The Six Tricks to Festive Chic

As the festive season descends, The Rake suggests six ways to ensure stylistic excellence throughout December.

Festive chic? To 95% of the human population, this shouts oxymoron, but for that shrinking 5% who approach all event dressing without tongue pressed firmly into cheek, the holiday season provides plenty of opportunities to dress up well and outshine the majority...


Check mates

We’re not 100% certain how the clan checks of Scotland became synonymous with the festive season — apart from the fact that both Christmas and the Scots are closely associated with day-and-night drunkenness and inappropriate behaviour. (Author’s note: Coming from pure Scottish stock, I am permitted to make this gross generalisation and can attest to its basis in fact.) However the link came to be, there’s something about tartan that screams ‘holidays’. To play it safe, integrate just one tartan into your ensemble — a tie or pocket square if you wish to be conservative about it; a shirt for the mildly daring; trousers, a sports coat or waistcoat if you’re more bravehearted.

    Some velvet morning

    Holiday season formal affairs or Christmas parties marked ‘cocktail attire’ present the opportunity to inject velvet into the sartorial mix — a chance one should never pass up. Wear a velvet smoking jacket with the traditional formalwear accoutrements to black-tie events — double down by teaming with tartan trews for full-fledged festivity. And invest in a notch- or peak-lapel velvet odd jacket for dressier drinks and dinners: burgundy, deep green, navy or black would all serve you well. If, however, you find velvet coats just a tad too louche, you could always integrate this plush cloth subtly, with a delightfully furry bow-tie or embroidery-embellished slippers.

      It’s shawl good

      Perhaps because they bring to the mind’s eye the dressing gowns fathers are duty-bound to wear on Christmas morning while the presents are being opened, shawl lapels are a festive essential. Stepping out to a holiday do in a shawl-lapel jacket with a turtleneck underneath says, “I want to be cosy, but I came here to party.” Rock a shawl-lapel smoking jacket with open-collar shirt and silk neckerchief at the family Christmas mealtime, meanwhile, and there’ll be no quibbling over who carves the turkey. The question of “Who’s the daddy?” will’ve been answered unequivocally.

      See red

      No one’s suggesting you go full Santa, but integrating dashes of St. Nick’s favourite hue into your festive get-up — coupled with green and white to ensure the message is not lost — will show you’re getting into the spirit of things. Red is a strong tone best handled gingerly (forgive the pun), so while a red trouser is a classic statement you needn’t shy from, the flaming red jacket should probably only be attempted by the advanced sartorial operator. Smaller doses of red are a safer bet: red ties, socks, scarves, pocket squares, jackets and shirts in fabrics with red flecks or checks… All will reflect your rosy-cheeked holiday cheer.

        Kings of cloth

        There’s surely nothing better to wear on a filial Christmas trip to the family’s countryside estate than a red woolen jumper under an earth-tone tweed sportscoat. With this ensemble, you could choose jeans, but better to show some respect for the occasion and your relations by putting on a proper trouser — in corduroy, may we suggest? Velvet’s far too urbane for a bucolic setting, so instead, look to its rustic cousin. The common belief is that corduroy was developed for French kings (hence, ‘corde du roi’ – rope of the king). In fact, it more likely takes its name from duroy, a rough English woollen cloth of ye olde tymes. If you need something to argue about over dinner that’s not quite as incendiary as present-day politics, try throwing that vaguely controversial bit of trivia into the mix.

          Flask permission

          Mulled wine? Ghastly. Eggnog? Urgh. Cheap champagne? Mais non, merci — have mercy. The drinks served at festive season events are often barely palatable, tolerable only as a means of creating a level of intoxication sufficient to get you through the occasion. During family gatherings at the ancestral home, it’s easier to guarantee the quality of libation, but there’ll always be some po-faced abstemious relative frowning disapprovingly when you pour your umpteenth dram of Dalmore 25. That’s why it is incumbent upon any man of great taste and thirst to ensure he faces festivities equipped with his own supply of liquor, artfully concealed in a handsome flask that may be surreptitiously sipped from whenever additional anaesthesia is required. Cheers — and here’s to a happy new year.



            November 2019


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