to produce a dove from his DJ.
Sir Hardy Amies himself declared that velvet should not be worn at night as it can look dusty under artificial light but I don’t agree – though a deep claret or bottle-green smoking jacket with a shawl collar often works and looks better than black.
The only hard rule, however, is to have fun. After all, you are going to a party.