Yes, it’s that time of year again, already. It only seems like yesterday that your Nan was napping on the sofa, your parents were snoozing in the chairs and you were passed out on the floor (at least that’s what happens in my house). The shops are stocking up on crackers, mince pies, Christmas puddings, awful music and all the other guff that generally makes Christmas a miserable time of year, contrary to the popular belief of children.
But wait, I create such a bleak outlook because I’m a grump. The build-up, the anticipation, the compulsory viewing of ‘Home Alone‘, all lead to one thing and one thing only – a bloody fantastic dinner. Sod the tree, just hand me wine and that turkey.
It becomes abundantly clear that as you get older, the purpose (and therefore priorities) of Christmas changes quite dramatically. Once past the age of eighteen, it would appear that the sole purpose of the Christmas season is to consume as much alcohol as physically possible. I wonder how many of us will go for a Christmas themed night out? How many of us will get utterly ruined on Christmas Eve? Who will continue the excessive drinking on Christmas Day (I’m rather fond of sloe gin), Boxing Day and perhaps the day after?
And how many of us will have to face the dreaded work Christmas party?
The work ‘Christmas Do’ is a bit of a strange event. I’m not entirely sure a vast quantity of alcohol, your colleagues and your boss is a particularly good mix. Take into consideration the fact that it will be after hours – a situation in which you would not normally see Pete from accounts or Susan from HR – and the stage is set for a potentially very awkward evening.
But aside from the obviously delicate balancing act of drinking and not embarrassing yourself, you also need to think about what you’re going to wear.
Wearing a suit to the office doesn’t really provide you with the opportunity to showcase your true personal style; you can of course wear snazzy socks, a crazy pocket square or simply be fantastic at matching shirts and ties, but at the end of the day, you’re still wearing a suit, just like everyone else.
On the other hand, the Christmas party can be a good opportunity to show everybody just how well you can dress.
However, as with other events of this nature, picking your outfit is a potential minefield of misdirection, misjudgement and mistakes. It is a social situation in which all of you are out of your comfort zone, talking to people you might not normally talk to, or trying to avoid discussion about work. In a situation like this, being too bold and brash could be just as bad as hiding in the toilet all night.
With that said, here are a few things to consider:
I’m not saying don’t dress for yourself, we all want to make an impression on the one night of the year designed to encourage social interaction, but throwing caution to the wind might result in some nasty nicknames and a lot of whispers by the coffee machine.
With all this in mind, tailor your outfit to your situation – there is no such thing as a one size fits all look.
There was a thread about appropriate Christmas party outfits on the forums recently, the consensus in that instance was that simplicity was the way forward. Not every Christmas party is a formal affair; turn up to the Bowlplex in your suit and you’ll look like a dad that has gone straight to a children’s party from work.
A pair of jeans, a slim fit shirt (white or blue probably) and a good, chunky cardigan is a winning combination whenever you wear it and where-ever you go. If you want to make it that little bit more interesting, try finding a shirt with some added details, a penny or rounded collar, or with a very light pattern such as the Reiss one shown below.
The best thing about this look is how versatile it is. Each part is interchangeable, so find the right combination for you and feel confident in the knowledge that you look good.
You don’t always need to be ‘the man’ at your Christmas party; not every party is the same and not everyone will appreciate or understand your best attempts at fashion forward dressing.
Lookbook: polo shirt with trousers, bold shoes, silk scarves, trend pieces like double brested and knitted jackets
If you do want to show off your fashionable wardrobe, or wear something you know that no one else will be wearing, try to keep things small.
Rather than shouting in everyone’s face with your outfit of bold colours, crazy patterns or luxurious textures, inject some interest through your shoes or accessories. A flash of colour at the wrist or something a little different on the feet is a great talking point and will exude just enough fashion forwardness to show off your knowledge and confidence. Likewise, a trend cut such as a double-breasted jacket (still in a muted colour) can be a subtle choice that hints you know what you are doing.
Should you choose to take this approach with something fairly substantial, like your shoes, keep the rest of your outfit nice and simple – let the shoes do all the talking. A polo shirt and a pair of tailored trousers is a great starting point and tucking that polo in is another small touch that will elevate it to a whole new level.
This combination is surprisingly smart, so mix in another of this season’s must haves – a knitted jacket – and you have something really usable and versatile.
We’ve already had two slightly more casual looks, so now it’s time to scratch the itch that I know at least half of you will be suffering from.
For this look we have a small check list: Blazer? Check. Roll neck? Check. Smart trousers/chinos? Check. Smart shoes? Check. Just go all European on their arses.
Because this outfit is quite sharp, you can choose to keep things crisp and slim with Derbies or Oxfords, or on trend with monk straps or Chelsea boots. Keep things playful – you’ll find an outfit can be drastically altered simply by switching your footwear. Personally, I would stick to slim and refined but it really is up to you.
An important thing to remember here is just how formal your trousers are. Be wary of chinos that are too casual as this will change the whole aesthetic and might not suit the tailored upper half. To make sure you don’t experience this, you might find it easier to wear formal navy trousers.
If you can afford to, I would suggest you make a statement by wearing a checked or velvet blazer. Just make sure your workmates will appreciate it.
If the roll neck isn’t your thing, feel free to switch in a shirt and maybe even a club tie to add a preppy edge.
I know for a fact that a few of you will want to wear a dressed down suit. It’s just one of those things, especially if you’ve just invested in a little burgundy number.
However, a word of warning – if you choose to go down this route, there are a few things to consider.
Do you wear a suit every day? Please don’t wear a work suit, go for something bold (only on the basis of the parameters set out previously being met and your colleagues appreciating it) or something classic but in a more statement colour and/or fabric. It’s worth remembering that not all navy suits look like business suits.
Once you’ve chosen your suit, look for ways to differentiate it from the kind of thing you would wear to work; whether this is through bold accessories, different textures or mixed aesthetics (such as a denim shirt and stand out shoes) is up to you.
A denim shirt is a fantastic way to immediately dress down a suit and because it’s blue it will pair with every colour under the sun – you can even dress it up with a bow or knitted tie.
With this article I hope to have shown you four outfits that cover almost every possible situation you could find yourself in. I wanted to strike a balance between all out style and refined sensibility by taking into consideration the fact that not everyone in this world understands or appreciates every aspect of fashion.
Please remember that this is also just a guide. It has been designed as a simple source of inspiration and all of the outfits I have shown are completely interchangeable – with just a little thought you can adapt them to suit your own purposes and image. By altering just one item, you can create something completely different and all of your own.
So, if you want to impress this party season, taking the time to create the perfect, event appropriate outfit is key. Get it right OR wrong and the chances are you’ll be the talk of the office; make sure it’s the right kind of talk.
As always, I want to hear what you guys think, so let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Have you planned your party season outfits yet? What approach will you be adopting this year and where is the event being held?