Blue is this year’s new black. At least it is when it comes to the tuxedo or dinner jacket. From classic labels such as Gieves & Hawkes and Hardy Amies to the new wave of tailors such as Thom Sweeney, midnight or dark blue jackets with shawl collars are suddenly very much the order of the day. Or rather the night.
“A midnight blue tuxedo is a great choice for keeping it classic but also standing out in a crowd,” says Jason Basmajian, creative director at Gieves & Hawkes. Designer Brunello Cucinelli agrees: “I find it to be the most elegant colour. Black is overestimated because the details almost disappear.”
Not to mention the fact that, as Thom Whiddett, one half of tailoring duo Thom Sweeney, points out, “In artificial light navy blue actually looks darker and more elegant than black, which can sometimes look a bit green – it’s something that I learnt while I was first studying tailoring.”
“As Hardy Amies once said when referring to dinner jackets and dinner suits,” says Mehmet Ali, design director at the fashion house that Amies founded, “ ‘There are many occasions today when an evening party starts off in daylight. Here the blue triumphs completely.’ ”
Greg Bennett, who works in financial marketing in the City of London, says: “I got my midnight blue DJ a few years ago when I noticed Daniel Craig wearing one. The colour is much richer than the traditional black and my jacket looks so much more elegant than my old black one.”
He is not the only one to see the James Bond connection: menswear designer Simon Carter took inspiration for the blue dinner jacket in his collection from Sean Connery’s incarnation of the spy, not to mention early episodes of The Persuaders!, the slick, sexy 1970s detective series featuring Roger Moore and Tony Curtis
However, Carter explains, the midnight blue DJ has an even longer and more storied history, with roots in the café society of the 1920s and early 1930s, whose denizens took their cues from the then Prince of Wales (later the Duke of Windsor). “In the early 1900s the original dinner jackets were often worn with a shawl collar, a style copied from Victorian smoking jackets,” says Carter. “They’re very pleasing to the eye as the curved lines flow round the torso.”
Whiddett says: “The shawl collar is a bit retro, a bit old school, which I really like,” he says. “But the collar mustn’t be too skinny. I’d suggest pairing it with a horseshoe waistcoat and plain-fronted trousers, slightly tapered, with braids down the side that match the lapels of the jacket.”
Perhaps the most compelling argument in favour of the style, however, comes from Ben Rider, a financial services professional based in London, who bought his dark blue DJ two years ago. “I wanted something a bit different but I can’t stand gimmicks so a slightly unusual colour and the rounded collars were a good compromise,” he says. “Whenever I wear it, women do a double take and want to check it out up close.”
This really does separate the men from the boys. If you can master the art of tying a bow tie (it is easier than it looks, I promise) then you can pretty much do anything, sartorially speaking, writes Marcus Jaye.
First: why should you take the time to learn? It’s simple. Self-tie bow ties fit better, look better and leave you feeling like you’ve graduated to manhood. The pre-tied have something of the shop dummy about them, limply sitting at the collar with none of the life of a self-tie. With a self-tie you can adjust to add a dash of flounce – and don’t forget that all-important James Bond-style untying at the end of the night.
Practice makes perfect, so choose a time when you’re: (1) receptive to failing; and (2) not rushed. In other words, do not attempt this just before you’re due to go out.
● Adjust the tie’s length so it fits your neck. Collar sizes are usually marked on the inside. Lift up your shirt collar and put the tie round your neck so the ends hang down at the front. One end should hang about 1.5 to 2 inches lower than the other.
● Bring the longer end across, behind and over the short end to form a simple knot, like a neck tie. Pull snugly.
● Fold the shorter end of the bow tie at the widest point, where the hourglass shape begins to narrow, to form a bow shape. Bring the longer end of the bow tie over and in front of the shorter end.
● Now the tricky bit: men often think they have to go around again to form a secure knot. Don’t. At this point you’ll have one side of the bow and the longer bit dangling in front. There should be a finger-sized hole at the back; just push the rest of the longer side from the bow side to the other side, forming the second bow.
It can look a little messy at first, but don’t panic, it’s simple to straighten out. Keep moving and adjusting the two sides. The tie will tighten and form a neater shape.
If not happy, start again.
Marcus Jaye is editor-in-chief of TheChicGeek.co.uk