A Gentleman’s Guide To Buttonholes

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A buttonhole, or a boutonniere is a floral accessory, which is worn by men on the lapel, in times gone by, the buttonhole would have been common among everyday attire for a gentleman about town, but now in the modern age, it is reserved for the more formal of occasions, in particular weddings.

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Traditionally one is worn through the buttonhole (hence the name) on a jackets lapel, which is more often than not located on the left hand side of a blazer (usually the same side as the breast pocket, with which a handkerchief may also be worn), originally the boutonniere would be worn pushed through the buttonhole itself, but in times where buttonholes on the lapel are often sewn shut it is more common for the boutonniere to pinned to the lapel.

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Originally in times past the buttonhole would have been made from an actual flower, but today, it is a more used practice to use an artificial flower, either from silk or some other man made material.

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My collection of silk buttonholes

They don’t actually have much of a practical purpose, but as accessories go, they are pretty natty, and they do manage to add that little bit extra to a gentleman’s outfit.

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A Gentleman’s Guide To Cufflinks

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Cufflinks are items of jewellery that are used to secure the cuffs of dress shirts. Cufflinks can be manufactured from a variety of different materials, such as glass, stone, leather, metal, precious metal or combinations of these. Securing of the cufflinks is usually achieved via toggles or reverses based on the design of the front section, which can be folded into position. There are also variants with chains or a rigid, bent rear section. The front sections of the cufflinks can be decorated with gemstones, inlays, inset material or enamel and designed in two or three-dimensional form.

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Cufflinks on a double cuff

Cufflinks are designed only for use with shirts which have cuffs with buttonholes on both sides. These may be either single or double-length (“French”) cuffs.

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Cufflinks were introduced as far back as the 1600’s but didn’t gain popularity until the end of the 1800’s and have been a part of mens formal wear since. Today, they form part of formal wear and are an integral part of both black and white tie, and also give something extra to a gentlemans business attire. However as part of the everyday, they seem to have fallen a little by the wayside, but hopefully that’s just in the short term.

How To Wear White Tie

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White tie is probably the most formal attire a person can wear, without being decked out in medals and a uniform. These days it isn’t really worn much, but every once in a while you will find it brought back into practice. And in this day and age where detachable collars no longer exist, you may need to know what how to pull off this classic and elegant look.

The Shirt 

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First off, you’ll need a nice cotton dress shirt. it needs to be plain fronted (by which I mean, no pleats) with a wing collar, double cuffs and with studs, not buttons (although stud buttons are an OK alternative)

The Trousers 

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Evening trousers with a satin stripe, please. Which means no belt, so suspenders (braces for you yanks) and you should keep those in white.

The Waistcoat

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The waistcoat should be white obviously, and made of marcella cotton, and ideally will be backless, this allows ventilation, and a little breeze up there can be a god send in a crowded ballroom

The Tie

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The Tie should be made of a marcella cotton, that matches the waistcoat. And should always be the kind of tie that you have to tie yourself. You can always tell when someone is wearing a ready made bow tie, especially when worn with a wing collar.

The Tails 

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You should be wearing a black tailcoat with silk peak lapels, the buttons should also be silk covered.

Shoes 

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Patent leather black lace ups are the only thing that can be worn well with white tie. Keep it simple though, a little brogue like design is OK, but anything over the top will just ruin the look

Accessories 

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You can Add your own personal touches with a pocket watch, cufflinks a pocket square or a boutonniere shoved in your button hole.

How To Dress For Summer (And Still Look Good)

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With summer supposedly on the horizon, although as I write this I can see rain drops that may be causing serious body damage to the cars parked in my street, but I am eternally optimistic that the clouds will part and those beautiful rays will once again grace our skin. So how does one dress when the mercury begins to rise past 20ºC (68ºF) and the sweat begins to stain and embed itself in our wool rich fabrics that make up the most part of the British Gentleman’s attire?

There are a couple of things that you can do to make those ray filled days a little more bearable. And it comes down to:

Hats and Sunglasses- It may sound like a simple thing but a decent broad brimmed hat and a pair of shades can do wonders to keep you out of the sun. A nice pair of aviators and a panama hat combine two styles that really say gentleman in the sun.

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Accessories- I wear a tie every day (even on weekends) but in the heat, having a tie done all the way up with the top button fastened is a little too much to ask outside of the office  if you’ve spent the day sweating through your day job. But for less formal things why not try an open collar with a cravat?

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The Fit- Wearing tight fitting things is a sure fire (no pun intended) way to overheat, why do you think winter is filled with tight fitting jumpers and clingy thermal layers? A loose fitting shirt and jacket can be much cooler (both stylistically as well as temperature wise) than a tight fitting tee shirt or even a ghastly tank top.

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The Colour- I must admit that I tend to favour dark colours, on more than one occasion lately, I’ve been know to don black on black on black, with a suit, shirt and tie all exuding darkness. But in the summer sun, that is no longer an option. To survive without becoming a puddle, you need to embrace the light side of the colour spectrum. Think light greys, beige, khaki and if your feeling brave, you may even wish to go for white, when it comes to jackets and trousers. And moving on to shirts you shouldn’t be afraid to go to the classic white or light blue, but don’t discount cream or even a nice pastel pink colour, there is nothing unmanly about pink, for gods sake, you want something that will reflect the heat, not absorb it.

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The Fabric– OK, colour and fit will only get you so far, if you wear a baggy wool suit or a pastel pink tweed, you’re probably still going to overheat just a bit, this is why you need to focus on materials such as cotton and linen for jackets and trousers, and stick to a good cotton for the shirt, whilst avoiding heavier fabrics like wool, cashmere and velvet.

