Helll-lllooohhh Handsome

I frequently bemoan the fact that, generally speaking, men’s fashion is much less complicated than women’s.  Guys can typically dial in a wardrobe into a few easy buckets – dressed up, office, going out, and bumming – and be set for everything.  However there are a few exceptions that really throw a curve ball.  One of the biggest of these is dressing for summer formal events – most notably weddings. 

Now weddings aren’t too difficult for men to look snazzy for when the weather is cool and a suit is the order of the day, but come July and August and it’s a whole different ball game.  First of all, in much of the country it’s going to be hot and in many places humid too, just for an added bonus.  Secondly, not all weddings are created equally – with themes and destinations the dress code starts moving around bewilderingly.  So while we women get to wear some casual to formal variation of light dresses and sandals, you handsome boys need to decode the invitation and do a little planning.  (insert gasps of horror from nearly every man I know)

Determining the dress code is the first order of the day – the best source is the bride, of course, a second choice would be to consult the groom, asking for not just what to wear but for a sketch of the location and ceremony, because “oh, just whatever” is not going to be sufficient guidance.  After getting the 411 from the groom you may still need to run what you have learned by a fashion or wedding-savvy woman for some translation.  

In all instances, casual to black-tie it is essential to remember this is a very special occasion and deserves to be recognized as such.  Which means everything you wear should be fresh, clean, well pressed or polished.  Don’t put off your outfit preparation until the day of the event – give yourself at least a week to make sure things are back from the cleaners, that garments still fit (I harbor a theory that tuxedos shrink a tad when they aren’t worn much ;)) and that you have all the odd bits in order such as cufflinks, shirt studs, and pocket squares.  If you have new shoes, wear them a few times before the event – leave the painful feet to the women, we are used to it.

Now armed with a better idea of what the dress code is, here is a quick line up from dressy to casual:

Black Tie – here it is very simple, go James Bond, or go home!  I have never seen a man who did not look smashing in a traditional tuxedo.  To stay timeless and traditional keep the details simple.  A single-breasted jacket, with grosgrain-silk-faced peak-lapels, paired with the classic black bow tie matching the lapel facings, a crisp and simple tuxedo shirt, and well polished black shoes is going to look right, every time.  If you want to get more zippy, add some pop to your cufflinks and shirt studs.  

Formal – a suit and tie are a must.  To warm-weatherize select a suit in very light weight tropical wool or go old-school glamour in linen.  For day you can also wear a lighter color – such as a medium grey, tan or even a lighter navy blue.  Ties are a must as are dress shoes in black (for dark colors or grey) or brown (for tans).    

Semi Formal/Dressy Casual – this is always the most confusing; when in doubt stick with a tropical weight suit, or a dark blazer and lighter slacks.   You can adjust the dressed-up quotient up or down with accessories – if you feel too dressed up in your summer suit, go without a tie, but add a pocket square, not dressy enough in your blazer, pick a snappy tie and add your wing tips.      

Very Casual/Beach – you can go casual/beachy ONLY if you are absolutely sure this is the expectation and then make sure what you wear still has a special event vibe.  Don’t just throw on your everyday Tommy Bahama Hawaiian print camp shirt and call it a day.  Instead select a shirt on the dressier side of the casual spectrum, perhaps in a silk or silk blend, ideally in a light to medium color.  Solids with a textural weave are great, prints can be good, but leave the loud colors at home.  Trousers can be in a linen or cotton blend but must have a crisp finish, not too soft or rumpled please.  If you are wearing a looser silhouetted shirt, avoid trousers that are to skinny or close fitting, you will look out of proportion.  

In all cases shirts should be light weight, well fitted, comfortable and breathable.  Don’t select a shirt in a fabric that is too thin, clingy or sheer.  You are going to get hot and perspire and your shirt needs to handle that well.  This is equally important if you are wearing a jacket; don’t “cheat” on the shirt – make sure it has long sleeves, is well pressed and looks well on its own.  After the ceremony if you know you will shed the jacket make sure you are wearing a shirt than can stand up alone. 

Don’t fret too much about getting hot and adjusting after the ceremony, pictures and toasts are over and the dancing begins.  Most men will.  Besides, a guy in a nice dress shirt, unbuttoned at the collar, tie loosened, sleeves rolled up can look quite good – and a tuxedo, shirt collar unbuttoned, bow tie dangling just so – yummy!

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