What is a Dinner Jacket and Why do You Need One in Your Wardrobe?

Whether it’s for job interviews or wedding invitations, most men have at least one suit knocking about their wardrobe at home. Suits are multi-purpose and when bought in neutral colours, suitable for most events.

But as versatile as a good suit can be, your regular day-to-day two-piece simply won’t cut it when it comes to more formal events.

This is where the trusty dinner jacket comes into play.

To show you the benefits of a good dinner jacket, we’ve created a handy guide detailing exactly what a dinner jacket is and how you should be wearing it.

What is a dinner jacket?

A dinner jacket, or tuxedo, is a style of suit for more sophisticated occasions. The go-to choice for men attending black-tie events, dinner jackets are a staple of luxury fashion and are often saved for the grandest events.

The dinner jacket was developed for Prince Edward VII in 1865 as an alternative to the more formal tailcoat. Since then, the tuxedo has been a favourite of both the English and American aristocracy, while it owes its modern-day success to pop culture icons like fictional secret agent James Bond and historical dramas such as Mad Men.

What’s the difference between a tuxedo and a suit?

Whereas a traditional suit can be dressed up or down to suit the occasion, a dinner jacket’s sole purpose is to be the smartest outfit in your wardrobe.

The telltale difference between a tuxedo and a suit is that a tuxedo will usually feature velvet accents, traditionally on the lapels and covering the outer seams of the trousers.

Another defining quality of a tuxedo is what you wear with it. Bow ties, pleated shirts and cummerbunds are common accompaniments to a tuxedo; additions that would look too much with a standard suit.

What to wear with a dinner jacket

Trousers

Classic Regular Fit Dinner Trousers£39.00

 

In most situations, you’ll likely be wearing matching trousers with a dinner jacket, presuming you bought the pair as a tuxedo. No need to worry if not, as there are a few simple rules that’ll keep you looking sharp:

  1. Stick to dark colours
  2. Make sure they’re fitted
  3. Keep them comfortable, especially if you’re eating
  4. Stay away from pairs that cling, to anywhere

Shirt

ONESIX5IVE Silk Knot — £18.00

 

Always stick to dress shirts when wearing a dinner jacket: this is not the place for casual fabrics. A white pleated shirt with a winged collar is the go-to traditional option, though a standard dress shirt is still appropriate for black tie events.

When choosing your shirt, it’s important to think of the buttons too. If you’re wearing a cummerbund, a black-buttoned shirt helps to break up the white space created by your shirt. If you opt for a waistcoat, on the other hand, white or covered buttons are best, ensuring there’s not too much going on at once.

Shoes

Black ‘Astaire’ Patent Lace Up Shoe£25.00

 

You might be able to get away with a pair of crisp white trainers with a standard suit, but that won’t work with a dinner jacket. A tuxedo demands that you step up your footwear game — that also means that you’ll have to do better than your pair of everyday office shoes.

If you’re looking for shoes that are a guaranteed winner, you can’t go wrong with a pair of black patent Oxfords or Derbys. The high-shine finish works wonders with the formality of your suit. If you’re feeling bolder, velvet slippers can work well too, provided you keep your colours conservative.

Socks

3 Pack Socks Black£10.00

 

Black. Socks.

Always choose black socks with a tuxedo.

Flashing your ankles in a pair of loafers may be okay when you’re wearing a standard suit, but in a dinner jacket, a good pair of ‘evening socks’ is the expected approach. Make sure you keep them pulled up too, as you don’t want to flash a bit of leg when you sit down.

Bow tie

Black Bow Tie£5.00

 

Although you may see people wearing ties with dinner jackets, you should always wear a bow tie. Tuxedos are pretty strict with what you can and can’t wear to make the overall outfit work. You are, however, given (a touch) more freedom with your bow tie — you can deviate colour-wise as long as it doesn’t clash with the rest of your tuxedo.

Remember though: never choose a white bow tie. White is reserved exclusively for white-tie events — occasions that are even more formal than black-tie, like royal, state or livery ceremonies.

Cummerbund

White Cummerbund£10.00

 

Cummerbunds are by no means a requirement when wearing a dinner jacket. However, they do show that you are making the effort to respect the formality of the dress code, which means you’re onto a winner if you choose to wear one.

If you’re making the effort to add a cummerbund to your ensemble, it’s vital that you’re wearing it correctly. Your trousers should be worn at your waist, with the cummerbund evenly covering your trousers and your shirt. You also need to make sure that the pleats are facing upwards, not downwards — it’s an easy mistake to make!

Waistcoat

Black Floral Horseshoe Dress Waistcoat and Matching Bow Tie£25.00

 

If a cummerbund feels a bit out of touch for the event you’re attending, you can achieve an equally formal finish to your outfit with the more familiar waistcoat.

If you are leaning in this direction, just make sure your waistcoat matches your dinner jacket. If you want to take things a step further, a horseshoe waistcoat will lend your outfit an air of aristocracy and finesse.

Dress for the occasion

Whether you’re attending a dinner party or a wedding, a dinner jacket is a must-have for any man who wants to dress to the nines.

With everything from bow ties to smart shoes, our menswear collection has everything you need to look appropriately suave for any black-tie event.

Or if you want to read more expert fashion advice, head over to our Style Inspiration hub to learn more.

 


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