If you’re going to dress up at any time of year, the Christmas period is it. Dress like Mark Zuckerburg for the other eleven months if you want to, but when December comes around, it’s time to step up. Or at least, there are generally more occasions that require you to up your game: dinners with estranged family members, catch-up beers with old acquaintances, corporate events, the office Christmas party and even the odd night out with people you actually like.
For many, Christmas is a time of celebration, so why not reflect that in the way you dress? Push the boat out a little bit, whether that means donning a jacquard dinner suit or buying your usual jumper style in a slightly louder colour than you usually would. With an array of different events on the calendar though, there are usually a bunch of dress codes to navigate. And let’s face it, nobody wants to look like they’re trying too hard, or indeed, not trying hard enough.
Regardless of what’s on your festive calendar, if you want to make an effort, you’re in the right place. From stylish takes on the Christmas jumper look to what to wear to the pub, we’ve got you covered.
Christmas Party Style Tips
Make A List (And Check It Twice)
Drafting a list of Christmas gift ideas that’s long enough to put you in the red might be a priority at this time of year, but, as well as ensuring stockings get stocked, it pays to plan for pre-Christmas parties.
“Preparation is key to a stress-free party season,” says John Harrison of storied Savile Row tailor Gieves & Hawkes. And that’s especially true if attending a black tie party. “Spend some time going through your eveningwear a few weeks ahead, making sure you have everything and that it has been dry-cleaned or, in the case of tailoring, steamed so that it’s ready to go at a moment’s notice.”
Keep Your Locks Low-Maintenance
No amount of hairspray will hold a quiff in place once pelted with unforgiving weather. So while it may go with the pomp and ceremony of party season, consider swapping a pompadour for an easier to manage mop.
“Avoid high-maintenance styles,” says Ruffians artistic director, Denis Robinson, who suggests steering simple with unfussy cuts like a loose sweep back or mid-length cut with natural waves. Both of which simply require a little texturising product such as sea salt spray or volumising powder to finish.
Tie Your Own Bow Tie
Most dress codes have a little wiggle room, particularly in the case of ‘Hollywood black tie’, but there are almost always certain traditions that must be observed.
“If the party is black tie, make sure you tie your bow tie yourself,” says etiquette expert James Field. “It’s much smarter and should never appear perfect in the way that pre-tied bow ties do. If you don’t know how to tie a bow tie one around your neck, try tying one around your knee for practice.”
Shake Things Up
Shirtless dinner jackets might work for the Chippendales, but it’s not a look that’ll leave the boss merry at your work Christmas do. That’s doesn’t mean you need necessarily enslave yourself to tradition.
“Consider investing in one killer jacket and trouser combination,” says Martin. “You can mix this up with a fine knit, open-neck shirt or dress shirt and bow tie so that each event you feel a little bit different and appropriate for the dress code.”
Check Your Bags
Even if it means bumping into an ex or that bloke who remains convinced you did him out of a promotion, you are required (in the name of decency) to stay at the party for at least a half-hour. This means you shouldn’t look like you’re just passing through. “Under no circumstances arrive to a party with a weekend bag or – even worse – a rucksack,” says Martin.
A slim pouch bag is the absolute maximum cargo permitted. This should be enough to hold an invitation, cardholder, phone and keys, keeping your pockets free and the sharper than sharp silhouette of your suit intact.
6 Christmas Party Outfits For Every Type Of Event
The Black Tie Christmas Party
Don’t own any black tie clothing? We don’t blame you. If we’re being honest, there are very few times in life when a dinner jacket is required, and spending big on a suit you’re never going to wear makes little sense. And yet, when that black tie dress code invite does come around – and chances are it’ll be in December – it’s best to be prepared.
Whatever you do, don’t rent a suit. Instead, turn to versatile pieces you can wear on their own throughout the year – and remember you don’t need to buy a full tuxedo in order to wear black tie. Let’s start with the jacket. Look for something textured in midnight blue with shawl lapels – velvet is ideal – which is far easier to dress down and wear with less formal attire.
