• Formal Day Wear for Gentlemen


    Dear All,

    Your galloping correspondent has decided to explore the mating, feeding and sporting rituals of the English aristocracy by traveling to Royal Ascot and being invited into the Royal enclosure.

    Never have I seen so much French champagne, Cuban cigars and engaged species of the aquatic variety consumed in all my life. This crowd knows how to party with style and they party hard. Magnums of champagne are the order of the day, not measly bottles and, for extra hydration, jugs of Pimm's on the side. The only ones to have a drink of water after each race were the horses.

    Now getting down to the important stuff: fashion. The mares and fillies are all dressed up to the nines with proper hats and dresses of a respectable length and modesty (the rules are extremely tight and enforced in the Royal enclosure). The colours of note were orange and purple: hardly a black dress to be seen.

    The wonderful thing about this occasion and completely different from anywhere else in the world was the men's fashion!


    The order of the day is morning suit, not the sort of thing one would associate with fashion, as most people would have only seen the stock standard version on film or in a dreadful suit hire catalogue. There were such a wide variety of twists and very stylish takes on the theme, so the landscape was never dull and boring.

    I would dearly love our Australian clients to consider the importance and place for ‘formal day wear’. With white tie all but extinct and the complete bastardisation of black tie by footballers and anti-social greeny socialist types who feel that to be respectfully attired would be falling into line with the conservative establishment, it sends a cold shiver down my spine when some over-paid buffoon turns up in an ill-fitting skinny black suit, ugly shirt and, at best, a skinny black neck tie.

    When one is invited to an occasion and the dress code is specified and one accepts, then pay the host the respect they deserve and turn up in a hand-tied bow tie, proper white dinner shirt and a dinner suit. The dinner suit could be black wool, silk, mohair or velvet with satin or grosgrain lapels.

    The reason I mention black tie and white tie is there are four modes of dress for gentlemen: white tie, black tie, morning suit, and lounge suit. During the day for formal occasions there are only two options: morning suit and lounge suit. Black tie and white tie should only be worn after 5pm.

    So many people want to wear an evening suit or dinner suit for their wedding day! Why, it looks ridiculous. In this day and age a lounge suit is perfectly acceptable and can be worn throughout the day into the evening.

    As has been said before, no one does pomp and pageantry like the British, and nowhere is it more evident than each year at important social rituals like Ascot.

    The basic rule for morning dress is black or grey morning coat, morning trousers or a close interpretation. If one is wearing a grey morning coat one may have matching trousers but this is usually only favoured by newly minted knights of the realm who have provided outstanding service to the waste disposal or high street chain store retail industries, as well as some showy entertainment types. Black shoes of the shiny lace-up variety, a grey or black top hat, waistcoat, shirt and tie are the order of the day. Please, no cravats: these again are only worn in hire catalogues).

    So not much room for interpretation you may think? Wrong.

    First, the top hat. The most prized of top hats are silk ones. In 1968 the world’s last silk plush factory, based near Lyon, closed down after the French brothers who owned it fell out and shuttered its doors in a display of Gallic petulance. They even smashed the machinery, so the art is lost forever.

    There are so very few in existence in wearable condition and most are small sizes that very few people could wear today. I managed by luck and chance to buy one on eBay from a bric-a-brac dealer in Scotland. I was astonished upon receiving it as it was a large enough size and in mint condition; made by London’s finest hatter, Lock Hatters of St James no less.

    I marched down to Locks to have it fitted and they steamed and polished it without charge. The gentleman in the store was so very knowledgeable and courteous. He was stunned at the condition and said, “These are extremely rare and in this condition almost unobtainable”.

    The modern fine quality and very smart looking top hats are made of fur felt and have a nice shinny patina. They are available in grey or black. Black looks best.

    The shirt traditionally worn was white, but nowadays anything goes. The best look, and done very stylishly by the Prince of Wales, is a blue ground stripe shirt often with a coloured stripe through it with a cutaway white collar and cuffs.

    This is exactly the type of shirt I selected from our current John Morgan shirt range. I had our tailors swap the cuffs and collar over to white and job done. I must admit I packed it in my carry-on bag very roughly and anticipated it coming out a little to crushed. Well, a day hanging in the closet and after a minute of wear and it looked as smart as if the butler took care of it.

    The tie, I believe is the window into a man’s sole. You can always read a little bit into someone’s character by their choice of tie. That is why I do not like the trend that appeared a few years ago of not wearing a tie. Why not wear one?

    If your shirt fits correctly and is comfortable in the collar, why not?

    Again its that ‘I’m no man’s slave’ anti-establishment crap peddled by people who drink pinot grigio with their all-day breakfast of poached free range eggs with smashed avocado and eat out doors with their rescue greyhound at hipster cafes.

    I say the modern boss should assert his authority and insist on his male staff wear a decent tie. The colour, pattern, and knot chosen are not important: it's what you like. What is the point of getting your wife to choose your tie? Has she chosen your personality, wine, cigars, pen and watch for you? If our answer is yes to these questions please unsubscribe from this blog.

    So no clear tie colour or trend coming trough other than nasty slim ties are gone! My own personal choice was a vintage hand-me-down from my father of a very smart Hermes stirrup and stirrup leather printed silk in red and blue as a little nod to the equestrian-themed day.

    The waistcoat was the real showpiece and in a variety of colours and styles: ivory and duck egg blue both pipped and plain, single and double breasted were most popular in linen or wool.

    I also saw some very smart pink and yellow, as well as brocade ones. The best looking ones are double-breasted shawl lapel ones with two flap pockets. Our very talented bespoke tailor Tony made mine from some fabric we have in stock.

    So with all these elements and layering of pieces, an eclectic mix of colour, clothing and accessories can obtain a fabulous look. That is what British fashion is about. Whether it is in interior decorating, the arts, or clothing, mixing it up, not being afraid to be bold in the use of different colours and styles form different genres.

    As for the trouser story I will keep it brief and concise.With relief I can continue to report the skinny trouser is dead! Thank god and God Save the Queen. Pleats are back and an essential for morning trouser, reversed of course.

    I think that is why the menfolk were so happy. Loose trousers mean carefree dancing, and more room in the pockets for cigar case, wallet, etc. No constricting belts, as gentleman’s trousers have side adjusters, not belts, to constrain the gassy consumption of champagne.

    Shoes are the easy part: black high shine. Our Barker model was seen many times by this correspondent, and lace up. Although I did see quite a few cheaters in slip-ons and single monk straps. But they were all of quality. As I have reported previously, the quality shoe is finding its feet in many new markets with new devotees.

    In conclusion, if you are planning a formal day function consider the choices and seek our advice if you would like a classic look with a twist. I am sure you remember Four Weddings and a Funeral, if not time for a viewing.

    Tally hoodoo from

    Ascott & Mayfair


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