Party season is upon us and Londoners want to impress. There are all sorts of rules for the ladies, but for well-dressed chaps, getting that suit just right isn’t as easy as it looks. Gents, here’s where to start when looking to show off that quintessential British style so admired around the world…
Words: Nick Hammond
Start off with your black tie suit, of course. ‘The secret is in marrying form and freedom,’ says Steven Hitchcock, Savile Row cutter of renown and master of the soft tailoring technique. He is one of the last few remaining bespoke tailors that still cuts your cloth himself – and crafts just a few exquisite suits each month from his charismatic old shop in Saint George Street.
‘You should always feel comfortable in your suit,’ he says. ‘Sitting or standing, your collar should stay firmly ‘‘attached’’ to your neck, not riding up and down. There should be no tight spots, however you’re moving – even if you’re dancing. And you should feel like a million dollars, which will make you more comfortable and at ease, whatever the social situation. That’s why a British handmade Savile Row suit is so special.’
If you’ve selected the perfect suit – something in velvet or brocade if you’re feeling adventurous, or classic black for old-school style – your thoughts then should fall to the rest of your attire.
Shirts can make or break your outfit. Should it be casual, with a deep collar and open neck to reflect the informality of a night on the tiles? Or will a classic sharp white shirt with wing collar and silk tie seal the deal?
Once again, London’s finest stores will come to your sartorial aid. Hilditch & Key has been tailor making shirts since 1899, which means they are masters of their craft. ‘A white shirt should – first and foremost – be white!’ says David Gale, Master Shirtmaker at Hilditch & Key. ‘A clean white shirt, well-pressed and comfortably fitting at the neck is a timeless look. And it makes a wonderful impression. Cuffs showing around an inch beyond the jacket complete the appearance.’
If you haven’t had the bespoke shirt experience before, you’re in for a treat. A score or more measurements are taken to ensure that each shirt is as individual as you are. Refinements such as preferred sleeve length and length of tails can all be tailored to your precise requirements. And before you leave, you can also select little extra distinctive touches; the type and style of button or a monogrammed cuff, perhaps.
Bow ties are making a long-awaited comeback
A tie, for a winter party, can be distinctive or just for fun. News on the fashion front is that bow ties are making a long-awaited comeback. Tom Ford at Harrods offers a variety of options – but whichever you choose, you really should learn to tie your own, as opposed to buying a standard clip on. With a bit of determination, it isn’t difficult to learn.
After that, it’s a case of practise, practise and practise some more to make sure you can get a tight, elegant knot at an insouciant twist of the wrist. Ask any girl (or boy, for that matter) which looks hotter after an evening of revelry – the long tails of a well-worked bow tie dangling around one’s neck or unclipping a poor, under-nourished substitute and slipping it into a pocket. No contest.
Shoes should not be overlooked. The classic lines of a John Lobb Odessa patent slipper, perhaps, with a deft and modern touch to set you apart from the masses? Or for that bespoke touch, check out Gaziano & Girling, who will make a pair of shoes in a myriad of finishes fitted perfectly to your feet. Just remember, your footwear needs to be comfortable and relatively hard-wearing, so you can party all night.
London’s mean streets in winter are no place for the shirt-sleeved; an overcoat is a must. Turnbull & Asser’s magnificent Beetley is a specimen to behold; a crimson creation to light up any soiree. Alternatively, a black cashmere overcoat – such as the Corneliani Cashmere with mink collar from Harrods or Reiss’ shawl collar design – will also look the part.
Stylish British gentlemen also know that carefully chosen accessories speak volumes. So don’t forget a signature silk scarf (try Drake’s of London), a set of Deakin & Francis cufflinks, a natty cummerbund (Duchamps) and a gold signet ring (try Rebus), worn by notable gents including The Prince of Wales and Ralph Lauren.
Suitably attired – and with a dazzling party partner in tow – you’ll be ready to hit the town in style.
Where to shop
- Drake’s: No. 3 Clifford Street W1S 2LF; 0207 734 2367; drakes.com
- Duchamps: 68 Jermyn Street SW1 6NY; 0207 839 8430; duchampslondon.com
- Gaziano & Girling: 39 Savile Row WAS 3QF; 0207 439 8717; gazianogirling.com
- Harrods: 87-135 Brompton Road SW1X 7XL; 0207 730 1234; harrods.com
- Hilditch & Key: 73 Jermyn Street, St James’s SW1Y 6NP; 0207 930 5336; hiditchandkey.co.uk
- Steven Hitchcock: 11 Saint George Street, Mayfair W1S 2FD; 0207 287 2492; stevenhitchcock.co.uk
- John Lobb: 9 St James’s Street SW1A 1EF; 0207 930 3664; johnlobbltd.co.uk
- Rebus: 59 Leather Lane, Hatton Garden EC1N 7TJ; 0207 405 5188; rebussignetrings.co.uk
- Reiss: 114 King’s Road SW3 4TN; 0207 589 0439; reiss.com
- Thom Sweeney: 33a Bruton Place, Mayfair W1J 6NP: 0207 629 6220; thomsweeney.co.uk
- Turnbull & Asser: 71-72 Jermyn Street, St James’s SW1Y 6PF; 0207 808 3000; turnbullandasser.co.uk