When it comes to black-tie functions and formal evening events, the dinner jacket is man’s best friend. Sophisticated and stylish yet also simple to wear, this go-to jacket is one item every gent should have hanging in his wardrobe. Whether it’s a wedding or a ball, there will undoubtedly be occasions in your life when you need to don your dinner jacket, so it’s important to understand what it is and how to wear it. Thankfully, we’re here to help. Here is our guide on how to wear it for a dapper look.
What is Dinner Jacket?
A dinner jacket is a type of men’s jacket for formal occasions in the evening. Also known as a tuxedo jacket, the dinner jacket does not have tails. It is typically worn with a bow tie and features satin or grosgrain lapel facings.
Difference Between a Tuxedo and a Suit
Before dressing for formal events, it’s important to understand the difference between a tuxedo and a suit. Suits are less lavish than tuxedos, making them more ideal for daytime occasions, low key events, and business functions. Unlike a dinner jacket, a suit jacket typically features lapels made of the same material as the body of the garment. Likewise, suit trousers usually feature no embellishments while tuxedo trousers often have a strip on the outseam. Tuxedos can also be worn with bow ties, pleated shirts, and either a waistcoat or cummerbund while suits are more suited to standard neckties and shirts.
When to Wear a Dinner Jacket
The dinner jacket is a classic menswear item that is intended to be worn in the evening. It is particularly ideal for black tie events but versatile enough to be worn for other occasions too.
The dinner jacket makes the perfect option for black tie events. For a classic look, select a black tuxedo and pair it with a black bow tie, white formal shirt, black patent Oxford shoes, and a cummerbund or waistcoat.
Not just for black tie functions, the dinner jacket can also suit a variety of formal and semi-formal evening events. To wear a dinner jacket for a smart social gathering, you can consider swapping your matching tuxedo trousers for a different color, changing your bow tie to a standard tie (or losing it altogether), and foregoing a waistcoat or cummerbund.
The Dinner Jacket
Today, there are many versions of the dinner jacket available for purchase. From classic black designs to smart white styles and even luxury velvet options, there’s a dinner jacket for every gent.
Velvet Dinner Jacket
As dinner jackets are intended for the evening time, it can be ideal to choose one with a luxurious and decadent feel, such as a velvet design. Thanks to its unique texture, the velvet dinner jacket creates a charismatic appearance.
Cream Dinner Jacket
For a cool and classic look, a cream dinner jacket can make an excellent option. Thanks to its soft tone, a cream jacket will allow black accents, such as your trousers, bow tie, and shoes to pop.
White Dinner Jacket
Thanks to its light yet neutral hue, a white color appears both sleek and bold. To don a white dinner jacket in a classically dapper kind of way, partner it with black tuxedo trousers, a black cummerbund, and a black bow tie. For a unique appearance, opt for white pants instead.
Blue Dinner Jacket
For gents who like to stand out, a blue makes an excellent option. Whether midnight blue, navy, cobalt, or an icy hue, a blue dinner jacket can create a fashionable and sharp appearance. For a smart look, pair your blue dinner jacket with matching tuxedo trousers. For a more relaxed feel, consider black pants instead.
Patterned Dinner Jacket
For a modern take on the traditional, a patterned style can be worn. If you’re aiming for a subtle look, consider jacquard or brocade designs in classic colors. If you prefer a bolder appearance, you can try a check style or print, such as paisley.
Black Dinner Jacket
For a classic and timeless look, you can’t go past a black dinner jacket. Add one to your wardrobe, and you’ll always have an appropriate option for black tie and formal evening occasions.
What to Wear with a Dinner Jacket
When wearing a tuxedo, it’s important to consider every part of your ensemble from your jacket right down to your shoes and accessories.
Before you can select what to wear with your dinner jacket, you must choose the jacket itself. You can pick either a standard single-breasted style or a bolder double-breasted design. When it comes to lapels, you can choose between a peaked or shawl style.
A white, formal shirt is an ideal companion to a tuxedo. For a traditional look, select a pleated or bib front shirt with double or French cuffs. For a more contemporary aesthetic, you can choose a plain front dress shirt. Also, don’t forget to consider the type of buttons and placket and whether studs are required.
Traditionally, tuxedo trousers should be high-waisted to sit correctly with a cummerbund or waistcoat. For a classic look, they should also match your jacket fabric. However, if there is a strip running down the outseam of your tuxedo trousers, as they’re often are, it should be of the same material as your jacket lapel.
When wearing a tuxedo to a black-tie event, a black bow tie is essential. If you wish to diversify your look, consider experimenting with the material and texture of your bow tie instead of the color.
When wearing a tuxedo or dinner jacket, black Oxford shoes are always appropriate. For particularly formal occasions, you can try a patent style, which will add a sophisticated shine to your look.
Waistcoat / Cummerbund
When donning a tuxedo, you can either choose to wear a waistcoat or a cummerbund to complete your look. While either is appropriate, you should note that if you select a cummerbund, the material should match that of your jacket lapel for a classic look.
New Ways To Wear A Dinner Jacket
The dinner jacket has long been one of the most formal get-ups available for the gentleman dresser, and it’s typically always worn the same way. Chances are you’ll buy one for a one-off fancy event; a wedding, perhaps, or some boozy industry awards – and it’ll most likely be black, with satin lapels are worn with matching trousers, a white dress shirt, and a bow tie.