Regular tuxes would be worn with a white shirt and bow tie. You’re not regular. Instead, avoid the stuffiness and wear a black merino roll neck, which is both sophisticated and a little bit rogue – who needs ties anyway? Another tip for our makeshift dinner suit: you don’t need tuxedo trousers. You can get away with plain black wool trousers or even chinos, if the cut is right. A slim, tapered leg with a relatively high break so as not to spill over the shoes. Which, since you ask, can be a pair of black leather Derbies or Chelsea boots.
The Festive-Themed Christmas Party
Been invited to a party, but only on the basis that you wear a Christmas jumper? The only thing that’s worse than forced fun is novelty clothing, so skip the latter and buy something you won’t be embarrassed in, or indeed, something that’ll be thrown away after one wear.
Opt for a knit with a Fair Isle print or similar, and in colours that’ll pair well with the rest of your wardrobe. A textured jumper in a navy mix, for example, can be worn throughout the cold depths of winter and won’t look out of place come January.
Keep things smart down below with a pair of subtle pinstripe or suit trousers in navy, ideally in a soft wool or cotton-blend, which will help tone down the slightly bold nature of the jumper up top. Finish with a pair of deep brown or tan leather boots for a winter-ready look that is both festive and stylish.
The Casual Pub Christmas Party
There’s generally no need to dress up for the pub, but at Christmas, it’s worth putting a little extra effort in. The cold weather allows for plenty of layering opportunities, meaning you can bust out those overshirts and chunky knits and wear them under larger pieces of outerwear.
Keep things tonal and try a thick lambswool roll neck under a cashmere blend overcoat, both in mid grey, and combine with selvedge denim and a pair of rubber-soled boots for a rugged take on casual dress.
The finishing touch? A boldly patterned scarf. Think oversized checks – a Prince of Wales or windowpane – in grey and black tones to complement the coat, and loosely wrap around the neck for a touch of nonchalance.
The Office Christmas Party
The office party is a tricky one. What you wear depends on a number of factors: your usual office attire; what it is you’ll be doing, whether there’ll be a dress code and so on. For an inoffensive outfit that lies in the middle of the smart-casual spectrum, opt for tailoring separates and you can’t go too far wrong.
The trick is to not look too smart. Ditch the ties and business suits and go for something altogether more off-the-clock. An unstructured blazer with soft shoulders is a comfortable alternative to the sharper Savile Row style, and can be dressed down further by pairing it with a grandad collar shirt or knitted polo.
Downstairs some slightly cropped, pleated trousers in a darker shade than the jacket would be right at home, especially when combined with penny loafers. This is a simple, failsafe look that’ll work whether you’re heading to a fancy dinner, a low key bar or the dance floor.
The Corporate Christmas Party
The corporate Christmas event: endless Champagne in a hotel conference centre, or client drinks in a (s)wanky bar, perhaps. These typically stuffy affairs usually require you to be smart and present an air of authority. But you don’t want to look as though you’ve just stepped out of the boardroom. It’s Christmas, remember.
The answer, as it often is, is the roll neck. Nobody knows how it works so well with tailoring – it’s a glorified knitted neck brace after all – yet it has the ability to transform a regular two-piece into something altogether more elegant.
A standard dark grey double-breasted suit will do – it looks powerful and if cut well gives the impression of a muscular physique. Any colour roll neck will work, but opt for something a little bolder in light of the fact you’re downing free drinks on the company. It’s the little wins.
The ‘Out Out’ Christmas Party
Finding yourself going on a Christmas night out with actual friends? Well, you won’t need to impress, but it still pays to put a bit of work in.
Dressing for a night out in cold weather is surprisingly tricky – you’ll be freezing outside yet sweating inside if you overdo it, so layering is essential. Leave the big coats at home and opt instead for something more compact yet equally snug – a shearling or bomber jacket will work.
Pay a subtle homage to the season with your middle layer and go for a deep red or burgundy shirt worn untucked over a slim pair of black jeans and a matching roll neck underneath. Simply take the shirt and jacket off if you get too toasty and you’re left with a monochromatic look ready to take you well into the night.