December 16, 2011 9:57 pm

‘Yule wear it well’

Men’s wear experts and enthusiasts offer their verdicts on festive fashion clichés, and some stylish alternatives

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Alistair Carr, Design director, Pringle

Men should dress with a sense of fun on Christmas day and not take themselves too seriously. Put on that jumper your granny has spent months knitting you. You might feel like a total idiot at the time but it will make her so happy. The smile on her face will be worth the years of embarrassing photographs.

Sir Paul Smith, Designer

If you are having a special, dressed-up Christmas, then I would say a crisp white shirt and velvet smoking jacket. A more normal and casual day would be a big cosy cashmere sweater with easy-fitting trousers so you can really relax.

Jon Snow, Broadcaster

Never a Santa hat, nor antlers, and certainly not the ghastly oversized men’s knitted socks. No, this is a chance to wear smart jeans or fine wefted cords, my best brown Fratelli Rossetti shoes that never get enough outings in the year, a bright buttercup yellow jersey with a subtle Italian stripe in the shirt collar glimpsed beneath. If I’m really dressing up for some fancy Christmas party, then a collarless Iranian white cotton shirt vaguely tucked into dark strides and a daring pair of Carréducker hand-made black shoes with a subtle thin red stripe in the centre spine of the shoe. But if you push me, I might resort to my old faithful Issey Miyake dark grey pleated waistcoat – stop me now before I go too far!

Richard Branson

Richard Branson

Patrick Grant, Creative director, E Tautz

How I dress on Christmas day now hasn’t changed significantly from when I was a boy, although there were probably some aberrations in between. I am a lifelong fan of the bright red cardigan, bow tie and checked shirt combination – and I like that we are seeing this return to a quirkier, more eccentric style of old school British men’s wear. Bright corduroy trousers, soft tailored jackets and brogues are all perfect seasonal choices for the style-conscious gentleman. Try to invest in enduring, quality pieces when embracing the Christmas spirit. Go for a beautiful velvet smoking jacket, or a classic silk tie or a handmade jumper. I have a real soft spot for yuletide knitwear. My granny, who was an atrocious knitter, would make ridiculous jumpers for me every year when I was a child. That baptism of fire made me think the louder and brighter the patterns and colours of the jumper, the better – I’ve always believed in proudly sporting a hideously embarrassing reindeer or snowman! That said, I wouldn’t be seen dead in novelty socks – one needs to know where to draw the line.

Johnnie Boden, Founder of Boden

A little hint of brightness, say on the socks, is lovely but overall it becomes too comedy. I think it’s completely naff for men to embrace the clichés. I wouldn’t dream of wearing a gimmicky tie. Christmas is all about being yourself but with a little bit of glamour. Anything with a Christmas motif on it is borderline and wearing a smart suit would make me feel very claustrophobic – as if I was going to work. Because I have to deal with horses and sheep, I will wear jeans and then for church I will wear quite a nice unstructured tweed blazer, with a tie, then take the tie off immediately afterwards.

Bill Prince, Deputy editor, British GQ

The general rule is not to go too kitsch and clichéd but there is something very comforting about thick cords and a thick sweater over Christmas. Maybe Hugh Hefner can get away with not getting dressed but the rest of us should, at least after the buck’s fizz. The best dress code is very much an après ski dress code, combined with an indoors/outdoors feel. Say, indoor shoes, such as Tod’s driving shoes, that you feel snug wearing or I have a pair of structured Toms made from felt, combined with a pair of grey flannels and a shirt – I like chambray at the moment – then a jumper or cardigan. Shawl collar cardigans have come back in force – the thicker and the more luxurious, the more ornate, and cabled the better – but careful not to end up looking like the cover of a James Hadley Chase novel. Making an effort with your clothes suggests you are going to make an effort to get on with everyone and it’s a compliment to anyone you go and visit.

Play it cool

Tommy Hilfiger sweater, £170, tommy.com; Gitman Brothers shirt, £140, www.matches fashion.com; Paul Smith velvet jacket, £470, www.mrporter.com; Tod’s loafers £235, tel: +44 (0)207 493 2237; Nick Bronson knitted tie, £45, www.liberty.co.uk

Tommy Hilfiger, Designer

The novelty wear that some men think comes hand in hand with the Christmas season is questionable: reindeer antlers, Santa hats and tinsel around the neck – it’s often a bit too much and the wrong side of quirky. Instead, I don’t think you can go wrong with a festive Fair Isle knit, it’s all about choosing the colour carefully – navy, black, cherry red, ivy green are all perfect for the holiday season, and layering up with chunky knit scarves brings it all together. For me, Christmas is a time to unwind and spend with my loved ones, so I gravitate towards cosy comfortable outfits but it’s also a time where you can have a little more fun with your wardrobe choices – a black tux with plaid shirt for instance – it’s about mixing it up but getting the balance between classic and quirky right.

Barry Tulip, Design director, Gieves & Hawkes

The Christmas clichés are back with a vengeance this winter – primarily thanks to the recent retro-resurgence we’ve seen in London’s trendy East End, where hipsters worship at a post-ironic altar of crass Rudolph jumpers, holly and ivy hats and tatty, glittery waistcoats come December. It’s always been part of London’s street style scene to experiment with clothes that look “wrong” or “uncool” and the obsession with cringeworthy Christmas knits, previously the domain of Colin Firth or a dodgy great uncle, is a perfect example.

I’m not much of a fan of the trend myself: but I can definitely see the merits of a smart pair of tartan trousers, with elegant connotations of a refined Balmoral Christmas. Worn correctly, they are an amazing statement buy for the festive season.

I personally prefer a more understated wardrobe during Christmas, It’s a time for family and relaxation, not a fashion parade. Men should be allowed to indulge themselves in gorgeous luxury items that they love wearing rather than playing for laughs from the crowd. Cashmere knitwear in rich bright colours is always a wonderful treat, matched with a simple shirt and a pair of lightly brushed grey or navy wool trousers. Ultimately, for all the decorations and seasonal clichés, Christmas is about feeling comfortable in what you wear and around those you love. You might find that a little difficult when wearing a vile Frosty the Snowman knit.

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber in a Junya Watanabe jacket

Alex Bilmes, Editor, British Esquire

Lots of the big fashion houses have done what one might regard as a Christmas jumper in that they are chunky, have seasonal patterns and are in Christmassy colours. Actually, they look really smart and they feel right for now, they are upbeat and funny and slightly – but not too – ironic. Just wear them with quite conservative jeans or cords and a plain blazer, rather than a wacky bow tie, say, or you will look like you are in a Hollywood comedy about a rubbish elf.

Ed Burstell, Managing director, Liberty

I think you should get dressed up at Christmas because there are fewer and fewer times to do so due to the casualisation of the workplace and fewer special occasions. You want to be relaxed but it needs to be age appropriate. From around 30 onwards, I think an ironic sweater with candy canes on it is over. I would probably wear a velvet jacket from, say, Lanvin, Paul Smith, Tom Ford or Joseph, and if you really want some colour on that, you could pop it with an amazing pocket square. A a cosy knitted tie could also work well.

Interviews by Carola Long and Elizabeth Paton

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