There’s nothing ostensibly wrong with this look. But while it often allows a man to look his best rather lost its license to thrill. Whisper it, but the dinner jacket is boring. So overdone is the penguin suit look that it’s a small wonder why men keep returning to it. Plus, if you spend decent money on a dinner jacket, why restrict yourself to wearing it just once or twice a year?
Why The Rules No Longer Apply
You’ll have heard it countless times before: menswear is in the midst of a new, casual direction which has resulted in dress codes breaking down and becoming somewhat irrelevant. Basically, the suit is not what it once was – the right one today can work just as well with trainers and a T-shirt as it can with Oxfords and a necktie. You just have to know what you’re doing is all. This is even true at many Savile Row houses such as Gieves & Hawkes, whose creative director John Harrison likes “to see traditional rules broken, as long as there is a nod to the history of the usage.”
Can the same be said of the dinner jacket and can it really be worn outside of the usual march of the penguins? Traditionalists would tell you otherwise, but yes, it can. The increased formality just means you’ll have to be extra careful with how you style it.
Don’t believe us? Allow Thom Whiddett, co-founder of Mayfair tailor Thom Sweeney to educate: “These days there are varying degrees of formality to events so I think you can adapt accordingly. If it’s a wedding party or a festive celebration there’s huge scope to adapt the [dress] code. I would wear a deep corduroy or velvet [dinner jacket] with a simple merino roll neck and play around with color.”
Comfort Another Reason To Mix Up The Dinner Jacket
Yes, all the bells and whistles may hark back to the golden age of Hollywood but they can be a literal pain in the neck. Model Richard Biedul agrees: “Whilst I love the tradition and elegance of black tie dress code; there is no denying that at times it is uncomfortable, expensive and totally impractical.”
Menswear has been plagued by rules for decades, and formal clothing has always been under the most scrutiny, but it no longer has to be. Take a leaf out of Biedul’s book: “In the past, I’ve been known to wear white trainers with a dinner jacket instead of dress shoes; roll necks as opposed to dress shirts and even neck scarf as an alternative to bow ties. When it comes to the rules of formal attire or dressing in general, I’m a firm believer in the mantra that ‘they are there to be broken’.”
Forget The Bow Tie
This is perhaps the easiest way to freshen up a dinner jacket. Simply wear as you normally would – with black evening trousers, black patent Derby shoes, and a white dress shirt. But forgo a bow tie and instead artfully drape a lightweight silk scarf around your neck.
Not only will this strip some of the stuffiness out of your black-tie look; you’ll also be able to play around with color and pattern in the form of the scarf. Look out for subtle checks and go for a textured jacket. Deep velvet will work best.
Go All Black
Fancy channeling your inner Bond villain? You’ll require an all-black outfit look complete with a roll neck and fancy velvet slippers.
The ideal look for posh dinners or your work Christmas party, it’s both comfortable and incredibly easy to wear. There’s no fussing around with shirt studs and you won’t have to spend hours in front of the mirror learning how to tie a bow tie. But you will be just as elegant – especially if you match the velvet of your jacket with your shoes.
Lightweight Knitwear Is Your Friend
You may be starting to notice the versatility of the velvet jacket by now. The difference between this one and the top two though? The lapels – these are notch lapels cut in the same fabric as the jacket, whereas the top two are shawl lapels cut in silk, making them far more formal and as a result more difficult to style.
This ‘bog standard’ version then is perhaps the most versatile. It can easily be dressed up with a shirt and bow tie, or, in this case; worn more casually with a merino knit crew neck, chino pants, and chukka boots.
Want to mix up your black-tie look but still hark back to tradition? Keep the old school details but freshen up the dinner jacket itself.
Part of the reason black tie can be so boring is that every man in the room looks the same. It’s the evening equivalent to the sea of blue suits you’ll see outside of every major office block in London or New York. Mix it up. Go bold with a silk jacquard blazer – with natty paisley or geometric print – which is both a welcome break from the norm and an incredibly stylish conversation starter.
What’s more, this kind of look is slowly increasing in demand, as Harrison notes: “We have moved away from all black to lighter shades, color, and texture. Pastel silks with subtle foliage weave for example. Customers are opting for more interesting pieces and the move to a more individual garment is ever-increasing.”
Don’t Rule Out Trainers
This look won’t be for everyone, but if you want to truly spice up a dinner jacket then look no further. Throw the rule book out the window and you’ll end up with something like this.
The suit itself is fairly traditional – black with satin shawl lapel and mid-rise trousers, albeit cropped short at the ankle. The styling is anything but, yet it can work. The black neckerchief mimics the job of a bow tie, as does the white T-shirt with its collared cousin. They act as visual reminders of what everyone uses to seeing with black tie attire.
So far, so good. But, to truly subvert the dress code, swap out the (usually) black shoes for a pair of chunky trainers. Who needs rules anyway?
How to Wear a Dinner Jacket
If you buy the right dinner jacket you can wear it for all manner of occasions. It pays to be a little creative of course, but if worn with the correct garments you can be both the best-dressed man at your next black-tie affair, and the talk of the evening (for all the right reasons) on your next night on the town.