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hopefully this little guide will help you maintain a sartorial sensibility through the sweltering heat that June and July have come to signify, or will give you some ideas when it comes to picking what to throw into the suitcase.

Suit Review: Dobell Donegal Tweed Suit

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Because I have an absolutely amazing wife, she got me a new donegal tweed suit to celebrate a recent promotion. I have to admit its a winner. For this time of year, I was worried that it was going to be too warm, but given that its a British summertime, and the lightweight manufacture of the piece as well as being half lined and double vented, I was able to walk to a meeting yesterday without so much as breaking a sweat.

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Picture Credit: dobell.co.uk

The colour is a nice sort of rust brown, and whilst it is a dark coloured suit, it doesn’t really give a dark feeling when wearing it, and actually manages to look pretty good in most lights, whether in doors or out, which is something that I really look for in a suit.

The features of the suit include a single breasted jacket, with a 4 button cuff and a notch lapel, and the trousers are complete with button/ clip fastening and can be worn with a belt, which is often an issue I have with off the peg suits, the trousers will more often than not need to be a size too big to fit over my giant backside, and then they just hang off at the waist, however in this instance, a 40 inch waist actually managed to cover my obtuse derriere comfortably.

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The only downside to the suit that I found was that whilst it fit perfectly across the chest, it was a tiny bit tight across the stomach, if you have something stashed in the breast pockets, and since I usually have a wallet, business cards, pens, handkerchiefs, lighters and various other bits and pieces tucked about my jacket, it was a little tight if I want to keep it buttoned up, or I could just distribute things about my person a little better.

But overall I would have to say that Dobell have managed to create a fine looking piece of sartorial attire, and its going to prove a mainstay in my wardrobe over the coming months, especially in my new role.

 

A Gentleman’s Guide To Top Hats

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Its the 21st century, you’re probably thinking, who on earth wears a top hat any more? well you’d be surprised.

A top hat is a tall, flat-crowned, broad-brimmed hat, worn by men from the latter part of the 18th to the middle of the 20th century. By the end of the Second World War, it had become a rarity in ordinary dress, although it does continue to be worn in specific instances, such as state funerals.

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The Royal Garden Party 2017

As of the early 21st century, top hats are still worn at some society events in the UK, notably at church weddings and racing meetings attended by members of the royal family, such as Royal Ascot. They remain part of the formal uniform of certain British institutions, such as the boy-choristers of King’s College Choir. They are usually worn with morning dress or white tie, in dressage, and as part of servants’ or doormen’s livery.

I have worn a top hat, when alcohol wasn’t involved, once in my life, and that was to the queens garden party last year. I also wore one (the same one) for a few jokey photos at my wedding reception.

What The Hell Is A Cummerbund Actually For?

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Men’s fashion is an ever changing thing. Actually that’s not true. Its very rare that you see something new in menswear, it is a very cyclical thing, for example skinny fit jeans were a thing in the 80’s and unfortunately have been back in style for the last few years. Another example is double breasted jackets, they come and they go and then suddenly a few years later they’re back.

One of the few unchanging things throughout the last hundred years has been black tie. Since it became popular in the 1920’s as a slightly less formal alternative to white tie, very little has changed except fastening (double or single breasted), lapel size, and material the only real change we saw was from waistcoats to cummerbunds, and this is one of those things that goes round and round and round, one year waistcoats are in fashion for black tie, and the next its cummerbunds.

Now as a gentleman with a fairly substantial gut I have been put off wearing a cummerbund as it seems like tying something around my waist would only extenuate this fact, but two weeks ago I gave in, faced my fear and bought my first cummerbund. Admittedly I only got it because I wanted the bow tie that it came with, it was a vintage (that is to say secondhand so therefore cheap) maroon velvet number from the 1970’s that came with a matching bow tie.

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It did however make me think, what the hell is point of a cummerbund, they don’t offer any practicality like a waistcoat, but then neither do most of the fundamentals of black tie and men’s formal wear in general, in fact they’re designed to mask practicality. For example buttons on jackets and waistcoats will have a satin facing, shirt buttons are replaced by cuff links and shirt studs, and even trouser lining is covered with a satin stripe. So in that vain a cummerbund is designed to conceal the point where your trousers meet your shirt.

This is where cummerbunds differ from a lot of black tie, because it actually serves a purpose, the garment dates back to the British occupation of India, where the officers needed a cooler (temperature wise, not fashion wise) alternative to the waistcoat. Due to the massive temperature difference from the UK you could see why waistcoats wouldn’t work out too well, and the higher ranking Indian officials used to wear sashes at their waists so the British officers adopted them, and so by the end of the British Occupation of India in the 1950’s the trend has spread around the world.

As well as being a cooler alternative to the formal vest the cummerbund serves to hide the bunching that often occurs where you tuck your shirt in at the waist. And thanks to its pleated design acts as a crumb catcher when eating, thus avoiding any crumbs winding up on your trouser leg, and this is why the correct way to wear a cummerbund is with the pleats facing upward.

Possibly the most important feature, at least from my point of view, is that it makes men look a lot thinner, aesthetically it makes men look thinner and taller, but from my own experience I had it cinched so tight it was like some sort of velvet man girdle.

Now I don’t see them making a comeback for at least a few years, as waistcoats are most definitely “in” at the moment, but I have a few formal things coming over the summer months (a couple of weddings and most likely a few civic things as well) so I think I will be going with a cummerbund, at least until the summer is over.